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Why football is more important than religion in Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying: "Soccer isn't like a religion in Africa. It is bigger than religion."

And for many Africans, football IS their religion.

On Thursday, March 1, leading independent film director and University of Westminster postgraduate student Victor Buhler held an exclusive screening of his new film, The Beautiful Game, which was produced in conjunction with and attended by Kojo Annan, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s son, and hosted at the University of Westminster’s historic cinema in the heart of London’s West End.

The Beautiful Game is a character-based feature documentary featuring some of Africa’s greatest leaders including Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, FW deKlerk, along with football manager, Jose Mourinho and famous footballers Jay-Jay Okocha, Steven Pienaar, the Touré brothers, Sulley Muntari and Roger Milla (pictured) to name just a few.

The film portrays the inspirational power of soccer in modern-day Africa — a game that is helping to change the lives of individuals and communities across the continent for players, fans, young, old, with or without a disability, male and female.

Social and developmental tool

It interweaves a number of dynamic stories from six African countries: Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast. Together these stories reveal how football can be an effective social and developmental tool and how the game can play a crucial role in shaping a new future for Africa.

Victor Buhler is currently a student on the Entertainment Law LLM course at the University of Westminster, and an acclaimed writer and director. Victor has been encouraged by the Centre of Law and Popular Culture at the University of Westminster Law School to host the evening and to combine his studies with his highly successful career as film director.

The Entertainment Law LLM has been running at Westminster’s school of Law since 1999 and is currently the only course of its type in the UK.

Victor Buhler, director of The Beautiful Game and an LLM student at the University of Westminster, said: “In Africa, soccer brings 54 diverse countries into a common and passionate dialogue with tangible results.

"When an African country does well at a competition, its national GDP rises, its exports go up, crime decreases, and political divides narrow. We hope to show audiences a vision of an Africa that is too rarely seen: an Africa that is ambitious, resourceful and united. While there are challenging scenes in the film, our overall message is positive.”

'Uniting capacity'

Former UN secretary-general Annan said: “Football has a uniting capacity for an Africa that has been divided in many ways. To have something that brings us together, unites us, across generations, across culture, is an exciting thing.

“To play football effectively and successfully, you need to acquire certain skills. One is to play as a team, to learn to play as a team. You also learn to accept the rules of the game, and you need to learn to accept decisions of the referee.

These are all skills that are necessary in nation-building. I learned some of these things on the pitch as a boy, and these lessons have stayed with me all the way through.”

The Beautiful Game showcases the spirit of Africa through music, imagery and football.

Four years in the making, the “The Beautiful Game” team has travelled across the continent collecting unique and inspiring stories about soccer and looking at how deeply a sport can impact and unite a continent.

The screening was held at the University of Westminster Cinema, a landmark venue in British Cinema history. The university has recently launched a major £5 million fundraising campaign to raise the funds to bring the birthplace of British cinema back to its former glory.

The event supports one of the films key charity partners: the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana, an organisation that nurtures young underprivileged talent in Africa.

Through their elite training programmes, international education, personal development and leadership philosophy they nurture talent into future role models for Africa.


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