I recently got an email from a friendly woman at the Russian travel channel, “Teletravel,” asking if she could send me a few questions for the site, which she did. I sent her my answers back, and afterward she let me know when the interview was up. Then, for fun, I ran the site through the Babel Fish translator, just to see what I’d said. This is always amusing. For starters, “Frank Of bures – man, which it is first of all worthwhile to name writer, the secondly – traveller. It much wanders and even more greatly he writes about his adventures so that other people also could feel the taste of road.” I’m sure it sounds, and looks, much better in Russian: “Frank Bures – человек, которого в первую очередь стоит назвать писателем, во вторую – путешественником. Он много странствует и еще больше пишет о своих приключениях, чтобы другие люди тоже могли почувствовать вкус дороги. Frank жил в нескольких странах, прилично говорит на суахили, итальянском и тайском языках, но писать предпочитает на английском. Его рассказы о путешествиях печатали в антологиях, а также….” Read the rest (in Russian) here.
Archive for June, 2010
We hear a lot about soccer in Europe and Latin America, but less about its role in Africa. As we’ll see during the World Cup, African nations are mad about the sport. It’s woven itself into the fabric of life across the continent. How deep is it woven? Steve Bloomfield traveled from Somalia to Sierra Leone to South Africa to find out, a trip he chronicles in his new book, Africa United: Soccer, Passion, Politics and the First World Cup in Africa. I caught up with Bloomfield, who lives in Nairobi, via email to ask him about it.
World Hum: What does having the World Cup in South Africa mean for the continent?
Steve Bloomfield: This World Cup has the potential to begin to change the way the rest of the world views Africa. For an entire month one of the world’s biggest stories will take place in Africa and, with the odd exception, it should be an overwhelmingly positive one.
A little while back, I interviewed Doug Lansky about his new website called the Titanic Awards, a compendium of funny stuff that happens on the road and what he calls the “worst of travel.” Now Lansky has turned that concept into a new book of the same name. For the occasion, he also put together this video of some of the greatest hits from his site. If you’ve got a minute to spare, it’s a worthwhile diversion. Because, as we all know, the worst trips make the best stories:
Not long after we moved back to Minneapolis, I started to notice how much the city had changed since I last lived here in the 1990′s. And so, I started to take some photos and jot things down, the culmination of which you can see on this slideshow over at World Hum. Sometimes we don’t even notice this kind of change since it happens so gradually, but to me it seemed seismic. Recently, there was a story in our local paper saying that the most immigrants to Minnesota now come from Africa, and last winter I noticed we can get our snow removal instructions in English, Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese or Oromo. This weekend is Twin Cities World Refugee Day and on any given day, in the space of an hour, I can go shopping for fishballs, camel meat, Nollywood videos, plastic toy Kalashnikovs, international phone cards, pocky and then stop in for nyama choma and wash it down with a cool durian smoothie. The world really is here now.
One day I was sitting with my students at Ekenywa Secondary School just outside Arusha, Tanzania, where I was then teaching English. We were watching a soccer game, when I turned to John, my star pupil, and asked a question that had been on my mind.
“John,” I said, “do you know what the Hand of God is?”
John, who was a devout Christian, smiled.
“Yes, of course!” He said. “Maradona, when he made the goal in the World Cup, like this.” He made a fist and punched the air. “Wonderful!!”
I’d suspected as much. Everyone seemed to know the famous Hand of God goal: the Argentine’s famously illegal point against England in the 1986 World Cup. Soccer, it seemed, was a language we could all speak and the soccer field was a place where we could all meet.
This was some years ago, and in the meantime the sport has only woven itself more tightly into life across the continent, as African teams get closer to the top, and African players occupy more spots in the world’s great clubs. Now, with the World Cup finally taking place in South Africa, I wanted to put together a list of books about Africa and Soccer. New titles are flying onto the shelves in anticipation of World Cup 2010, which begins very soon! If you need to bone up, here are some titles:
This book is about the history of the sport on the continent and covers everything from the 1994 plane crash that killed the entire Zambian national team, to soccer and the Algerian liberation struggle. ESPN soccernet called it, “fascinating, funny [and] beautifully written.”
A great read that gives you a good view of how football is lived and played in 13 of Africa’s 53 countries, and a good primer for anyone headed to South Africa, either virtually or in real life. My interview with Bloomfield will be on WorldHum.com soon.
This novel by Senegalese Diome chronicles the lives of several young people who dream of a better future across the ocean in France, where one of them is scouted by a major soccer club, but where his dream is not at all guaranteed of coming true.
Moving south, this is the story of the Makana Football Association, which was formed behind the walls of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned. A great story of soccer providing a glimmer of hope where there is little to be had.
This is a slightly more academic look at how Africans, the author argues, “wrested control of soccer from the hands of Europeans,” making soccer their own form of “national culture.” Because of this, they have now had so much success that their playing and style are highly prized commodities in Europe.
An even more academic look at the evolution of football in Africa, in the context of western colonialism and resistance. Not exactly light reading, but for serious students it might be worthwhile. Available for free here.
A lush celebration of the sport and its fans across the continent, this book came out around the 2006 World Cup and “follows a narrative of the sport in Cameroon, Senegal, Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, Angola, Ghana, Tunisia, and Egypt.” Apparently a documentary is also in the works.