Football fandom, glocalisation and the ‘Man United in Pidgin’ Twitter community: a study of the glocal village created through the social media practices of a Twitter account dedicated to West African Manchester United Football Club’s fans

Mbassi Elong, Wally Shannon (2023) Football fandom, glocalisation and the ‘Man United in Pidgin’ Twitter community: a study of the glocal village created through the social media practices of a Twitter account dedicated to West African Manchester United Football Club’s fans. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis on ‘Man United In Pidgin’s (MUIP’s) Twitter account discusses how the glocalisation of Manchester United Football Club (MUFC) made possible via that account assists the construction of a postcolonial West African masculine online identity or fandom. MUIP is an unofficial MUFC’s social media fan account created by a Nigerian fan of MUFC that provides readers with the team’s news updates in Pidgin English, a lingua franca spoken in many West African countries. In this thesis, the concept of West Africa mainly refers to West African countries where West African Pidgin English is spoken (Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea). Thus, this study addresses two questions: which discursive features do MUIP’s tweets employ? In what ways do these features help create a West African online identity among MUIP’s followers? A discourse analysis of 107 MUIP’s tweets and readers’ replies to these tweets is used as the principal method to investigate these questions. An interview with the founder of MUIP and an online survey assessing MUIP’s followers on Twitter also provide some preliminary production and consumption contexts to this discourse analysis. This research predominantly addresses the relation between media or cultural texts and identity construction, looking at how West African MUFC’s consumers, through the MUIP community, resist to and rework Western media coverage of MUFC and Premier League Football to produce new forms of meanings. It examines what is produced by the MUIP community, how it is produced, what it means, which groups of people it represents, and how MUIP’s audience interpret MUIP’s texts. Through a discourse analysis of the MUIP community’s tweets, this thesis engages with some West African systems of knowledge and unpacks their meanings’ construction. The discourse analysis indicates that MUIP’s content creator, and to an extent MUIP’s audience, mainly give meanings to their utterances via personal pronouns (‘we/us’ or ‘una’) and figures of speech (humour, metaphors, and rhetorical questions). MUIP’s followers build twenty-seven semantic networks in response to the main MUIP’s tweets analysed. The reality constructed by MUIP’s tweets for the readers are mainly those of information and entertainment. This thesis concludes that this account enables its founder to create a sense of belonging to a Nigerian and West African imagined cyber community within his online community and an environment similar to Football Viewing Centres, thereby creating virtual stadiums that entertain, inform, and foster socialisation. This thesis’ findings contribute to discovering how football is covered and followed on social-networking sites in Nigeria and West Africa. New insights are provided by investigating how the participatory culture enabled by this account via the involvement of its readers in content creation is producing, shaping, and exposing a West African masculine online identity. The account’s author and readers perform identities which are decentred, multiple, and sometimes fragmented between numerous shades of local cultural characteristics and various global cultural ones. This thesis builds on McLuhan’s (1962, 1964) concept of ‘global village’ and argues that while the global media reach of the English Premier League and MUFC has created a global village, that village consists of a series of ‘glocal villages’ with unique and specific (cultural) characteristics – MUIP is an example of such villages. This thesis also builds on Igwe et al. (2021) idea that the glocalisation of European Football Leagues in Nigeria creates a sense of communal belonging for those watching these leagues’ matches at Football Viewing Centres by highlighting the discursive practices creating that sense of belonging to a common cultural identity. Besides, while Igwe et al. conducted an offline investigation of such glocalisation, this thesis investigates the glocalisation of MUFC fandom within a West African online community thereby addressing the concern raised by Onyebueke (2018) that the study of online football fandom in West Africa is significantly overlooked. Ultimately, this thesis builds on postcolonial theorists’ contentions that there is a profound global inequity in how frameworks of knowledge and understanding are defined (Young, 2020). Academic research often prioritises the experiences of Western Europeans and North Americans, and their views of the rest of the world. This research is an investigation by a West African of an online community that matters to West Africans. It investigates this global football industry transformed within a West African context and invested with new meanings that re-assert a distinctive West African identity.

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