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.
I 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).
There may not be any white smoke coming out of the soccer conclave this week at Hofstra University in New York, but little else will be missing from an unprecedented fútbological event featuring presentations by more than 100 scholars, journalists, authors, coaches, and the King of Soccer himself: Pelé.
Historians Brenda Elsey and Stanislao Pugliese are the presiding cardinals of Soccer as the Beautiful Game: Football’s Artistry, Identity and Politics, an international conference hosted by the Hofstra Cultural Center and the Hofstra Department of History. The gathering begins on Thursday, April 10, with concurrent panels, an opening ceremony, and two keynote addresses by David Goldblatt (“Brazil: The Curious Rise of the Futebol Nation”) and Jennifer Doyle (“Imagining a World Without a World Cup: An Abolitionist Perspective).
Friday’s menu serves up a plethora of panels on a dizzying range of topics and a ceremony honoring Pelé with the conferral of an honorary degree. Saturday’s focus is on journalists, coaches, philanthropy round-tables, followed by a concluding plenary session, and . . . a pickup game on the New York Cosmos home ground! (Note to self: remember to pack turf shoes.)
I’ll be presenting a paper comparing World Cup 2010 in South Africa to World Cup 2014 in Brazil (click here to listen to an earlier version of this talk) and also participating in the Football Scholars Forum on academic vs. journalistic writing about soccer (click here to watch my pre-conference video blog and here to read the other five posts by my fabulous co-panelists).
These pre-conference blog posts are intended to launch the discussion about points of overlap and tension in the soccer writing of journalists and academics. Roundtable participants will share their insights on sources and methodologies, topics, audience, market logic vs. academic logic, and the role of digital tools in writing and dissemination.
Jonathan Wilson, journalist, author, and founding editor of The Blizzard, is the featured guest at the Football Scholars Forum on Thursday, December 5. Starting at 4pm Eastern (9pm GMT), the online football think tank will discuss the craft of independent fútbol writing in a digital age.
Born in a pub after a Sunderland 4-0 demolition of Bolton in 2010, The Blizzard is a football quarterly that, Wilson says, is “neither magazine nor book, but somewhere in between.” It combines short- and long-form writing and is available in both analog and digital formats. The experience of independent English-language publications like The Blizzard and the recently defunct U.S.-based XI Quarterly, or Howler for that matter, suggests that journalists and scholars share many similar challenges and opportunities in publishing rigorously entertaining, meaningful football writing aimed at readers worldwide. [Click here to read my 2012 blog post on football at the intersection of academic research and popular journalism.]
Issue Nine of The Blizzard is being served up for Thursday’s session [download it here]. Its tasty menu includes: David Conn on the rise of Manchester, and Manchester City; Simon Kuper’s dissection of Barcelona tactics; Philippe Auclair interview with Michael Garcia, Fifa’s Ethics Committee chairman [sic!]; Gwendolyn Oxenham’s search for a pickup game in Teheran; and Igor Rabiner speaking with Lev Yashin’s widow.
To participate in the 90-minute session that takes place simultaneously at Michigan State University and online via Skype, please contact me asap (alegi.peter AT gmail.com) with your Skype name. Folks can also email or tweet me (@futbolprof) questions before the session.
The Football Scholars Forum, an international online think tank, convened on November 14 to discuss Football in the Middle East. The conversation focused on a special issue of the academic journal Soccer and Society, edited by Alon Raab and Issam Khalidi. The group began by noting that while football has been a critical force in broader political and cultural developments in the region, there is little institutional support for studying the game in the Middle East.
The ensuing 90-minute discussion demonstrated the value of scholarly collaboration and research on the game. The group explored a dizzying number of topics and territories, including football as a source of unity and hope and as a site of political and ideological conflict; the 2022 World Cup in Qatar; soccerpolitics in Turkey; sport and Islamism; Palestinian and Iraqi Kurdish women’s teams; and football films and poetry.
In this video, Alex Galarza and I discuss digital fútbol scholarship at Michigan State University. The conversation ranges from Galarza’s doctoral dissertation entitled “Between Civic Association and Mass Consumption: The Soccer Clubs of Buenos Aires,” to the Football Scholars Forum, the online football think tank.
For more information about Galarza’s research click here.
Galarza’s project is titled “Between Civic Association and Mass Consumption: The Soccer Clubs of Buenos Aires.” It explores how clubs developed as both centers of mass spectacle and sites of everyday urban sociability. Club members and officials used political connections to secure city space and public subsidies for stadiums and the overall success of their professional teams. While clubs became centers of patronage and spectacle, they were also non-profit civic associations central to social and cultural activities in the city. Clubs provided educational facilities, libraries, leisure space, and political forums for their members.
Galarza’s research examines the tensions within football clubs during the mid-twentieth century, an era when Argentine society entered a period of deep economic and political changes following the ouster of Juan Domingo Perón in 1955. Perón’s project aimed at developing a new kind of citizen and civic culture in which the popular classes would have a greater political voice and heightened access to new forms of mass consumption. Mass political participation and consumption remained critical and unresolved tensions during the democratic and military governments that followed. One powerful example of how soccer clubs gave shape and meaning to civic engagement, popular spectacle, and mass consumption is Boca Juniors’ Ciudad Deportiva (in photo above). This failed project was a mix between a stadium complex and amusement park, built over seven artificial islands on sixty hectares of land filled in the Rio de la Plata.
Click here to read a digital version of Galarza’s preliminary work on the fascinating history of the Ciudad Deportiva.
Check back with us for an interview with Galarza in the coming days.