On December 1, 2015, the Football Scholars Forum held its 33rd session. The Michigan State University-based online think tank pre-circulated a shared list of readings that formed the basis for a wide-ranging, highly engaging discussion about the impact and aftermath of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Thirteen fútbologists from the United States, Canada, Britain, Argentina, and Lebanon went well beyond the usual focus on the U.S. triumph (its first world title since 1999). The group reflected on the media coverage and scholarly writing about the tournament. Gender discrimination at both FIFA and national FA levels brought out a collective agreement about the dire need for meaningful institutional reform and for much greater funding of women’s football.
Partly reflecting the participants’ interests and expertise, the women’s game in Latin America and the effect of global inequalities attracted considerable attention. Also, the technical, tactical, and physical aspects of the game on Canada’s plastic pitches was scrutinized. Some participants celebrated the individual magic of Marta (Brazil), Necib (France), and Rapinoe (USA) and of teams like Colombia. Others noted the detrimental impact of certain (male) coaches on the games and seemed more critical about the overall playing styles.
I was shocked to learn that in Mexico the most reliable venue for watching Women’s World Cup matches was the local Hooters franchise. Seriously.
In thinking about the aftermath of the World Cup, the group was reminded of the accomplished Australian team that went on strike shortly after the tournament in pursuit of a decent wage. Gaby Garton in Buenos Aires related her experiences of playing in the most recent Copa Libertadores femenina. Her intervention personalized the story of women’s football, past and present: it is not a story of linear progress and perpetual improvement. In fact, it is very much a story of ebb and flow. Clearly, so much work remains to be done, on and off the field.
An audio recording of the session is available here.
The Football Scholars Forum, the online think tank based at Michigan State University, recently explored fascinating aspects of the long and complex relationship between fútbol and politics in the history of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In its second session of the 2015-16 season, FSF co-founder Alex Galarza, PhD candidate in History at Michigan State, shared a chapter from his dissertation: “Dreaming of Sports City: Consumption, Urban Transformation, and Soccer Clubs in Buenos Aires.” Galarza’s doctoral research has been funded by prestigious national and international grants, including the coveted Fulbright and FIFA Havelange scholarships.
The potential impact of Galarza’s dissertation work beyond the ivory tower of academia can be gleaned from his involvement in an ongoing documentary film project. Working with four young Argentine journalists, Galarza aims to use the format of filmmaking to reveal the “hidden” history of Boca Juniors’ Ciudad Deportiva—a (failed) urban renaissance construction project that sheds new light on the role of professional soccer clubs in city planning and everyday life. (Watch the trailer here.)
The Forum encouraged Galarza to explain how this history of Buenos Aires compares with the experiences of other Latin American cities, and broader processes of modernization and state formation. The author and participants also discussed constructions of race, whiteness, and gender through fútbol, the politics of club governance, and the ideological projects behind stadium construction.
Listen to or download the audio recording here.
The Football Scholars Forum opened its 2015-16 season on Wednesday, October 14, with a discussion of Christoph Wagner’s DeMontfort University PhD thesis entitled “Crossing The Line: The English Press and Anglo-German Football, 1954-1996.”
Based on extensive archival research, “Crossing the Line” analyzes representations of Germany and Germans in English newspapers’ football coverage of key international matches between the two western European nations. Within a shifting post-war historical context, the study notes a persistent undercurrent of hostility in Anglo-German cultural relations, football included.
However, two distinct phases were described. In the first, extending from the 1950s to the rise of Thatcher, dailies generally adopted a restrained tone and their coverage was notable for the “relative absence of anti-German sentiment.” A major transformation occurred in the second phase, from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, as English press coverage turned more negative, chauvinistic, and increasingly xenophobic.
The FSF discussion with the author touched on many different aspects of Wagner’s study, from the militarization of language in the football press and the forging of national stereotypes to narratives of English decline, methodology and sources.
A recording of the session is available here.
For more information about the Football Scholars Forum visit the online think tank’s website.
Zambia won the African Nations Cup in 2012. It is a recognized regional football powerhouse. As in most African countries, Zambians are fiercely passionate and knowledgeable about the game.
Yet to this day no academic history of soccer in Zambia exists. Hikabwa Decius Chipande, a native of Zambia currently completing his PhD in history at Michigan State University, is determined to eliminate this inexcusable oversight.
On March 26, the Football Scholars Forum, a fútbol think tank based in the MSU History Department, hosted an online discussion of Chipande’s paper titled “Mining for Goals: Football and Social Change on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1940s to 1960s.” This paper is part of Chipande’s larger doctoral dissertation in African history, which I am supervising at MSU.
The paper was precirculated on the FSF website and then, following the group’s tradition, the author was invited to make brief introductory remarks about the project before ably taking questions from the audience for 90 minutes.
Participants from three continents engaged in a discussion about the changing structure of clubs on the Zambian Copperbelt; sport in Africanist scholarship; the place of Zambia in wider south-central and southern African histories; local fan culture; and the importance of print media and oral interviews to represent multiple local voices and perspectives on the past.
The audio recording of the full session can be downloaded here.
How does football shape national narratives in Latin America? Why is the game so closely tied to masculinity and femininity? How can studying fútbol advance our understanding of Latin American history? These and other questions were part of the Football Scholars Forum recent discussion of Joshua Nadel’s Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America.
The author, an assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at North Carolina Central University, shared his experience of writing a book that the publisher expected to have cross-over appeal. In addition to tackling questions from the thirteen participants online, Nadel also suggested future directions for research on Latin American fútbol.
An audio recording of the event can be downloaded here.
The next gathering of the Football Scholars Forum will be on March 26 for a paper on Zambian football by Hikabwa Chipande, a PhD candidate in African history at Michigan State University. For more information about this event, please contact Alex Galarza.
Last Saturday’s 2015 Women’s World Cup draw in Ottawa briefly took the global media spotlight away from the men’s game. And from the players’ gender discrimination lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for staging matches on artificial turf rather than natural grass.
The prominence of the women’s game in the sport-media-industrial complex happens so rarely, and tends to be so fleeting, that the Football Scholars Forum, the online fútbol think tank based at Michigan State University, decided to devote its final event before the holiday break to a thorough discussion of the state of the women’s game internationally, both on the pitch and in the scholarly literature.
This veritable intellectual pelada (pickup game) takes place on Thursday, December 11, at 2pm Eastern U.S. Time (-5 GMT). To jumpstart the Skype discussion, eminent scholars of the game have written pre-circulated blog posts on the FSF website.
This is not the first time that FSF has delved into aspects of the study and play of women’s football. In 2011, just before the last Women’s World Cup, Cynthia Pelak and Jennifer Doyle facilitated a vigorous session (click here for details and audio). A second gathering a year later pivoted around Jun Stinson’s short documentary film, The 90th Minute (click here to listen to my interview with the filmmaker), and featured an intervention by Gwen Oxenham, author of Finding the Game (click here for audio).
To participate in the December 11 FSF event via Skype, please contact Alex Galarza on Twitter (@galarzaalex) or by email at galarza.alex AT gmail. See you on the virtual pitch!