Accra's stadium is empty, while football fans watch English games on TV (Photo: BBC Sport)

Accra’s stadium is empty, while football fans watch English games on TV (Photo: BBC Sport)

When satellite television started broadcasting the top leagues of Europe around the world in the mid-1990s, football lovers in Africa must have been unsure whether to laugh or cry.

On the one hand, they could suddenly watch some of the best club football on the planet – simply by turning on the TV.

At the same time, the realisation must have dawned that the local league they had been watching for years was a sub-standard product to the one found in countries like England, Spain and Italy.

It wasn’t always thus though – for African club football’s heyday came in the 1970s and 1980s when vast crowds, sometimes 100,000 strong, regularly flocked to league games and the leading pan-African club competitions.

By the 1990s, however, the state of Africa’s leagues had become a major worry.

The exodus of players to Europe, which today is a flood, was beginning to become significant, meaning local fans were denied the chance to watch the best talents as they left for greener pastures, while many leagues were also blighted by poor organisation, corruption, chronic infrastructure, low crowds and sometimes a combination of all four.

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