The Best Books About the African Influence in Sports

The influence of players with African blood can be seen in just about every sport around the world. Some of the most fascinating stories and experiences in this respect have been gathered in the following books that look at different aspects of the African influence in sports.

Made in Africa: The History of African Players in English Football – Ed Aarons

Whether you call it football or soccer, there is no doubt that the influence of African players has grown enormously in recent years. This 2020 book takes a look at the way that they have become such a powerful force in the sport in England.

Since Arthur Wharton became the first African professional in the country, in the 1880s, many other players have followed his path. Wharton was a goalkeeper who is now in the sport’s Hall of Fame and has a statue outside the FA headquarters in London.

This book was written after a historic season in which three Africans shared the 2018-19 EPL’s Golden Boot award for most goals scored. Sadio Mané was born in Senegal and in that season scored 22 goals for Liverpool. Egypt’s Mohamed Salah scored the same number of goals for the same team, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Gabon joined them after a successful season for Arsenal.

The book takes a look at some of the famous players who have thrilled crowds up and down England.  Author Ed Aarons is a sports journalist for The Guardian and UK-born African football fan. He looks at the issues that African footballers have faced and how they have impacted English football.

An interview with Jurgen Klopp is one of the highlights. The Liverpool manager has built his title-winning team around a core of African athletes, and he explains how important they are to his way of playing the game. The huge popularity of the EPL means that this book will be enjoyed by many sports fans from all backgrounds.

Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season – David Shields

One of the sports with the greatest prevalence of players with African heritage is the NBA. Many of the finest players to ever play in the NBA were of African-American descent. Yet, this book considers how it may reflect society’s racist attitudes.

The book follows the Seattle SuperSonics as they play through the 1994-1995 season, giving it a mixture of sporting action and social commentary. They didn’t win the play-offs or provide any other sort of Hollywood-style finish to the story. However, that wasn’t what Shields had in mind when he started writing this book.

Instead, it looks at how the NBA is a scenario where fans of all colours “quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension”. He calls race the sport’s taboo topic and then sets about showing us in many different ways how it is handled.

Shields is a highly-respected author and he takes an interesting approach to this highly-charged subject, giving himself a hard time as much as he criticises others for the attitudes that they show. Anyone who is interested in social issues or you enjoy going on and keeping track of the NBA odds, you will find a lot to enjoy in this book.

Breaking the Color Barrier: The Story of the First African American NFL Head Coach, Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard – Frank Foster

Football is another American sport with a proud history of African-American players. Yet, the story of Fritz Pollard isn’t as widely known-about as it should be. Born in the US in 1920, he joined Bobby Marshall in being the first African-American NFL players in 1920.

Pollard was the first black running back to play in the All-America team, before a career with the Akron Pros. However, an even more impressive claim to fame came when he became co-head coach of the Pros while still playing for them. He went on to coach the Hammond Pros and the Chicago Black Hawks, among others.  Pollard even founded his own team, the Brown Bombers.

This book looks at his incredible life and the profound effect that his achievements have had on the sport since then.






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