Italian club, Associazione Sportiva Roma, or AS Roma, or Roma as it’s popularly called, founded in 1927 started a Kiswahili Twitter account for their fans. The new account already has 22.6k followers and its bio reads in Kiswahili, “Ukurasa Rasmi wa Kiswahili wa As Roma” This has made Roma the first major European football club to interact with its fans in Kiswahili.
The creation of the Kiswahili Twitter account was in response to Roma’s English twitter handle congratulating Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge on his latest achievement in Kiswahili. The interaction led to Roma’s President Jim Pallotta tweeting in Kiswahili and launching the new Kiswahili Twitter account. AS Roma now communicates in 14 languages on its social media platforms.
Kiswahili has often been projected to be the continental language. While it’s still up for debate especially on the continent, many across Europe have embraced Kiswahili alongside other African languages both on Facebook and Twitter.
The Italian club already has a Pidgin English page which sees a lot of interaction with fans from West Africa. The creation of the page has sparked non-Kiswahili speakers to interact with Kiswahili speakers and teach bits of Kiswahili to them.
Paul Rogers, Head of Strategy at AS Roma said, “After we launched a Pidgin account in March, we’ve been inundated with requests from fans in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and from other Eastern and South Eastern African countries asking for an official Swahili account. Considering the passion the fans have for European football, it’s actually surprising that no football club outside of Africa has attempted to communicate daily in Swahili and Pidgin before on social media. The new Twitter account will allow us to directly engage with these fans in a way that suits them and is consistent with our strategy of breaking down the communication barriers between the club and our global fan base”.
BBC News Swahili welcomed the new AS Roma page, stating that a collaboration that would see Kiswahili progress would be much welcome. The growth of Kiswahili is based on its wide usage, not just in international news platforms like the BBC, but also more in Tanzania’s use of the language, an official language.
While it is unfortunate that African languages have to depend on foreign intervention for relevance, it is equally a welcome misfortune which does better for the various languages than what has been done by many African governments.