• Pasi Salmela

The French Add Culture

Softball team in Burkina Faso. PC: Play Ball Africa

The Francophone Association of Baseball Softball’s (AFBS) goal is to promote and develop baseball and softball in the “Francophonie’’. The Association’s Vice President, Diana Pupininkiene, journeyed to West Africa to evaluate the current baseball situation throughout the French-speaking nations on the continent.

The AFBS was founded in May 2014, by 14 of World Baseball Softball Confederation national federations. Today the AFBS has 17 member federation. From Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Switzerland have joined the group. In Africa: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia round out the members.

The AFBS is part of the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF). The IOF represents 80 French-speaking countries and provinces with 890 million people, one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world. Diana Pupininkiene, herself a Lithuanian, explained the mission statement of the organization, “Members of the IOF share more than just a common language. They also share the humanist values promoted by the French language.”

French language is widely spoken in West and North Africa. The population of Francophone Africa is close to 392 million, accounting for nearly half of all Francophone people worldwide. French is the official language, for example, in Burkina Faso, Togo and the Ivory Coast, three of the countries Diana visited in her two-month journey.

The first country Diana visited was Ghana and its capital Accra. “In Accra I met executives of the Ghana Baseball and Softball Association. I also visited a baseball field that was funded by the Embassy of Japan in Ghana. A Japanese coach, Yuko Kato, led the practice.”

After visiting a school in North Ghana Diana received many emails from other schools asking for equipment. “They explained to me that sports attract children to school. A lot of kids don´t want to just sit in the classroom. They want some kind of activity too.”

With her Diana had two huge bags full of baseball gear. One bag contained everything that is needed for one team to start playing baseball. “It was donation by BWB, Baseball Without Borders. In another bag were branded baseballs and softballs from Didier Seminet, the President of the AFBS.’’

Home from her journey, Diana wishes to raise funds to give West African children the opportunity to experience a childhood that includes playing baseball. “In Africa you can see deep poverty everyday. Kids begging on the streets, 5–6 years old girls taking care of a younger sister or brother. For too many kids, childhood ends too early”, Diana said. “They are still kids. They want to play, but they just don´t have a chance to do it. If their parents have to choose between a ball and food, they don´t have a choice.”