Dream Soccer: Stories from AfricaThilo Thielke
Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt, 2009
This book by Thilo Thielke, Spiegel correspondent and soccer fan, is published by a sports publisher right in time for the soccer world cup in South Africa in 2010. It is nevertheless more a book on Africa rather than on soccer since one learns less about game technique and tactics than about the state of the "greatest trivial pursuit in the world" in Africa.
In thirteen chapters the reporter, better known for his reports on wars and crises in various regions in Africa, writes on his "incidental" encounters with soccer players and fans, with African bureaucrats and German coaches. Soccer, according to the reporter, represents "time out" from the misery in Africa. Even in Darfur, laughing children play with a self-made ball. Bureaucrats and politicians, on the other hand, see soccer as the only remaining possibility to represent Africa in a positive light for the world and thus they often develop tremendous albeit misplaced ambition in this regard. Thielke sees their amateurism and self-righteousness as the greatest obstacle in the way of Africa's soccer success. Almost nowhere south of the Sahara does one find a soccer association with a decent infrastructure. The great talent of African players is squandered. Their dream of playing for a European club no longer has any substance. In the nineties, every club wanted African players. But not anymore.
Thielke speaks to players and fans and to a few of the many German coaches of African teams – Winfried Schäfer (Cameroon), Dietmar Demuth (Ghana – he learns interesting details about their motivation and experiences. He also interviews Berti Vogts at a game of the Nigerian "Super Eagles" in Nairobi, Kenya. In Mogadishu, Thielke meets the president of the Somalian soccer association, he reports on a soccer project in Mathare Valley close to Nairobi and a street soccer project for street children in Maputo, Mozambique. In Kampala, Uganda, he visits a Bayern München fanclub and sees how voodoo priests in Benin try to influence the outcome of a game. In Ghana a game degenerates into chaos.
The image material is almost as extensive as the text with full-page photographs by the author. It is an attractive book, perfect as a gift for fans that plan to travel to South Africa in 2010.