By James Yékú
In response to one city legend, any occasion with out Jollof Rice is only a assembly, however on social media, it issues considerably whether or not that Jollof is of Nigerian or Ghanaian origins.
It actually does for some AFCON supporters at this year’s tournament whose vociferous efficiency of AFCON fandom has been just a little extra intense than in earlier editions of the biennial tourney, not with the gastropolitical dimensions of the perennial social media jousts and banters over Jollof Rice and with the continuing competitors in Ivory Coast in thoughts, different tantalizing delicacies.
For the initiated, and people accustomed to on-line social relations between Nigeria and Ghana, the Jollof Rice rivalry, the favored tomato-sauced, orangey rice dish initially of the Senegambian Wolof, could have turn out to be tiring, however after Nigeria’s win over Angola within the first of 4 intriguing Quarterfinal matches in Ivory Coast final week, consideration on social media turned to a different delicacy, the antelope meat.
In case you are questioning, all this is smart with the AFCON participation of Angola, a rustic on the coast of Southern Africa. Angola’s nationwide crew, fondly known as the Palancas Negras—which means the large sable antelope, shocked many as they got here out tops in a bunch comprising two of the ten best-ranked groups in Africa, Algeria, and Burkina Faso; however the sable antelopes rapidly turned a staple of on-line banters amongst Nigerian followers once they confronted the Tremendous Eagles.
When an Angolan X account posted “Carry Them On” in response to the confirmed fixture between the Palancas Negras and the Tremendous Eagles on the finish of the second spherical of matches, what adopted was a sea of feedback by lots of Angola supporters mocking Nigeria’s bluntness in entrance of objective, one thing the Angolan crew as much as that time had achieved properly in Ivory Coast. The official X deal with of DStv in Angola went so far as utilizing AI-generated photos to tease Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen. The Napoli striker had scored solely a single objective in 4 video games whereas Angola’s Gelson Dala had 4 targets already.
With a Nigerian victory assured after Ademola Lookman’s scrumptious first-half objective, the Nigerian deal with of DStv noticed an opportune second for revenge, as the massive Nigerian contingent on-line instantly responded with a torrent of tweets as a tongue-in-cheek clap-back towards their opponents. As one Nigerian X person advised, it was time to have Ghana Jollof with Antelope meat sprinkled with Cameroon pepper. Different variations of this sentiment flooded the web.
Anybody who has adopted the matches in Ivory Coast can respect the reference to Cameroun and Angola within the context of Nigeria’s victories at AFCON. The allusion to Ghana is a bit odd besides, in fact, if earlier than the match with Angola, you had been a Ghanaian fan who had imagined an encounter that excites with schadenfreude. Taking goal at a squashed Ghanaian pleasure in Nigerian misfortune, the banters over Jollof Rice had been predictably again on the desk.
For the Nigerian, subsequently, to have “Ghana Jollof” that’s made with Cameroonian pepper and Angola venison provided an ironic reluctance to just accept the inferiority of Nigerian Jollof to mock their West African brothers and Ghana’s early ouster from the 2024 AFCON.
And the jokes and teasing usually are not only a fan affair, as some gamers be a part of within the dialog and take the sport to a special degree by means of their amusing efficiency of elite pettiness. Beyer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface, who departed the Nigerian camp after selecting up considered one of a string of accidents that hit the Nigerian camp simply earlier than the beginning of the video games is on the coronary heart of a few of these jokes. Responding to a Ghanaian YouTube persona and content material creator Kwadwo Sheldon who stated in a video that Ghanaians “can’t enable Nigerians to win #AFCON” as a result of Nigeria already dominates Afrobeats and retains dragging Jollof Rice with Ghana, Boniface fired again, mocking the Ghanaian team: “your mate dey semifinal, you dey drag joffof [Jollof] rice.”
All this issues not as a result of the social media banters are a entrance for a extra insidious backstory of refined bigotry. Meals and sports activities could be cultural techniques, however the combination of the 2 within the area of playful mockeries entices different symbolic meanings. The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has since known as meals a system of “gastro-politics,” referring to the battle over particular cultural or financial assets because it emerges in social transactions round meals. If the Cameroonian expression, “politics of the stomach” is related to students like Jean-François Bayart who attempt to perceive patron-client relations in postcolonial African states, this yr’s AFCON makes it extra related each on and off the pitch, with social media the right battleground for its recruitment into the conviviality of soccer fandom on-line.
Therefore, content material creators utilizing TikTok and X to share humorous posts about cultural dishes as a way of taking part in soccer banters are, in truth, unbeknownst to them, engaged in broader political conversations. For instance, whereas acknowledging the Nigerian noise over the Tremendous Eagles wins, some followers from Ghana preserve reminding Nigerians that cities similar to Accra and Legon have fixed electrical energy to observe the AFCON matches, one thing that can’t be stated of Lagos and Abuja. Recruiting the politics of infrastructure—each by way of its presence and lack—is telling and reminds us that these on-line battles embed different meanings.
Or how does one clarify the tweet by a Nigerian fan who wrote: “Angolans, pack your baggage. There’s solely room for one corrupt oil-producing nation on this match and that’s us”? Should you’re a psychologist or linguist, you would possibly respect the cultural worth and pragmatics of bantering as a pleasant, pleasurable mode of dialog the place folks make jokes and humorous remarks about one another, however if you’re a Nigerian or Ghanaian fan on social media, the stakes are increased.
In fact, some could counsel these banters and pleasant insults, except for encouraging unhealthy enmity, are as unwholesome as the opposite distracting mechanisms that divert from the precise materials situations of existence in these international locations. The proponents of such a view on sports activities extra usually, which is rooted within the Classical leisure and leisure spectacles of the Greco-Roman ruling class, could even maintain that sporting pleasures and social media are ideological affordances of the highly effective, which blind folks to their precise situations, the impoverished circumstances of on a regular basis folks.
In fact, sport is a fancy terrain of the political, and that’s exactly the purpose, however these criticisms additionally miss the bigger image generally, on condition that sports activities additionally unify and infrequently turn out to be recruited to battle systemic energy. It goes with out saying that social media banters serve to uncover the bonds and commonalities between international locations like Nigeria and Ghana. Nonetheless, we can’t rule out the likelihood that they may spill over into violence.
As a result of there’s all the time that stress effervescent beneath the floor of on-line banters, the contributors in these conversations positively know that repartees and chitchats transcend the house of the web world, getting into into concrete areas by which they construction occasions.
One Sir Dickson even asked Nigerian on-line followers to respect themselves, writing that if “we get to play South Africa [as indeed the AFCON Semis will play out], please respect your self and drag Ghana. We’re not bantering South Africa. It’s the Haters Cup and South Africans take the hate to the road.” To be clear, the web rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa, just lately exacerbated over Western misattribution of the latter’s Amapiano music to Nigeria, manifests in different contexts, however soccer usually tends to amplify issues.
Some have known as it the Amapiano derby for good causes, nevertheless it seems even the tradition of bantering and memes this yr could have some limits, given South Africa’s current historical past of xenophobia. Fortunately, the Ghanaians are nonetheless within the video games and might be simply picked upon. They will not be taking part in in Wednesday’s AFCON semifinal matches, however they provide a lot on-line that enhances proceedings on the sector. And their Jollof Rice stays one that may by no means be cancelled. Neither by VAR nor by their noisy neighbours.
James Yékú teaches programs on social media, and African widespread cultures on the College of Kansas, Lawrence. jamesyeku.com