Saturday, January 09, 2010

Africa is a continent, not a country

The reaction to today's machine-gun attack on the Togolese team in Angola illustrates the extent to which Africa seems to be an abstract concept to many in the media. Presenting "Fighting Talk" on Five Live this morning (and in all other respects making a good job of it) Alan Davies made some comment about Didier Drogba being the first to claim to be hit by a bullet. This gag, which seemed to imply that he thought Drogba played for Togo and not the Ivory Coast, would have been considered tasteless if the victims of this outrage had been European or - imagine it - British.

Then there's tonight's press coverage which seems to be all about whether this will have an effect on the World Cup in South Africa, the implication being "well, it's all very well for African players to be risking life and limb in pursuit of their trade but this event involves *us*, for God's sake!" That's not to say that South Africa doesn't have its own security problems but to link those to what was going on in a war-disrupted region of Angola seems to betray a want of basic geography, let alone common decency.


  1. Not sure Davis thought Drogeba plays for Togo just think it was football's juvenile school playground sectarism coming out (that's not to defend a poor ill timed joke).
    Have to agree about the coverage there's a strangely casual response to a major terorist attack on a sporting event compared to what would happen if the team involved was closer to home.

  2. The comment was tasteless. You're right about the geography point though. According to my reckoning, it's about 1500 miles between Luanda and Johannesburg. About the same as the distance between London, and say, Istanbul. Or Moscow.

    This reminds me of U.S. based colleagues fearing travel to 'Europe' (Germany in that case) in the aftermath of the London and Madrid bombings, and how frustrating it was to try to 'explain', (partially trying to convince myself at the same time).

  3. There have been a number of articles I have seen worrying about security in South Africa. All the commenters are doing re the Cabinda attack is pointing out how difficult it is to run a major tournament in a country that is not up to it in security terms. I think that is a valid concern for South Africa despite the 1500 miles given its security record. I do not think that they all run the assumption that Angola and South Africa are the same place.