By Editor | March 3rd, 2015 | No Comments
This is the second post in Pelle Kvalsund‘s series rethinking Sport Development and Sport For Development. (Click here to read the first post.) Kvalsund is an international sport development consultant from Norway and a former athlete, coach, and physical education teacher. As a consultant for over 15 years, he has worked in many countries including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Zambia, and Bosnia. Pelle has served a number of international organizations, both within sport and the area of community development, and is currently an advisor for the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport and their partners in the Global South. He is the author of “Sport as a Response to Emergencies and Disasters” in Sport, Peace and Development, edited by Keith Gilbert and Will Bennett (free download here).
There are two main camps in sport development. The first believes that sport should be governed, administered, and developed exclusively by local, national, and international sport associations. Let’s call this group “the custodians.”
The other camp believes that the custodians have failed to fulfill their mandate and, as a result, sport needs a national boost through centrally driven sport programs for both youth and adults. Let’s call this group “sport for all” (though some countries use other terms like “mass sport” and “fitness programs.”)
Many countries combine the two forms of sport development, in addition to having non-governmental sport for development organizations and private sport academies operating in selected communities and districts.
Most football associations are “custodians.” They claim absolute sovereignty in the management of football affairs even though they receive more financial support from governments than the other national sport associations. Substantial financial assistance from FIFA and from sponsors, both parastatals (e.g. national breweries) and large private companies, help solidify this position.
Now, let’s look at a typical football association’s ability of to run all aspects of the game in their respective countries. While FAs view themselves as politically sovereign in domestic football matters, they are challenged by meager economic means (despite the aforementioned subsidies) and poor organizational infrastructure. These constraints make it difficult to prioritize, for example, development in rural areas. Furthermore, state and corporate funds are often earmarked for the best male players in elite programs, while the support from FIFA goes to capacity development of, in many cases, randomly selected leaders, coaches and referees. If any funding goes to grassroots development it is usually for youth national teams or FIFA-supported Football for Hope or similar corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Zambia, which won its first African Cup of Nations crown in 2012, is a case in point. The continental title was a great achievement, one that can be attributed to both historical factors (for the ones who know the history!) and a productive mix of talented young players, professional coaching staff, and capable leaders. It can also be attributed to a short systematic youth development approach put in place by Kalusha Bwalya, President of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ). After pursuing his coaching training in the Netherlands, the former PSV Eindhoven and Zambia striker returned to Zambia in the early 2000s and became national technical director supervising a strong staff of coaches.
In spite of FAZ’s successful grooming of a few individual stars, the national football system in Zambia appears quite bare in terms of organized youth development. With over 46% of the population below age 15 (5th youngest in the world in 2013) and about 2 million youth between the ages of 15-24 (according to NationMaster data [January 17, 2015]), one might assume Zambian coaches would have a rich supply of skilled footballers to tap into enabling them to produce consistent good results for national team. But that has not been the case.
Into this development vacuum stepped both private football academies and local NGOs that organize sport as a tool for development. It is these organizations that train many of the players that end up representing Zambia’s top teams. While this is evidence that some of these academies and NGOs have been doing a satisfactory job creating opportunities for play and fostering talents, it also indicates that control and power to secure quality coaches, and to ensure players’ personal safety and development is out of the hands of the FAZ.
I don’t want to be overly critical of Zambian football because I know after many years of living in Zambia that FAZ and other national sport associations face numerous daunting tasks: from financing and operating capacity-building programs for coaches to managing myriad of leagues and tournaments for all the teams and clubs that train and develop players. It would, however, be interesting and worthwhile for them and other sport associations to assess their mandate and reexamine their approach to youth sport development.
Together with a few international sport federations’ development programs, a contingent of Western governments (unfortunately, a decreasing number) continue to support both sport development and sport for development initiatives in Africa. One of the dilemmas these governments face is: How do you provide assistance? Do you work with dysfunctional sport associations (“custodians”) in organizational capacity development so that they will eventually be able to run efficient youth sport for the masses? Or do you continue supporting government-driven and NGO-run sport-for-all programs that attempt to fill the gaps in the mandate left by the associations?
By Editor | February 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment
National Stadium, Monrovia, 2007. Courtesy of Pelle Kvalsund.
Football is Coming Home is pleased to welcome Pelle Kvalsund for a new series on the field of sport development. How can we develop regular long-term sport opportunities for a youth population that is predicted to double in the next thirty years? How do we ensure that the services produced for these athletes are of quality and value so that we can retain both athletes and coaches? This first post outlines some of the main institutional and economic challenges.
By Pelle Kvalsund
Pelle Kvalsund, international sport development consultant, is a former athlete, coach, and physical education teacher from Norway. As a consultant for over 15 years, he has worked in many countries including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Zambia, and Bosnia. Pelle has served a number of international organizations, both within sport and the area of community development, and is currently an advisor for the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport and their partners in the global south. He is the author of “Sport as a Response to Emergencies and Disasters” in Sport, Peace and Development, edited by Keith Gilbert and Will Bennett (free download here).
I’m at the National Stadium in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2007, watching a women’s international football match between the host nation and Nigeria. The stadium is jam-packed with fans and UN peacekeepers. It ends 1-1. A fair result from my perspective as a neutral observer, but not for the home fans. A riot breaks out. The crowd storms the pitch and the UN peacekeepers fire teargas to save the unfortunate referee from the mob.
There is a lot to be said about this rowdy incident, but above all else it illustrates the extraordinary popularity of football and the social importance of sport, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is generally challenging and unstable.
And it is precisely sport’s cultural significance that provides those of us working in sport development with a foundation on which to build sport programs that offer positive activities and outlets for many children and youth.
Let me start by doing something that I hate doing, but have become quite good at: identifying a stereotype. I do this to present a general image of the field of sport development in the Global South (though it applies to parts of global north too).
Such a country boasts a Ministry of Sport, which is paired with the Ministry of Youth or the Ministry of Education. The department of sport is of very high personal and political interest within government circles due to the widespread popularity of sports in society (particularly football), but the same interest is not reflected in the budget allocations. Most of the sport budget is used to pay the government employees (directly and by extension) and to maintain their status. Some of the money pays for upkeep of facilities and the participation of national teams in international competitions. Most of the remaining funds find their way to the national football association, while only a symbolic sum goes to athletics, basketball, volleyball, and other sports with athletes capable of winning a medal for the country on the global stage.
Administratively, the country has a national sport council or commission (the extension mentioned above) mandated to roll out government policies, distribute government funds, provide logistical support for major competitions, and govern and support the associations. A national Olympic committee bring selected athletes to the Olympic Games every four years. In addition, it has the financial ability to support elite athlete development and organizational capacity building through a central program called Olympic Solidarity.
Each sport also has a national association that generally consists of an “elected” board and president, and a general secretary. The president makes the important decisions and the general secretary does the work. There is no office. The association’s documentary records are tucked away in a briefcase or (if lucky) in the general secretary’s laptop. The associations run their operations according to a calendar of events.
There is no long-term plan, just day-to-day survival. Money is impossibly scarce and there is neither sufficient equipment nor adequate facilities. Instead of a youth development plan, potential athletes are recruited from a few well-endowed schools that host inter-scholastic sport competitions once or twice a year. In the case of football, private academies and sport and development NGOs of varying size and quality also train young boys. (Girls are rarely included in these programs.)
This stereotype of how sport is organized and run in a country of the Global South should help to better understand the stark challenges before us and how they shape the multiple and diverse attempts and approaches used to develop sport in poorer regions of the world. In the blog posts that follow, I intend to share reflections based on my experiences in Africa and beyond to spark a dialogue with readers about the differences between “Sport Development” and “Sport For Development” and why these matter. I look forward to the conversation.
By Peter Alegi | February 18th, 2015 | No Comments
How does football shape national narratives in Latin America? Why is the game so closely tied to masculinity and femininity? How can studying fútbol advance our understanding of Latin American history? These and other questions were part of the Football Scholars Forum recent discussion of Joshua Nadel’s Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America.
The author, an assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at North Carolina Central University, shared his experience of writing a book that the publisher expected to have cross-over appeal. In addition to tackling questions from the thirteen participants online, Nadel also suggested future directions for research on Latin American fútbol.
An audio recording of the event can be downloaded here.
The next gathering of the Football Scholars Forum will be on March 26 for a paper on Zambian football by Hikabwa Chipande, a PhD candidate in African history at Michigan State University. For more information about this event, please contact Alex Galarza.
Tags: Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Joshua Nadel, Latin America, Mexico, national identity, nationalism, Paraguay, Uruguay, women's football, women's soccer
Filed under: The Players
By Peter Alegi | January 24th, 2015 | No Comments
This year’s Africa Cup of Nations is underway in Equatorial Guinea. RFI talks about African football and media coverage with Peter Alegi, an authority on the game in Africa and Professor of History at Michigan State University in the United States. [full text here.]
Click below to listen to the interview. (iOS users click here.)
By Peter Alegi | January 8th, 2015 | No Comments
The 2015 African Nations Cup begins on January 17 in Equatorial Guinea. The oil-rich dictatorship, a former Spanish colony with a population of 736,000, agreed to host the tournament on short notice after Morocco pulled out due to fears related to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Africa’s most important tournament is organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), a trailblazing pan-Africanist institution born at the dawn of the era of decolonization. Joining the world body, as I’ve written elsewhere, was an honorable, quick, and inexpensive way for newly independent nations to assert their full membership in the international community.
CAF took tangible shape at the 1956 FIFA Congress in Lisbon. There, delegates from Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa convened to draft a constitution and by-laws. The men also decided to organize a continental championship. Ethiopia was also involved in the discussions, but Yidnecatchew Tessema was unable to travel to Lisbon. The African proposal was later sent to FIFA for review and approval (see image at left).
On February 8, 1957, football officials from Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Africa convened at Khartoum’s Grand Hotel to formally launch CAF. Fred Fell, a white man representing apartheid South Africa, was invited because his country was a member of FIFA and the Africans did not wish to be perceived as undiplomatic. In the meantime, the white South African football association gingerly debated the composition of the national team. However, the authorities Pretoria opposed a mixed selection and the white football establishment did not challenge the policy.
There are conflicting accounts about what happened next. CAF officials stated that they promptly excluded South Africa in a show of unequivocal pan-African solidarity. Fell and white South African football put forward a different story: they claimed they withdrew the team prior to any sanctions due to the team’s impending tour to Europe as well as security concerns linked to the ongoing Suez Crisis. Unfortunately, the minutes of the meeting at CAF were later destroyed in a fire so we may never know the exact truth of the matter. What is certain is that the South African issue did not disappear. To the contrary, the struggle against apartheid in football would become a powerful bond that united CAF and nearly all African nations for three decades.
South Africa’s absence in 1957 meant that only three teams, comprised of amateurs, participated in the inaugural African Nations Cup. Ethiopia, which had been drawn to play against South Africa, received a bye into the final. Egypt defeated hosts Sudan 2–1 and then dispatched Ethiopia 4–0 in the final watched by a crowd of 30,000 at the Stade Municipal. All four goals were scored by striker Mohammed Diab El-Attar “Ad Diba.” “Those were unforgettable matches,” Ad Diba recalled in an interview in 2001. “The success of this championship and its popularity amongst the Sudanese encouraged the African federation to organize a tournament on a biennial basis and to be played in a different country each time,” he said. Ad Diba made history again eleven years later in Addis Ababa, when he refereed the Afcon final between Congo (DRC) and Ghana (see video).
In those early days, CAF brought to life Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a United States of Africa. At the same time, football provided a rare form of national culture, unity, and pride in postcolonial Africa.
Today, the African Nations Cup has transformed itself into a globalized commercial event with multinational corporate sponsors, matches on satellite television and online, many European coaches, and most players on the sixteen squads employed by European clubs. It is a far cry from 1957. And yet an alluring contradiction has endured: the Afcon showcases Pan-African solidarity while triggering 90-minute nationalism.
Tags: 2015 African Nations Cup, 2015AFCON, AFCON2015, Africa Cup of Nations, African Nations Cup, CAF, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Khartoum, South Africa, Sudan, UEFA
Filed under: The Hosts
By Peter Alegi | December 8th, 2014 | No Comments
Last Saturday’s 2015 Women’s World Cup draw in Ottawa briefly took the global media spotlight away from the men’s game. And from the players’ gender discrimination lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for staging matches on artificial turf rather than natural grass.
The prominence of the women’s game in the sport-media-industrial complex happens so rarely, and tends to be so fleeting, that the Football Scholars Forum, the online fútbol think tank based at Michigan State University, decided to devote its final event before the holiday break to a thorough discussion of the state of the women’s game internationally, both on the pitch and in the scholarly literature.
This veritable intellectual pelada (pickup game) takes place on Thursday, December 11, at 2pm Eastern U.S. Time (-5 GMT). To jumpstart the Skype discussion, eminent scholars of the game have written pre-circulated blog posts on the FSF website.
Click here to read “When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers” by Jean Williams (DeMontfort University, @JeanMWilliams).
Click here to read “Marimachos: On Women’s Football in Latin America” by Brenda Elsey (Hofstra University, @politicultura) and Joshua Nadel (North Carolina Central University, @jhnadel).
Click here to read “The National Teams We Know Nothing About” by Gwen Oxenham.
Click here to read “A Pitch of Her Own” by Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental)
This is not the first time that FSF has delved into aspects of the study and play of women’s football. In 2011, just before the last Women’s World Cup, Cynthia Pelak and Jennifer Doyle facilitated a vigorous session (click here for details and audio). A second gathering a year later pivoted around Jun Stinson’s short documentary film, The 90th Minute (click here to listen to my interview with the filmmaker), and featured an intervention by Gwen Oxenham, author of Finding the Game (click here for audio).
To participate in the December 11 FSF event via Skype, please contact Alex Galarza on Twitter (@galarzaalex) or by email at galarza.alex AT gmail. See you on the virtual pitch!
Tags: 2015 Women's World Cup, Brenda Elsey, FIFA, gender, Gwendolyn Oxenham, Jean Williams, Joshua Nadel, sexuality, women, women's football, women's soccer
Filed under: The Hosts
By Peter Alegi | November 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment
The Confederation of African Football has announced that Equatorial Guinea will replace Morocco as host nation for the 2015 African Nations Cup, the continent’s oldest and most prestigious international tournament.
The decision followed “fraternal and fruitful discussions” between CAF and Equatorial Guinea’s President Obiang, according to CAF’s official statement. Matches will be played in Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin. The draw is scheduled for December 3 in Malabo.
The oil-rich former Spanish colony, population 736,000, previously co-hosted the tournament, with Gabon, in 2012.
CAF’s announcement brought a controversial and increasingly tense saga to a close. Morocco’s decision to back out of its commitment to stage the Nations Cup came in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The North African nation’s withdrawal drew passionate criticism from many fans and observers in Africa and overseas.
Writing for The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Sean Jacobs (the South African founder of the Africa Is A Country website) argues that “a mix of politics, opportunism and self-interest seem to be behind Morocco’s decision.”
The incident, Jacobs explains, is evidence of Morocco’s “difficult relationship with nations south of the Sahara. African migrants, some on their way to Europe, regularly complain about harassment, violence and xenophobia.”
James Dorsey’s The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog took a similar tack. “Morocco can’t escape the impression that its decision was informed by prejudice,” especially within the context of a long and complex history of economic, cultural, and political relations between North African countries and sub-Saharan African nations. And, of course, fear shaped the decision as well. Fear, specifically, “about the possible impact of an Ebola case on tourism that accounts for an estimated ten percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product.”
Morocco’s seemingly contradictory decision not to host the Nations Cup in January but to go ahead and stage the FIFA World Club Cup next month sparked more criticism.
In the end, Africa’s grandest football show will go on thanks to Issa Hayatou, CAF’s president for the past 26 years, and President Obiang, Africa’s longest serving autocrat–in power since 1979 and at the head of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea that holds 153 of 155 parliamentary seats.
This last-minute African Nations Cup resolution reminds me of FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke’s statement during the massive 2013 Confederations Cup protests in Brazil: “less democracy is sometimes better for organizing a World Cup.” And, in this case, it seems to work for an African Nations Cup too.