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Premier League Is More Important Than Life In Africa

Photo by kigaliwire

In 1992, when the Premier League was formed, the clubs began to take advantage of lucrative television rights and broke away from the Football League, which had existed since 1888.

When fans worldwide saw Brian Deane score the first Premier League goal in the 2-1 win by Sheffield United over Manchester United, little did any one predict that this league’s popularity would stretch as far as a small town in East Africa named Rweshera.

For example, Tumwine Bosco, a peasant who earned less than $1 a week, caused outrage in the village where he chased his wife from their marital home because she insisted that Manchester United played better football than Arsenal. After three days of dialogue. The Elders and Bosco agreed to take back his wife on one condition. That his wife apologize to him, acknowledge that Arsenal was better than Man United and, from then on, she must become a Gooner. True story.

There are plenty more stories like that.

But, first, some background. In Africa, it’s a Known fact that an average male aged between 16-25 knows at least the starting eleven of his favorite club in England. Research goes on to show that this same age category may not be able to identify players representing his national team.

A 2008 Target Group Index research study by Consumer Insight revealed that most Africans spend their free time watching television. About 77 per cent of Ethiopians watch TV in their free time, while in Uganda, it’s 60 per cent and 45 per cent in Tanzania. Kenya, Angola and Burundi tie at 45 per cent. This might be one of the causes for the unfamiliarity of their national team players because the local leagues are not shown on television.

The survey further revealed that 61 per cent of respondents said they visit pubs in their free time, and 75 per cent said they drink to socialize and relieve stress. Consumption, the study said, is more prevalent among people aged between 18 and 34 years who account for almost three quarters of the total population of drinkers. That is the age most passionate about soccer. And drinking where live matches are shown is for most, an ideal way of socializing.

Why the attraction to the Premier League and not La Liga? One big difference is the inconvenient start-times of the Spanish league fixtures, which means its league matches are screened at midnight when most fans are already drunk by then and are staggering home, if not asleep.

The popularity of the English Premiership thus rests on media promotion, and competitiveness of the top teams. And realizing the global marketing potential, teams resort to selling jerseys and other kit.

However, the impact of the Premier League in Africa has left many dead. Different countries have had their share of bizarre cases and here are some that caught my eye:

  • Just in March 2010, a fan stabbed Abubakar Baishe, 19, in the stomach. The two schoolmates were arguing over league standings during a Manchester United versus Liverpool match that was aired on television in Lamu, Kenya.
  • In Ogbo town Nigeria, a bus driver and Manchester United fan ran over fans celebrating Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester United during the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final. Four were killed and 10 seriously injured.
  • In Uganda, a Manchester United fan beat his wife senselessly in 2008 because she had washed his prized Man United jersey on the day of a crucial encounter.
  • Young Islamist masked militants raided a cinema Hall in Howl Wadaag district of Mogadishu where a Manchester United against Arsenal FA semi-final match was being screened in 2008. Abdullahi Madehey, an Arsenal fan, died from gunshot wounds during the attack. Arsenal is the most popular club in Somalia.
  • In the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final between Chelsea and Manchester United, seven fans died in Nigeria after clashes between rival supporters.
  • In 2009, Suleiman Omondi, 29, took a rope and hanged himself at the balcony of his house in a Nairobi estate after Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United, according to the girlfriend and neighbors. Omondi could not even wait for the Champions League semi-final match on Tuesday night between the two teams to end before snuffing out his life as Arsenal’s defeat was inevitable after Man United’s two goals during the first eleven minutes of the game. Omondi allegedly expressed his disappointment at the way Arsenal had been outclassed in the semi-final clash.

In Africa, where I live (Uganda to be precise), a typical weekend for a soccer fan comprises of placing his bet for the day and heading to a “sports” bar.

Fans spend hours swilling copious amounts of alcohol, eating nyama choma (roast meat) and pork as they root for what most call “my team.” At the end of the match they slowly walk back home in groups as they analyze the match until the next fixture. The emotional ones stay behind to fight battles on behalf of “their teams”.

For some, Premier League football is the most important thing in their lives. For others, Premier League football is more important than their life.

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  1. GK

    March 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Some of the comments seem rather harsh. I found the theme and flavor of the article interesting.

  2. Dave C

    March 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’m pretty sure I commented on this thread, but it seems to have disappeared. Was it deleted for some reason?

    • Laurence

      March 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      I’ve had problems with that too Dave. It’s just been a problem with my connection though.

  3. Pakapala

    March 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    The Gaffer please tell me the title was not of your making? This is one of the worst articles on this website ever!

    “But, first, some background. In Africa, it’s a Known fact that an average male aged between 16-25 knows at least the starting eleven of his favorite club in England. Research goes on to show that this same age category may not be able to identify players representing his national team.”

    A known fact? The author makes a vague statement about a landscape as large as Africa without providing anything to back his “facts”, yet he calls it “a known fact”.
    That and so many outrageous statements in this article make it one of the worst this site has published.

  4. Jeff

    March 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I find this to be a more accurate depiction of the influence of the Premier League in Africa.

  5. football stats

    March 16, 2011 at 4:52 am

    A bit excessive the header.

  6. EDub

    March 16, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Laughable article. More important than life? In Africa?

    You experience soccer in one pub, in one country, and generalize to a continent? Do you think some Libyan fighting Ghadafi is worried about your Premier League right now? Some South African with HIV concerned about Rooney’s goal tally?

    Just too many weak points in this article to really elaborate. I appreciate an attempt to describe something provocative, but generalization/lack of data/no comparison to any other continent really render this as a waste.

  7. Maggie Githiomi

    March 16, 2011 at 12:25 am

    It is the opinion of an African observer,how about giving us your observation on European fatalities?they are definitley there but what the writer aims to show is the ‘influence’ of the PL in far flung places like Africa.

    Sometimes its good to keep an open mind,article is not racist….writer is Ugandan!you can identify with what he talks abou after living in Africa for sometime.friendships have been broken because of the PL!and yes,50% of these fans can name all the players,reserves but not even 2 from their local teams. It is all about the passion the EPL brings with it.
    In the end,the observation,opinion is welcome.

  8. Trickybrkn

    March 16, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I’d be more convinced if you replace Premier League with religion, but the story is hardly racist… The writer is Africian and posts on many other football blogs… And is quite well I might add.

  9. UpTheBlues

    March 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Silly title and article in my opinion.
    Sensed a little, dare I say it, racism in it as well…

  10. Jeff

    March 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    ahhh, low-level racist low-quality articles on football. have expected that from epl talk

  11. jdoe

    March 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    The title and premise of this article is silly. One doesn’t need statistics to know there are more football related fatalities in Europe. Does that make football more important than life in Europe?

  12. Joe

    March 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Off topic, but is proving once again that it’s not worth it to pay for what you can find for free. At halftime of the Bayern-Inter game, the feed suddenly stopped working. Oops! In less than 2 minutes I found a free illegal feed that works fine.

  13. Tayo

    March 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    As a Nigerian living in the states, it sucks living in a Country that is not as crazy and passionate about ‘soccer’ the way Nigerians and Africans in general are. Football is a religion in Africa, the premier league is and will probably be the best league in the world, the organisation, the players, the fixture list, the TV coverage (except FSC coverage), everything is top notch. Sometimes I wish I was back home watching with friends and family.

  14. Amílcar Tavares

    March 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’m African and I do not know even one African who agrees with the statement: Premier League Is More Important Than Life In Africa.

  15. tonyspeed

    March 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I, For One, Welcome Our ….old British Overlords.

  16. maggie githiomi

    March 15, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Great insightful article!whether they are drunken louts or pepsi and salted crisps consumers is neither here nor there!they are funs of the beautiful game…fact!

  17. wednesdayite

    March 15, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Brian Deane played for Sheffield UNITED not wednesday.

    • The Gaffer

      March 15, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Wednesdayite, sorry about that. Just caught the mistake and made the correction.

      The Gaffer

  18. brn442

    March 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Bizarre article to say the least. The fact that you claim to live in Africa makes it even more so. And I naively assumed that the typical African fan simply consumed a Pepsi and a packet of something salty during a match but according to you, they are (usually, typically) infantile, over emotional, drunken louts.

    As for your thesis about the Premier League. This may shock you but English Football has always been popular in former British Colonies – Premier League or Not.

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