Nearly a decade ago, I devoured English reporter Andrew Jennings’s scathing investigation into “The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.”
Now, in a compelling BBC Panorama documentary, Jennings updates the story by digging deeper into FIFA’s most recent and spiraling crisis. The documentary takes viewers to FIFA headquarters in Zurich, and then to the U.S., Brazil, Trinidad, and South Korea.
One of the most interesting revelations in the BBC piece is that the FBI has in its possession potentially damning written evidence alleging that outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter has long been aware of the nature and scope of corruption in world soccer.
Another intriguing insight is that Qatar may have paid $117 million to buy votes and win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.
In typically relentless and confrontational fashion, the documentary focuses on Jennings’ probe of the ongoing FBI investigation of corrupt FIFA officials and associates from North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
He discusses mounting evidence of kickbacks and bribes paid to acquire TV and sponsorship rights—the charges at the heart of the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment of high-ranking FIFA men, two of whom have already pleaded guilty to racketeering. Several other FIFA Executive Committee members are in the process of being extradited to the United States.
With the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision this week to uphold the 90-day FIFA suspension of both Blatter and Michel Platini (head of European soccer body UEFA), it is no wonder that Jennings believes the scheduled February 2016 FIFA presidential election is “descending into farce.”
Ghanaian football legend Charles Kumi Gyamfi, who passed away in September at the age of 85, was honored on Friday, December 18th, with an official state burial in Accra.
Gyamfi began his top-level playing career at Cape Coast Ebusua Dwarfs in 1948-49. After one season, he joined Kumasi’s Asante Kotoko, staying until 1954 and then transferring to the Porcupines’ archenemies: Accra Hearts of Oak. In 1960, Gyamfi became the first Ghanaian to play in Germany, with Fortuna Dusseldorf.
After hanging up his boots, Gyamfi returned to Ghana and coached the national team, the Black Stars, winning three African Nations Cup titles (1963, 1965, 1982).
The video above honors the life of one of Africa’s greatest players. RIP CK.
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.
Liberi Nantes is the first competitive football club in Italy made up almost entirely of refugees and migrants. Playing in the Terza Categoria—the bottom rung of the Italian football pyramid—the team provides a peaceful space for West African men who survive treacherous journeys from West Africa to Libya and then by sea to the island of Lampedusa.
In this excellent short video, published on The Guardian website, we meet some of the players and Alberto Urbinati, a Lazio fan who founded the club several years ago in response to the plague of racism in Italian football and society. The project has taken on added significance today as Italy struggles to cope with the growing refugee crisis.
Photo: Durban & District African FA select team, Rhodes Centenary tournament, Salisbury, Rhodesia (1953)
Football is Coming Home is pleased to receive and publish a guest essay by Zipho Dlangalala, a South African fútbologist who has coached players and trained coaches for many years at all levels. He is a teacher by profession. It has been lightly edited for style.
Guest Post by Zipho Dlangalala (email@example.com)
KWAZULU-NATAL—All sports are played in, and influenced by, past and present social conditions. This is largely, if not entirely, because sport is played by people who are social beings.
When we see most of our South African players playing the same way, looking like identical midfielders, we should know instantly that we are looking at them with “foreign eyes.” They will always look like that as long as we evaluate them with foreign tools and criteria.
To African eyes, it is those midfield players that should reveal the nature and inclination of our players. Their creativity and desire to care for the ball—the uninhibited attraction to artistic modes of play—are great assets that we should have treasured so that their game exhibits the same attributes found in them naturally, at least before being diluted.
Regrettably, the Apartheid philosophy and its legacy was too strong for most of us. Based on seeing life through Master-Slave, Boss-Subordinate, Superior-Inferior, Rich-Poor, Educated-Illiterate, Advanced-Primitive, civilized-uncivilized relationships, this “baaskap” paradigm has engulfed us. Even when we know it is not desirable, we often find ourselves promoting it, advocating on its behalf through actions more than words.
It makes us feel acceptable and progressive to be seen as “the master.” We do everything and anything to feel accepted and to get approval from those who represent “the master” perspective. It has been engraved in us to look for this approval, otherwise we feel we do not have the capacity to stand by ourselves and achieve success on our own. The desire to be associated with, to be affiliated to, approved by, “the master” is hard to resist for most. It is this prevailing mentality in South Africa that undermined indigenous cultures, languages, restricted people’s movement and freedom to associate, to think, to explore, to design, to invent, to discover.
It is a “total control” approach of life. It attempts to control what people think and learn. Given the slightest opportunity, it dictates LIFE to each and every person who is supposed to be subordinated (and limited) to its wishes and desires.
In a cultural and socio-economic environment shaped by a social hierarchy long based on race, fertile ground exists for past tendencies to endure. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Football under these conditions cannot be sustained, let alone developed.
Looking at football through a particular lens inevitably results in the game looking in a particular manner. Are we using proper African perspectives to look at the game as it is in Africa? Are our views coloured to give us a special feeling? Are we ready to bring something new to world football or are we content to follow established paths and continue to consume what is already in the market? We are entrepreneurs and have skills. We need to develop them and show our own ideas to the world. We need to create something new in our football for the world to sit up and take note.