It is not difficult to reach conclusion that mass media coverage of football matters in Africa. At least, not after watching the current coverage by Fox Sports television of the WAFU tournament in Ghana.
There is often the claim that it is quality of football that attracts fans to the game. That cannot be easily denied but a major part of attracting an audience is mass media coverage of the game and the quality of that coverage.
It is what create stars in the minds of people, what helps create rivalry, and what creates the sense of uncertainty and urgency that keep us on the edge of our seats in front of a monitor.
It is not rocket science to understand that the English Premier League’s (EPL) popularity in Africa is closely associated with its accessibility in Africa via massive television coverage.
Yes, it is a league with a lot of quality players. There is no denying that fact. After all, who would deny the quality of Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, and Paul Pogba or the African stars such as Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Wanyama, and Sadio Mane?
There is also quality football played in Spain, Germany, and Italy and yet they are not as popular as the EPL. Certainly, media coverage has a lot to do with that.
The rising interest in local football such as played this last two weeks in Ghana for the WAFU Cup is significantly about media coverage of the event.
If you carried out a poll today on how much people know about the WAFU Cup, you should not be surprised that a large number will think that the current tournament in Ghana is the first of such tournament. Why? Previous ones have been largely ignored by the media.
Football, today, is largely brought to its followership through the mass media. It is the media that not only inform us of which games are important but also who the stars are.
African football will grow in awareness and popularity through such coverage as we are currently witnessing with the WAFU Cup. It is through such coverage that certain players become household names and become the hook that brings in spectators at the next event.
Those names are already being created at this tournament with the likes of Nigeria’s Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Ghana’s Cobbina. These are talented players that have the quality to attract additional audience. Those additional audiences will certainly make sponsorship of the games increasingly valuable to commercial interests.
There is no question that coverage like this matters for African football. Africa cannot simply depend on televised coverage of the English Premier League or any other European league.