Five Great Writers to keep up to date with African football
As an observer and a lover of African football, it is one of my life ambitions to raise awareness of African sport, and to augment the African game’s profile to levels closer to that of Europe and South America. Whilst many sports journalists in these two continents are household names, those who cover football in Africa may have a much lower profile.
When I read a sports piece I look for two key things – it must either entertain me, or inform me – if it fails in these respects, then it will leave no lasting impact! Fortunately, coverage of African sport is in the hands of writers, contributors, and journalists that know how to craft excellent pieces, and are aware of how to both inform and entertain. With the African Cup of Nations only months away, many of these writers will be upping their game and increasing their content to feed public interest and scrutiny ahead of the tournament. I strongly recommend Bleacher readers get familiar with some of these African contributors and become aware of the wonderful promise of African football.
This is a list of my fave five African football writers that you really ought to get familiar with. For those who adore all things fooball in an African context to those who have merely a passing interest in International Soccer, this list features five writers who will succeed in both informing and entertaining.
As a necessity, any list of ‘must-read’ African football writers has to begin with Gleeson. Gleeson is the world authority on African football, although with him, the line between reality and legend can be blurred! Said to have the greatest knowledge of the African game, Gleeson is reported to have spent countless hours in archives across the continent, organising records of Africa’s football, and chronicling the sport’s development. Rumours surrounded this ‘Godfather of African Soccer’, and commentators were so intrigued as to Gleeson’s appearance and biography that one publication asked him for photographic evidence of his existence. Gleeson responded by sending a photograph of his big toe – I’m not sure whether this closes the mystery or fuels it! Either way, Gleeson is the granddaddy of African football journalism, as well as being the official African archivist at FIFA. He is the starting point for anyone interested in the continent’s sport.
James M. Dorsey
One of Bleacher’s own, James is an authority on football in the continent’s North, as well as in neighbouring Arab countries. A senior fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, Dorsey employs a studied, methodical approach, and tackles key issues and topical subjects, the stories affecting the world today. The political point of view may not be everyone’s idea of light reading, but the relationship between sport and politics is long and storied, and a few sessions with Dorsey’s blogs is an enriching experience for even the most blinkered football fan. A world expert in his field, James is certainly a writer to keep up to date with.
Another who takes a studied approach to the game, Mbembe is a political scientist, philosopher, and all-round intellectual…as well as a man who knows his football inside out. Of Cameroonian origin, Mbembe studied in Paris before enjoying a career in academia. He has held posts across America, as well as Africa, and he can currently be found in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Writing in English or French, Mbembe is an influential contributor to narratives surrounding the African game, and is a respected theorist on the game’s development, as well as the role the sport holds in the development of African culture.
Considered by many to be the bright young thing of African football reporting, Gary Al-Smith ought to be one of the first ports of call for anyone interested in brushing up on African soccer. A self-styled story teller, Gary writes about anything football from African internationals to the English Premier League, considering the stories and the narratives affecting people from the highest level to the grassroots. A passion for Africa, and a passion for sport is evident in everything Gary writes, and the Ghanaian could be viewed as the ‘one to watch’ in African football reporting. Residing predominantly at SuperSport, his work crops up everywhere from BBC to the Blizzard, and he’s a hard one to miss. Once named among the world’s 50 most influential football Twitter accounts, Gary is set to be considered an influential voice in African sport for years to come.
Of the five writers on this list, Doyle is probably the one most familiar both to British readers, and to those not yet enraptured by the African game. Being chief football writer for the Guardian, Doyle has mainstream exposure both online and in print as he writes weekly on the goings on in the English Premier League. Beyond the domestic competition, he also writes infrequently about French football, but it is his African content which most excites me. Displaying a keen knowledge of the continent’s game, I remember fondly Doyle’s thorough coverage for the 2008 Afcon – here is a man who knows his stuff, and knows how to convey it.