Football or soccer is the most popular sport in Burkina. It started earlier in the neighbouring Gold Coast (today’s Ghana), and appeared in Burkina in the mid-1930s. It is so popular that most of the time, children tie rags into a bundle to make a ball with which to play on the streets. Such improvised balls can also be empty milk tins and so on. Football is so popular in Burkina and most soccer-friendly countries that it is played anywhere, with anything, by almost anybody who is fit enough or willing to play.

Early days

In 1932, the French colony of Upper Volta was divided among neighboring colonies and as a result, the two main cities of Upper Volta, which are Bobo Dioulasso and Ouagadougou became territories of Côte d’Ivoire until 1947 when Upper Volta was reconstituted. Bobo Dioulasso, which is today the economic hub of Burkina, was then a commercial meeting point of new ideas and cultures; the same city is the birthplace of Burkinabè football. Some soccer fans pinpoint Diarradougou an area in Bobo Dioulasso, as the exact place where football originated in Bobo Doulasso. Those first teams consisted mainly of French military personnel, missionaries, commercial officials and merchants. The first soccer team named Togo-Daho was founded in 1935 and was later merged into the Racing Club of Bobo-Dioulasso which itself was founded by a wealthy French businessman. Clubs were subsequently founded in 1947 and football ultimately became the sport of the average citizen. In 1960, a national federation was established. The first national match of the Burkinabè team was played in 1960 and ended with a 4-5 victory against Gabon. The national football team of Burkina is Les Étalons (the Stallions) in memory of the stallion of the mythical Mossi princess Yennega. With the 1983 revolution, football gained an inestimable status and became the leisure activity that keeps the nation healthy and projects a good reputation of the country abroad.

Recent developments

Women are both soccer players and spectators. Burkina Faso has a national female soccer team that represents the country in international women’s football. It is governed by the Burkinabè Football Federation. The best performance of the female team was their match against Niger, on 2 September 2007 when they won 10 to 0. The players’ age ranges from 20 to 32. They are referred to as the Burkinabè Female Soccer Team. The Stadium of 4 August was opened in 1984 and that promotion of football continued after Sankara’s assassination. The Stallions competed against African and non-African teams several times. The Stallions knew victories and defeats as it happens with all teams. In 2006 they missed the qualification for the 2006 African Cup, and they also failed to qualify for the tournament in Ghana. The brilliant victories of the Stallions were in 2013 when they reached the finals in the African Cup, and in 2017 when they were third, and fourth and in 1998 when Burkina hosted the African Cup of Nations. They never made it to the World CupAmong the coaches, the following names are mentioned: Idrissa Traoré (aka saboteur), Kamou Malo, Paulo Duarte, Paul Put and others. Among the players, these names are indelible: Wilfred Sanou who played for the Swiss Club Sion in Switzerland, the Bundesliga in Germany and Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan. The most famous player, Bertrand Traoré, played for Chelsea, Ajax (Netherlands) and Lyon. Jonathan Pitroipa comes third and was chosen player of the tournament in the 2013 African Cup of nations. The Stallions are ranked 60th at the international level by FIFA and 11th in Africa. Currently, the main football teams are: The Stallions, l’Etoile filante de Ouagadougou (the shining Star of Ouagadougou) and the Racing Club of Bobo-Dioulasso.


The lack of appropriate football infrastructures is a big challenge. Then, the first two stadia, that of Bobo-Dioulasso and that of Ouagadougou need to be renovated and improved to international standards. Another challenge is to make football a lucrative career; players have to be well paid and coaches, well trained. Matches must be of good quality so that supporters and fans are satisfied and excited and fill the stadia. The lack of adequate equipment is also a serious problem. There is a need to establish many partnerships with TV channels so that matches can be advertised broadly. To many, not much is being done to train young players who will replace the old ones when they retire. One can confidently say that football in Burkina Faso is a popular and exciting game which is nonetheless still staggering.

Moussa Traoré is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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