Institutional prejudices against your own: The unfortunate case of African football

Dr Kwame Agyemang

Posted: June 20, 2014

While there are numerous definitions for an “institution”, one characterization defines institutions as socially accepted value systems, reinforced by repetitive behaviors. There are many examples of these types of institutions, including the institution of marriage and the handshake. Racism and prejudice are also forms of institutions that are pervasive in societies across the world. In these cases, years of repetitive behaviors of discrimination against marginalized populations have institutionalized value systems that ultimately negatively impact marginalized groups.

Unbeknownst to many, this practice is exercised within racial groups and ubiquitous on the African continent. This practice seems to represent itself in every facet of African business. For instance, government officials would rather award a service-type grant to a foreign-based (typically Western) company rather than a local African company. This practice is no different in sport, especially when selecting national football team managers. Every FIFA World Cup, the notion of institutional racism against your own is a topic of conversation among many Africans.


Of the five African nations taking part in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, two of the managers hold the same passport as the 23 players who make up their respective rosters.

2014 World Cup: Managers of African Teams

-Cameroon-Volker Finke (German)

-Algeria-Vahid Halilhodžić (Bosnian)

-Côte d’Ivoire-Sabri Lamouchi (French)

-Ghana-Kwesi Appiah (Ghanaian)

-Nigeria-Stephen Keshi (Nigerian)

In Lamouchi’s case, it is worth pointing out that he is of Tunisian descent, though it is reported he has never been to Tunisia. In any case, that two of the five managers are indigenous represents a potential shift in manner in which African FA executives and the general public view indigenous coaches. Sadly for aspiring African national team managers, the current thought is that they do not possess the competence to manage at sport’s biggest event. Unlike other cases of institutional racism in which one racial group discriminates against another, this case sees Africans (e.g., FA executives, players, fans) discriminating against fellow Africans (i.e., aspiring African coaches). As a result, Europeans have historically coached African nations competing at the World Cup. In the past, indigenous coaches have successfully qualified their teams for the World Cup only to be sacked right before the start of the tournament. The appointments of Lars Lagerback (Nigeria) and Sven Goran Eriksson (Côte d’Ivoire) right before the start of the 2010 World Cup illustrate this unfortunate occurrence.

Ghana’s Kwesi Appiah and Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi have an opportunity to shift the preference of Europeans over indigenous Africans. Aspiring African managers are especially keen to witness a good showing from the likes of Ghana and Nigeria. In the event that they do, perhaps we can see more African coaches gain the confidence of the masses, thereby allowing them to manage African national teams. In the case that Appiah and Keshi’s teams do not perform well, you can only think that the institutionalized practice will persist.

About Dr. Kwame Agyemang

Dr. Kwame Agyemang is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University. His research focuses on celebrity, specifically the creation of celebrity and the influence of celebrity (i.e., commercially and socially). He is particularly interested in studying celebrity in the context of creative industries such as sport, music, movies and fashion. You may follow him on Twitter (@KwameDwase) or visit his personal website (