Written by: Peter Alegi
Primary Source: Football is Coming Home, October 17, 2016
The story of Abongile Elton Qobisa, also known as the “Xhosa Maradona,” has not been covered by ESPN, SKY, SABC, or FIFA media. But Tarminder Kaur, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of the Free State in South Africa, is determined not to allow us to forget him.
On October 26, the moving tale about Qobisa will be the subject of the Football Scholars Forum’s 37th session. Kaur’s paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Western Cape region. It engages critically with “sport-for-development” discourses and its limits, a topic Pelle Kvalsund and Hikabwa Chipande, among others, have written extensively about on this blog.
“In contemporary South Africa,” Kaur writes, “soccer is discursively portrayed as a tool for ‘development’ and socialization of ‘black’ youth living in structurally constrained conditions. Indeed, it is the stories of ‘rags to riches’ through sport talent and success that continue to spark imagination for possibilities through soccer for the marginalized and those in need of ‘development.’”
The paper deftly critiques these discourses by presenting an intriguingly diverse cast of male characters. Readers are introduced to passionate township players, devoted coaches, hardcore fans, and well-meaning patrons of the game. Through numerous oral interviews and personal observations, the study reveals the multiple ways in which young black men from humble circumstances “create and find meaning in practices of soccer.” In a context of economic insecurity and social instability, the author highlights how “talent and opportunities in soccer were both a gift and a curse for the amaXhosa Maradona.”
To participate in the October 26 online forum, please visit the FSF website.
Click here for the Sport in Africa web dossier compiled by the African Studies Library at Leiden University.