Africas Football History In The Home Of FIFA
By acquiring the world’s most comprehensive archive on the history of African football, FIFA’s documentation centre is making a valuable contribution to the understanding and promotion of African football.
There was great joy when the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ was awarded to South Africa in May 2004. Despite the fact that all the matches are being held in South Africa, 2010 will be viewed as a tournament for the entire African continent, as reflected in the official slogan “KE NAKO. Celebrate Africa’s Humanity.”
But little is known of the history of football in Africa. Of course, great African players like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o and Michael Essien play for major European clubs and attract attention because they play in leading tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup™, the Africa Cup of Nations or the UEFA Champions League. But where do these exceptionally talented players come from? Where did they learn their footballing ABC? For which clubs and in which leagues in their homelands did they play when they were younger?
It is extremely difficult to track down answers to these questions. The shortage and neglected state of archives in many African countries and the failure to fully realise the importance of chronicling the game mean that African football is not nearly as well documented as it deserves to be. South Africa’s successful bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ therefore provided the stimulus to fill this information gap. But how?
Faouzi Mahjoub is a long-time observer and aficionado of African football. In the 1960s, the Tunisian journalist, based in Paris, worked for several publications such as the renowned French publication Miroir du Football and the magazines JeuneAfrique and Ajrique Asie. As a media affairs adviser to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) from 1988 to 2004 and a member of FIFA’s Media Committee from 1990 to 2006, the 66-year-old has always enjoyed a close relationship with football’s leading institutions.
Mahjoub was not only one of the first journalists to report on football in Africa, but also one of the few to have recognised the need to keep records for posterity. Over the years in his Paris apartment, Mahjoub has put together a painstakingly detailed and comprehensive archive of the history of African football that is surely unparalleled in the world of sports documentation.
This archive is a stroke of luck for FIFA, especially as Mahjoub announced in 2006 that he was prepared to hand over his archive, which comprises some 7,000 documents and more than 2,000 photos, to FIFA’s documentation centre. “The history does not belong to me, and FIFA is undoubtedly the best institution in the world of football to give my collection for safekeeping,” says Mahjoub. For two years, Mahjoub has been helping FIFA compile the archive, integrate it into FIFA’s documentation centre, and make it accessible to interested parties.
Mahjoub’s archives consist mainly of documents from national and continental sports institutions as well as the leading print publications that began appearing in France and Africa in the 1960s. These provide a treasure trove of information on national and continental competitions, tournaments, teams and leading lights of African football. Another integral part of the collection, invaluable from a historical point of view, is the photogtaphs Mahjoub took himself on his many journeys throughout Africa as a correspondent for various publications. These photos have filled a major gap in FIFA’s picture archive.
DVD FOR CAF’S ANNIVERSARY
The investment of transporting Mahjoub’s archive from Paris to Zurich paid offsoon after its arrival when FIFA chose to present CAF, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary (the confederation was established in Khartoum on 7 February 1957), with a DVD providing a compact and clearly structured chronicle of the entire history of African football. For this, a large part of Mahjoub’s archives had to be indexed, selected, classified, scanned and compiled into an attractive whole.
There was such an abundance of information that the final product was burned onto five DVDs. The result of the efforts is impressive. The DVDs feature dossiers on all 53 CAF associations and their correspondence with FIFA, an in-depth presentation of CAF since its foundation, containing written, audio and visual accounts, portraits of the greatest players that Africa has produced, from Larbi Ben Barek to Samuel Eto’o, and finally archives recounting Pele’s visits to Africa. They also feature all the African articles from France Football (1970-1977) Miroir du Football (1962-1976), and a complete set of statistics from the FIFA database containing information on all the international matches contested by African national teams since their affiliation to FIFA. What is more, there is also a detailed history of the Africa Cup of Nations (1957-2008) and African participation in the FIFA World Cup™ (1934-2006), with the DVD showing all the goals scored by African teams since the 1970 FIFA World Cup™.