Call for Papers | History, Sports, and Nationalism in Ghana/Africa, Zoom Conference | April 2024. Call ends July 30, 2023

A soccer match in Accra’s Bukom neighborhood, Ghana, seen through the goal net as player is about to score. (Shutterstock/Forrest Walker)

Sport is a trillion-dollar industry. Major football leagues across the world, the World Cup, the Olympic games, Golf, Basketball, Boxing, Wrestling, American football, and Tennis competitions, amongst others, bring in billions of dollars in revenue to club owners, sporting associations, sporting federations, and countries. Sports industries produce sportswear, sports equipment, field, stadia, and sports technologies of all kinds, including the latest Video Assistant Referees (VAR). Although the sports economy in Africa is not as commercially vibrant and captivating as it is in Europe and North America, it is and has always been, an essential part of economic, social, and national life across the continent.

Beyond economics, sports serve as a potent vehicle for national euphoria and nationalist sentiments. Distinguished sports personalities are the pride of their nations and communities. An example is the late Edson Arantes do Nascimento, famously known as Pelé. Pelé was a national hero of Brazil whose importance transcended the field into the political arena, and he was declared a national asset by the Brazilian state in 1961. In Africa, George O. Weah of Liberia, the only African professional footballer to ever win the Balon d’Or as the best player in the world, is the current president of Liberia.

Other prominent African sports personalities include Yaya Touré and Didier Drogba of Côte d’Ivoire, Augustine Azuka (Jay Jay) Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu of Nigeria, Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayo of Togo, Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, Maria Mutola of Mozambique, Makhaya Ntini of South Africa, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, Kipchoge Keino of Kenya, Alhaji Diouf and Sadio Mane of Senegal, Roger Milla and Samuel Eto of Cameroun, Rabah “Mustapha” Madjer of Algeria, Seydou Keita of Mali and Essam El-Hadary, Ahmed Hassan, Hossam Hassan and Mohamed M. Aboutrika of Egypt amongst others are national heroes in their own right. Equally, Ghana has had a fair share of sporting greats, including Azumah Nelson, David Kotey (DK) Poison, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joshua Clottey, Osei Kofi, Robert Mensah, Joseph Agbeko, Abedi Ayew Pelé, Sammy Kuffour, Anthony Baffoe, Anthony Yeboah, Abdul Karim Razak the “Golden Boy,” Michael Essien, Asamoah Djan and Stephen Appiah.

In Africa, sports, especially soccer, is an active force that drives national sentiments as thousands of supporters rally behind their clubs and national teams during competitions regardless of their individual, ethnic, economic, and social differences and statuses. The streets of capital cities across the continent are always filled with nationalistic fervor and display of national colors on days national teams play during African Cup, ECOWAS, or World Cup matches.

However, scholarship regarding sports in Ghana, in particular, is scarce and sparse, except for some notable works on boxing. These works include: De-Valera NYM Botchway’s Boxing is no Cakewalk!: Azumah ‘Ring Professor’ Nelson in the Social History of Ghanaian Boxing (2019), Ashley Morrison’s The Professor: The Life Story of Azumah Nelson (2014), Nii Anum Telfer and Azumah Nelson’s Azumah Nelson, Professor: 12 Rounds of Boxing and Life (2009), Anthony Deku’s Sports Development and Organization in Ghana (1969), K. T. Vieta’s The Flagbearers of Ghana: Profiles of One Hundred Distinguished Ghanaians (1990) and Emmanuel Akyeampong’s “Bukom and the Social History of Boxing in Accra: Warfare and Citizenship in Precolonial Ga Society,” (2002); Jan Dunzendorfer’s “The Early Years of Boxing in Accra: A sport is taking root, 1920-1940,” (2011) and Ethnicized Boxing: The tale of Ghana’s boxing roots in local martial arts,” (2004) and Paul Darby’s “Let Us rally around the Flag: Football, Nation Building and Pan-Africanism in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana” (2000). Some biographical works, including C.K. Gyamfi and Fiifi Anaman’s The Black Star: Autobiography of C. K. Gyamfi (2022) and LeGyanDary: The Autobiography of Asamoah Gyan (2022), and recount the extraordinary exploits of some of the “main gladiators” in Ghana’s illustrious sports history. From this list, it is clear that all major scholarly works on sports history in Ghana are skewed heavily toward Azumah Nelson and boxing, to the neglect of other boxing greats, and with little or no attention to all the other sports in Ghana.

For Africa in general, a sampling of materials on sports provides a sense of where interest lies. For example:

Grant Jarvie (ed.), Sports Racism and Ethnicity (1991)
Douglas Booth, The Race Game: Sports and Politics in South Africa (1998)
Paul Darby, Africa, Football and FIFA: Politics of Colonialism and Resistance (2002)
Peter Alegi, Laduma!: Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa, From its Origins to 2010 (2010)
Holly Collison, Youth and Sports for Development: The Seduction of Football in Liberia (2016)
Michael L. Butterworth (ed.), Sports and Militarism: Contemporary Global Perspectives (2017)
Nuno Domingos, Football and Colonialism: Body and Popular Culture in Urban Mozambique (2017)
John Nauright and Mahfoud Amara (eds.), Sports in the African World (2018)
Michael J. Gennaro and Saheed Aderinto (eds.), Sports in African History, Politics, and Identity Formation (2019), among others.


Consequently, this project is envisioned as contributing to the growing interest and scholarship on sports in Africa. It seeks to highlight and document the history of sports in Ghana and its contribution to economics, nationalism, and national development. Contributions must all be original research work following the strict rubric of research. We invite original research contributions to this project.

Themes to be explored include but are not limited to the following;

      1. Sports and nationalism
      2. Sports and development
      3. Sports Economy
      4. Biography of outstanding sports personnel
      5. Histories of major sporting clubs in Ghana/Africa
      6. History of sporting disciplines in Ghana/Africa
      7. Writing/Teaching sports history in Africa
      8. Sports in Schools/Education and Sports in Ghana/Africa
      9. Gender and Sports
      10. Sports and Popular Culture in Ghana/Africa
      11. Bukom and Boxing in Ghana/Boxing in Africa
      12. Cape Coast/Kumasi/Accra and Soccer in Ghana
      13. Ghana Football Association (GFA)/Confederation of African Football (CAF)
      14. Ghana Boxing Association (GBA)/The African Boxing Union
      15. Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC)/Association of National Olympic Committees in Africa (ANOCA)
      16.  Cricket/Field Hockey/Handball, Basketball in Ghana/Africa
      17. Other Sports-related themes

Interested participants should send a 250-word abstract by July 30, 2023, to Bright Akrofi Erasmus Petiafo at or Edmund Abaka at Full papers are expected by March 30, 2024. It is expected that the conference proceedings will be published as a book.

Contact Info

Bright Petiafo
Ph.D. Student
African History
University of Miami
Contact Email:

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