After a long, hard winter a visit to Nigeria finally came as a refreshing sigh of relief. For one, you’re away from the cold and the burnout of academic world. My summer break was filled with interesting happenings: the warmth of the Nigerian sun, the food, the noise, street drama and encounter with the daily life.
While the summer offers a break from the rigor of academic world, I however attended the LSA conference. I appeared on a panel and made a presentation. It was awesome, to say the least, given the collegiate interactions this experience fosters.
On a platform I founded years ago for the pleasure of reading public – Kano Book Club – I organized a conference on Hausa writing and literature, and generally, cultural production in northern Nigeria. The conference drew audience from across continents comprising writers, readers and critics, who met and deliberated about the state of literature from the region.
Since it’s summer, however, and the rigorous intellectual atmosphere was relaxed, I was able to connect with the street and delved into our national pastime: soccer.
As neighborhood friends, we traditionally played the game every day while growing up, dodging school, religious duties and family obligations. Now, most of us in the age bracket followed the winds across Nigeria and even beyond. Those present managed to play the game once a week only. However, the summer break coincided with one of the biggest Muslim festivals – Eid al-Adha – the Eid of Sacrifice. Friends visited home for the festival and used the opportunity that this offered to play back the memories.
We played the game unaware of any thought to its theoretical dimension. I was amazed to realize there has been robust research and teaching on the game in African Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I said to myself, “This has got be really, really interesting. This is what everybody does daily in the streets of Kano”.
I spent time last spring talking to Madison students about soccer in Africa. The game is not just a feast to the eye and joy to the body. From a mere hobby to academic endeavor, the game has, quite frankly, been added to the checklist of my research interests.