Football For All Event Combats Social Exclusion

By | October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments

FBB_footballforall_flyer copyOn Thursday, October 23, Football Beyond Borders, a London-based non-profit organization, is hosting a panel discussion on the power of football to combat social exclusion. It features author, journalist and tv pundit Guillem Balague, award-winning writer David Goldblatt, Premier leaguer Joey Barton, sports agent Sky Andrew, and other special guests. The event is part of the FARE network #FootballPeople action weeks.


Two new documentaries about Football Beyond Borders’ work in the UK and Brazil will also be premiered. Copa dos Povos is about the international Favela World Cup that took place in Brazil in the summer; and All Stars in Scotland: FBB Youth Tour, which follows the first ever FBB school tour to Scotland.


The event is at Amnesty International’s East London HQ from 7pm until 10pm, with food and drinks available. Tickets are sold out but you can watch a livestream of the event on the FBB YouTube channel.




Hofstra Soccer Conference Round-up

By | April 21st, 2014 | 3 Comments

For as long as I can remember, soccer in the United States has been referred to as the “sport of the future.” Last week’s “Soccer as a Beautiful Game” international conference at Hofstra University buried this notion once and for all.  Hofstra history professors Stan Pugliese and Brenda Elsey did a marvelous job organizing the global conclave.

Goldblatt_keynoteI arrived at the largest fútbological congress ever held in the U.S. just in time to hear David Goldblatt’s keynote address. Expecting a brilliant presentation based on his new book on Brazilian futebol, Goldblatt surprised many of us by delivering a democratic populist manifesto for the transformation of the world’s game.  Goldblatt’s passionate speech for reform appealed to the suffrage of ordinary fans. (Click here and here to read more about this talk.)

Energized by Goldblatt’s provocative address, I had to choose which of several enticing but concurrent panels to attend.  As a historian, I decided to privilege sessions with historians, Global South topics, and presentations by Football Scholars Forum members.  Much like football radio broadcasts of the pre-satellite TV era, many of us kept track of the action unfolding in other panels via the active Twitter back channel (#HUsoccer @HofstraSocConf).


Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil

By | February 11th, 2014 | No Comments

The Garrincha of futbology, David Goldblatt, admits he’s neither Brazilian nor a Brazilianist as he begins his recent public lecture at Pitzer College in California.

Then, like Garrincha, he feigns left, goes right through through Brazil’s World Cup history, pivots on slavery, Lusotropicalism and GINI coefficients, does a give-and-go with Mario Filho, dribbles around Benedict Anderson, reaches the Maracanazo touchline, and delivers a cross into the Vinegar Revolt of 2013.

Eduardo Galeano has written that “in the history of soccer no one made more people happy” than Garrincha. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that in the field of futbology the same is true for David Goldblatt.

Football 150: Conference Report

By | September 11th, 2013 | No Comments

Guest Post by Dr. Matthew L. McDowell

The new home of the National Football Museum, the Urbis Building in Manchester, was the site of an international conference on September 2-4, 2013, celebrating the 150th anniversary of England’s Football Association. The event welcomed a group of around sixty speakers and an even larger group of delegates from different disciplines interested in the past, present, and future of football: its culture, its finances, its development, and its governance.

The varied affiliations of the participants made for some rather productive tension: critics of world football’s leaders and patrons rubbed shoulders with officials from the FA and UEFA, and no words were minced. Sir Trevor Brooking’s appearance at the outset of the conference, and Karen Espelund’s keynote address on the final day, were sandwiched around acclaimed author David Goldblatt’s second-day keynote: a brilliant, scathing, and often surreal account of FIFA in relation to the Brazilian riots of this past summer, which occurred while the Confederations Cup was staged in the country. (Those who were at the address will never think of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” in the same way again.) All in all, it made for a highly enjoyable three days, and the National Football Museum (especially Dr. Jane Clayton and Dr. Alex Jackson) and the University of Central Lancashire’s International Football Institute pulled out all of the stops to ensure that all of us working within the broad continuum of “football studies” felt at home.

After Brooking’s interview with UCLan’s John Hughson – one of the driving forces behind the gathering – Tony Mason of De Montfort University, a renowned expert on English football’s history, introduced us to previous commemorations of the FA’s anniversary: some lavish, some passing barely noticed. I attended various sessions afterwards. Naturally, I leaned toward history: Tony Collins, Roy Hay, and Gavin Kitching formed an excellent panel advocating more research into what Collins called the “primordial soup” of football in the pre-Association era. The term “football,” as both Hay and Kitching stated, was representative of a very broad church prior to 1850, and was not confined to the “public school” sphere. Afterwards, I attended a session on the history of ‘soccer’ in the United States, with my native New Jersey finding its way into both Brian Bunk’s and David Kilpatrick’s papers: Bunk discussed the football-playing circle of the mid-nineteenth century Princeton University, while Kilpatrick discussed the colorful, controversial and recently-revived New York Cosmos, whose 1970s’ home was the NFL’s Giants Stadium. The “Nostalgia and Design” panel, which featured Jean Williams, Graham Deakin, Ffion Thomas and Chris Stride teased out the meanings in some of football’s most iconic (and, in the case of Shoot and Goal magazines, not-so-iconic) images through various media.

The second and third days featured their fair share of highlights. Notable among them was Gary James, who gave us a glimpse into late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century football in Manchester, a subject long neglected by academic historians. Matthew Klugman, Svenja Mintert, and Jessica Richards, meanwhile, discussed their own pioneering research, and their attempts to examine the emotions, desires and suspicions of “the fans” in a wide variety of time periods, places, and guises. (Richards, whose ethnographic research examines the match-day rituals and gender performance of Everton supporters, candidly discussed the risks associated with field work.) Meanwhile, “The Role of the Individual,” which featured Clayton, Jackson, and Dilwyn Porter, critically examined the mythology of some of football’s greatest characters, in relation to the archival material which actually exists regarding them. Referees, it seems, took great pains to present themselves in a heroic light against agents of chaos: Porter’s examination of 1930s referee Percy Harper stated that that Harper featured death threats from supporters in his own personal archive, perhaps as kinds of trophies. The ‘World Cup’ panel featured its own fair share of surprises. Though Peter Alegi could not make it to discuss his history of South Africa 2010 (the perils of transatlantic travel!), Marion Stell and Daniel Malanski examined FIFA’s global showcase in relation to Australian and Brazilian football history respectively, showing us that domestic politics inevitably colors how individual nations view participation in the tournament.

One wonders what Football 200 will look like. Will the ‘beautiful game’ continue to stress the paradoxes of being the world’s most popular sport, while at the same time being a focal point for fierce tribalism? Will we be bemoaning the “good old days” of the 2010s, a day before money, political correctness, and middle-class sanitisation took their toll on the viewing experience of the people? The thread of nostalgia has always run through popular perceptions of what the game should be; and, as Football 150 and its constituent presentations have shown, there is no one unified consensus on what the game has represented, or what it continues to demonstrate regarding our world. It is as confused as we are; and perhaps that, above all, is the appropriate message of the conference.


Dr. Matthew L. McDowell is a lecturer in sport and recreation management at the University of Edinburgh, Moray House School of Education. He was written on the early history of Scottish association football, and is currently researching Scotland’s history with the Empire and Commonwealth Games competitions, and early North Atlantic footballing cultural encounters. Follow him on Twitter: @MattLMcDowell

The Cultural Politics of Football in Contemporary Britain

By | March 31st, 2012 | No Comments

Author, scholar, and journalist David Goldblatt is probably best known for his sacred text of football studies: The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer. On Thursday, March 15 (The Ides of March!), Goldblatt shared work from his new project — a sort of mini-Ball is Round book on the cultural politics of football in Britain after 1989.

In an engaging public talk at the Department of History at Michigan State University, Goldblatt used the upcoming European Championships in Poland/Ukraine and the London Olympics, to explore the changing relationship between football, Britishness, and Englishness in the age of devolution.

The spontaneous popular theater of the Euros, he argues, carves out an arena for England’s traveling fans to declare their “Englishness.” Fans’ rejection of the Union Jack in favor of the flag of St. George and their performance of particular national songs are cases in point. In the case of the 2012 Olympics, Goldblatt notes that there will be no “England” in the tournament because the International Olympic Committee, unlike FIFA, deals only with sovereign states. (Britain has four members in FIFA: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.) The formation of the British Olympic football team thus becomes very contentious in a postdevolution context, with only England firmly supporting it. A striking contemporary example of football’s singular significance for popular national identity.

Listen to Goldblatt’s talk here.

BBC Radio 4 Documentary: FIFA, Football, Power and Politics

By | June 2nd, 2011 | 4 Comments

FIFA’s newest corruption scandal and Blatter’s tragicomic re-election make David Goldblatt’s BBC radio documentary a must-listen. The author of The Ball is Round asks what is FIFA? Where has it come from and who is it for? Goldblatt hears from those who have documented FIFA’s story and its secrets and from those who have helped to shape its modern identity.

Click here to listen.

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Goldblatt Draws Crowd at Football Scholars Forum

By | October 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment

David Goldblatt, author of the monumental The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football, brought in the largest crowd yet at the Football Scholars Forum. FSF convenor Alex Galarza reports the group had an excellent discussion on globalization, politics, class and capital in football’s history.

The FSF is an academic book club based in the History Department at Michigan State University. Its members have varied research interests related to the ‘beautiful game’. The group brings together authors, professors, graduate students, journalists and fans to discuss works on fútbol in a relaxed setting. Contact the Football Scholars Forum at

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