By Caleb Kola Okello
Published June 9, 2015
That the English Premier League (EPL) is the most popular soccer tournament across Africa is not up for debate.
The English media commentate on the EPL in various languages–Kiswahili, French, English–and formats. British Broadcasting Corporation, a multi-media outlet broadcasting on radio, television, online and via cellphone, has dedicated football platforms focusing on the English Premier League. Thanks to technological advancement Africans follow their favourite football matches even on their phones via streaming on the internet in real time.
Skybet , one of the world renowned betting sites that is owned by Sky News media, invites fans to place bets on their favourite football team matches. BBC reports that in 2011 a punter won £272,529.60 from a £2.50 for predicting the outcome of nine matches correctly. Betting houses have since sprung up across Africa, where everybody can freely bet. Paul Maina Wainaina, a water vendor, won the Jackpot prize of Sh8.9 million in March 2015 from one such betting centre in Kenya. Such winning entices fans not to just spectate passively but to also make money from their passion.
EPL is full of surprises. A team that may not have won the League is no underdog as it may easily humiliate an EPL champion. Chelsea, the 2014-2015 EPL champions, lost to Bradford City Football club, a team in a league two spots below EPL. If there is any entertainment that has no rival, then that is the English Premier League.
EPL attracts some of the best players from every continent. This brings excitement to football fans. When Kenyan Victor Wanyama signed for Southampton FC, many Kenyan football lovers started following Southampton matches. Up to 37 African Players were in 2011 plying their trade in one or another English team. In the various countries where players are selected, the fans feel part of a club and will constantly want to be updated on the team their compatriot plays for.
That the governing Football Association is guided by professional standards has enabled EPL to reach its professional conduct. The FA deals with any form of unruly behaviour firmly, punishing a referee who officiates a match poorly as easily as it bans a player for a certain duration of time for misconduct. In April 2013, for instance, Howard Webb was demoted to officiating in a lower league after presiding poorly over a match between Sunderland FC and Newcastle FC. In October 2011 John Terry, playing for Chelsea FC, was fined £220,000 for racial slur against Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
With EPL continually trying to re-package itself better than the previous season, it will be a tall order to dethrone it as Africa’s (oops, the world’s) most popular soccer league.