In the sleepy, conservative town of Adelaide, South Australia, a voice is stirring. The sounds of Africa can be heard, not through dance, music or food, but through the healing powers of sport. Football. The World Game.

For many who have fled civil unrest, persecution and an uncertain future, the freedom of a new nation and culture presents a number of challenges. Australia prides itself as a place where multiculturalism has not only thrived, but has been the backbone of its history, progress and development, enriching its cultural base as an example to the rest of the world. Adelaide, in particular, is regarded oddly by its interstate rivals as quaint, conservative, a paragon of colonialism, where change of any kind is excruciatingly difficult for the sake of preservation. Inertia and its inherent stability are far more preferable. Yet this same urban enigma consistently is voted locally and internationally as one of the best places to live in the world. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that those of African heritage who now call it home can be free to add to its cultural enrichment.  In the rural setting, the elephant, lion, rhinoceros and giraffe have given way to the kangaroo, wallaby, emu and platypus. There is one thing however, that remains as an unassailable bridge between the two cultures – the love of sport.

It is for this reason that the idea of a local version of the African Cup of Nations had its genesis in 2000. What started from humble beginnings but rich in promise and passion, the competition continues to grow every year from an initial four nations. The importance of the tournament should not be understated. To bring together disparate African peoples, with a history of violence, mistrust and political unrest, under the auspices of a football tournament has taken courage, vision, co-operation and organisation. It represents an example of how sport and its virtues can transcend social problems and cultural divides, providing a foundation for a new life of peace and harmony. Not only for those participating in the sport, but for their families and the future of their children.

Such a feat would not be possible without the input of those dedicated to change.  Mabok Deng Mabok Marial, the Chairman of the local African communities’ council, has been there since the inception of the tournament. A proud man, proud of his heritage and history, with a commitment to change through the success of the tournament and its potential.  Andrew Kanga, disarmingly quiet and unassuming, belies a passionate dedication as event co-ordinator. Both men lead by example, both have seen the event grow in status and become a showcase for African football, as well as its social importance. So much so, that the aim is to encourage other Australian states to follow a similar model and to create a national tournament. This clearly would require significant organisation, government support, and sponsorship but the gains to be achieved would be an example throughout the world as to what is possible.

Ideally, the local version will be recognised by the organisers of the original African Cup of Nations and relationships, both sport and political, could be developed to the mutual benefit of all.

Ludo Aequitas, a not for profit organisation with the global initiative of promoting equality through sport, recognises and supports the tournament and its ambition. The efforts of all those involved, the Ambassadors and representatives of their African origins who promote peace and harmony through sport should be applauded. The United Nations could do far worse than turn its attention to what is happening in some sleepy backwater on the other side of the world as an example of African unity.


Author Dr Phillip Salonikis – June 1, 2017

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