Deep in the heart of poverty-stricken countries in Africa, the crest of some of England’s biggest clubs can be seen on worn, tattered and faded t-shirts and jerseys. For some, the shirt on their back is worth more to them than any amount of money they could earn by selling their shirt in the second-hand market.
Even in places where people would do almost anything to earn enough money to be able to afford one meal a day, the crest of clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea are valued as much as the food necessary for survival.
The crest of clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea represent a hope and optimism that nothing else can even come close to matching. It goes to show just how much the English Premier League has grown and the impact it has had and continues to have in our world.
In war torn countries such as the Ivory Coast, seeing their countryman Didier Drogba playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs in some of the world’s most prestigious competitions provides people with a renewed hope and inspiration needed to continue with their lives.
Thousands gather every week around a small television in a bar or house to catch a glimpse of their favorite heroes. Players like Didier Drogba, Obafemi Martins, and Yakabu Ayegbeni are what keep the dream alive in their countries. Little kids with absolutely nothing for footwear run around the dusty streets of town kicking a football ball made out of plastic bags, hoping they can one day follow in their hero’s footsteps.
And for people like this, it is their idols in the world’s biggest league that keep their dream alive. Without players like Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba, or Michael Essien flourishing in the English Premier League, some people would have nothing to cling on to in life.
It’s a sad truth, but a large portion of the continent of Africa is overwhelmed with poverty. After being born and living in Kenya for fourteen out of the first eighteen years of my life, I have witnessed such poverty first hand.
I can still recall walking through the streets of the town I lived in and hearing homeless people yell at me, “Man United!” Being one of the few white people in my town in a large town in Kenya, I was known by most people for two things: Being white and being a Manchester United supporter.
Even when I wasn’t sporting a Manchester United jersey or shirt, people who knew I was a United fan would still shout things at me about the club. Sometimes their remarks were affirmative and sometimes they were negative, but no matter what they were always said in a friendly manner.
And whenever I was seen donning a United jersey I would lose track of the vast amount of comments I received from people, most of who I didn’t even know. Even homeless kids on the side of the street without a shirt of their own chimed in with their own comments at times. My little brother, a die-hard Chelsea supporter, experienced much of the same whenever he wore his Chelsea jersey in public.
I learned that, even in the midst of despair and hopelessness, people were still able to find hope in the English Premier League. It may be hard to grasp if you haven’t actually experienced it first hand, but England’s biggest clubs have, in a sense, become a shining light in a dark world.
People’s hopes stretch far beyond their own countries’ football stars in England, but even in some of the big club’s star players in England’s top flight.
Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas are some of the most popular players in Africa, and they too are able to inspire anyone, from the poor man who struggles to earn enough money to be able to go to a bar and watch his favorite team to the rich business man who sits comfortably in the luxury of his home as he cheers on his beloved club.
Football and specifically the English Premier League give a lot of people something to live for. After all, when your job generates less than a dollar a day and you live in a hut made out of mud, sometimes the only happiness you get is from watching your favorite football club win.
The English Premier League is the world’s biggest and most popular league but its thriving popularity is seen in many places besides Africa. But after living in Africa for 14 years, I have discovered first hand just how big of an influence the English Premier League has across the world.
Whether it’s in the heart of big cities or the fringes of mid-size towns, the English Premier League is undoubtedly making a difference. And whether it’s in the center of small villages or the borders of the poorest of slums, England’s top flight is clearly having an influence.
The most important part of all is the fact that this influence is a positive one and one that will continue to shape and inspire our world in a beneficial way.
Written by: Jeff Harbert