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Football, Building Social Cohesion in Niger

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Niger is twice as large as France in area, composed of eight regions and six different ethnicities. It was also the country with the lowest Human Development Index in 2012. These factors make for a fragile social fabric in Niger, due perhaps to increasing inequalities and heterogeneous demographics. Sport is at times an ideal vehicle to reinforce social links in Nigerien communities. This is why the community of Kalfou in the department of Tahoua organise an annual football tournament, bringing together various clubs from around the region.

Hamzajaba, a member of the Rising Voices’ project Mapping for Niger, participated in this tournament. He says [fr]:

Ce tournoi a été organisé par un ressortissant d’un village appelé « Guidan Toudou ». Le tournoi est composé de huit (8) villages qui sont répartis en deux poules A et B. La poule A est composée de : Guidan Toudou, Alibou, Toudouni et Tounga et la poule B est composée de : Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara et Galmawa. [..] la finale a opposée Guidan Toudou& Karaji Sud avec un score de 3 buts à 0 en faveur de Guidan Toudou suite au forfait de Karaji Sud. Ce tournoi s'est déroulé dans une parfaite ambiance, pleine de faire play et l’objectif a donc été atteint. J’ai rencontré pas mal des jeunes et même des collègues avec qui j'ai été au collège. Guidan Toudou a gagné le trophée avec comme récompense 70 000 FCFA; le 2ème, Karaji Sud, a été recompensé de 40 000 FCFA et le 3ème Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. Toutes les équipes qui ont participé ont bénéficié d’un ballon.

This tournament was organised by the village group Guidan Toudou. The tournament is composed of eight (8) villages who were divided into two groups, A and B. Group A is composed of: Guidan Toudo, Alibou, Toudouni and Tounga and group B is composed of: Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara and Galmawa. [...] the final placed Guidan Toudou and Karaji Sud with a score of 3 goals to 0 in favor of Guidan Toudo, following a forfeit from Karaji Sud. This tournament took place in a perfect ambiance, full of fair play and thus the objective was obtained. I met quite a few young people and even some colleagues with whom I attended secondary school. Guidan Toudou won the trophy with 70 000 FCFA as a reward; the second, Karaji Sud, was awarded 40 000 FCFA and the third Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. All of the teams who participated received a football.

Le département de Tahoua, cartographié par le projet Mapping for Niger

The department of Tahoua, mapped by the project Mapping for Niger. See the larger map here.

Football has always been a passion for Nigeriens. One of the most well known celebrities in Niger is a former footballer, Moussa Kanfideni, who was the captain of the national team in the '80s. His name was immortalised in the the creation of the first training center for future leaders in football, the Souley Académie Sports (SACA-Sports). Ousmane Keïta explains the role of this training center and foodball [fr] in general in the education of young Nigeriens:

L’ambition de la Souley Académie Sports est claire : combler un grand vide en contribuant non seulement à la formation du champion, mais aussi de l’intellectuel de demain. En d’autres termes, le centre vise à forger le citoyen modèle, préparé pour évoluer dans l’adversité, la concurrence.

The goal of the Souley Académie Sports is clear: to fill a large gap and to contribute not only to the training of champions, but also to the intellectuals of tomorrow. In other words, the center aims to form a model citizen, prepared to perform in the face of adversity, competition.

Tournoi de football dans le département de la Tahoua, Niger. avec la permission du projet mapping for Niger

Football tournament in the department of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger.

Other academies, like Atcha académie [fr], have created programs to target the schooling of young people through sport. Equally, the technical center of the Nigerien Federation of Football (FENIFOOT) was recently established in the north of Niamey, the capital of Niger. News blog A Niamey explains the goals of this center [fr]:

Les premiers pensionnaires du centre sont au total 52 jeunes talents, de moins de 15 ans, qui ont été présélectionnés sur l’ensemble du territoire national. le Niger compte sortir de ces jeunes formés l’équipe nationale qui va représenter le pays à la Coupe d’Afrique des moins de 17 ans prévue en 2015 à Niamey.

The first members of the sport center are in total 52 talented youth under age 15, who were preselected through the national territory. Niger counts on these young trainees of the national team who will represent the country in the uner-17s African Cup in 2015 in Niamey.

The national team is also a vehicle for solidarity and national mobilisation. The following video is a message from members of the Nigerien football team about the famine in Niger:

 

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