Beyond Vuvuzelas and Samba

By | March 17th, 2014 | No Comments

alegi_flyer_5mar14Listen to “Beyond Vuvuzelas and Samba: Lessons from South Africa 2010 for Brazil 2014,” a lecture I delivered at Brigham Young University’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies on March 5, 2014.

The talk analyzes the political, economic, and cultural dynamics of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and its similarities to the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Click here to watch the video.


*Africa’s World Cup* at the Football Scholars Forum

By | October 27th, 2013 | No Comments

The Football Scholars Forum, an online fútbol think tank I co-founded at Michigan State University, recently launched its 2013-14 season. On October 24, FSF held a lively discussion of Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space, a newly published collection I edited with Dr. Chris Bolsmann, a South African sociologist based in the UK.

The 90-minute event opened with a consideration of the book’s attempt at blending scholarly and journalistic approaches to exploring the game and its broader implications. The editors and several chapter authors in attendance talked about the process of writing and editing, as well as their experience working with an academic press on a topic with potentially broad appeal.

The book, much of it written in the first person as a loving critique of the 2010 tournament, demonstrates how the FIFA World Cup story is entangled in a web of national and international politics, sporting culture, and global capitalism. Many interventions linked South Africa 2010 to Brazil 2014, particularly through the public financing of expensive and unsustainable new World Cup stadiums in countries with dysfunctional schools and hospitals and high rates of poverty and inequality. The online conversation also featured Luis Suarez’s handball against Ghana and the contradictory legacies of this “African” World Cup.

Participants logged in from half a dozen countries in North America, South America, Africa, and Europe. In attendance: Andrew Guest, Chris Bolsmann
, Christoph Wagner
, David Patrick Lane, 
David Roberts, 
Derek Catsam, 
Jacqueline Mubanga, 
Raj Raman, 
Orli Bass
, Rwany Sibaja, 
Laurent Dubois
, Achille Mbembe
, Jordan Pearson, Sean Jacobs, and Alex Galarza (all via Skype); and Liz Timbs, 
Dave Glovsky, 
Alejandro Gonzalez, and 
Peter Alegi (in East Lansing).

For a Storify Twitter timeline of the event click here.

The audio recording of the discussion is freely available here.

The next Football Scholars Forum event on November 14 will focus on Soccer in the Middle East, a special issue of the journal Soccer and Society (2012), edited by Alon Raab and Issam Khalidi.

“New Books in Sports” Podcast: Africa’s World Cup!

By | September 5th, 2013 | No Comments

By Bruce Berglund (cross-posted from @NewBookSports)

In 2010, for the first time, an African nation hosted the FIFA World Cup. The advertisements surrounding the tournament used graphics and sounds intended to conjure the image of a vibrant, exotic land. In fact, though, the African-ness of the South African World Cup was pretty thin, when not wholly fabricated. For example, the music that introduced ESPN’s World Cup coverage sounded very African, as it opened with the sounding of an ox horn (the promo showed a bare-chested tribesman blowing the horn atop a mountain, silhouetted against the setting sun) and then built with pulsing drums and a choir singing layered refrains. But the piece had been written by a composer from Utah, the musicians had recorded it in Utah, and the choir consisted of members of the Broadway cast of The Lion King. At least Shakira’s ubiquitous song “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” had a more substantial African connection. It had been lifted, initially without credit, from a Cameroonian military song made popular in the 1980s by the group Golden Sounds.

The ironies of the 2010 tournament in South Africa are revealed in a number of essays in Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space (University of Michigan Press, 2013), edited by Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann. In the interview with Peter, we learn of the findings and observations of the volume’s contributors: an international collection of anthropologists, architectural critics, bloggers, geographers, sociologists, journalists, photographers, and former players who all attended matches in South Africa. They make sharp criticisms of class divides at the venues, the nationalism and commercialism, and, of course, the imperial reach of FIFA. But as we hear from Peter, the book’s authors were also fans. When mixing with other fans outside the stadiums, and then cheering their teams when the matches began, even normally skeptical academics and journalists were caught up in the event. Their experiences show that, for all its faults, the FIFA World Cup is still an incomparable event.

Click here to download the mp3 of the interview.

90-minute Patriots Ward off Faction Replays

By | January 26th, 2012 | 2 Comments

The Times (London), January 25, 2012

By Matthew Syed

It is no coincidence that Alex Salmond, the wily and rather combative leader of the SNP, is fighting to hold the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. This, of course, is partly to do with the anniversary of the Battle of Bannock-burn, where the Scots gave the English a bit of a kicking in the First War of Scottish Independence.

But, perhaps even more significantly, it is also about the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and a recognition that the patriotism that invariably surrounds great sporting occasions could lend the campaign for secession unstoppable momentum. No wonder David Cameron wants to hold the referendum early.

Few politicians, let alone sports fans, have failed to recognise the curious alchemy of events such as the Commonwealth Games, not to mention the Olympics and World Cup. It is not just the anthem-singing and the flag-waving, but a sense of unity that is conspicuous by its absence at just about any other time in national life – with the possible exception of a royal wedding.

We are divided by religion, by political affiliation, by cultural allegiance and by our attitudes to Simon Cowell but, when David Beckham is charging around against Greece, or Sally Gunnell is leaping around Montjuic, or Tim Henman is getting edgy against Pete Sampras in SW19, we are bound up in a shared national story. Look hard and you can almost see the pages moving.

In this sense the Africa Cup of Nations, which started at the weekend, is perhaps the most important sporting event in the world. Not in terms of the football, of course – although the European club stars who return home to represent their homelands lend stardust to an event that improves in quality with each incarnation – but rather in terms of the politics of identity. As the players of Niger and Libya and Equatorial Guinea cruise around the pitch, you can see history in the making.

Webcast: Sports in Africa Symposium

By | March 9th, 2011 | No Comments

On Friday, March 11, the Institute for the African Child and the Center for Sports Administration are hosting the 7th Sports in Africa symposium at Ohio University. The program — including my keynote address — will be webcasted from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m (GMT -5) on

Phillip is Here!

By | July 25th, 2010 | 3 Comments

The Footsak exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Durban inspired me to make this 5-minute film about art + football. I shot it with a FlipVideo camera at the museum, World Cup matches, a tennis court in Joburg, a sports ground at UKZN Pietermaritzburg, and our veranda. Take a look.

Podcast: Reflections on Africa’s First World Cup

By | July 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments

Chris Bolsmann and his mum at Soccer City, July 11, 2010 (Photo courtesy of Chris Bolsmann)

Chris Bolsmann (Sociology, Aston University) is the special guest in our latest episode of the Africa Past and Present podcast reflecting on the 2010 World Cup. Topics covered include experiences at stadiums and fan parks in South Africa; FIFA‘s Disney-fied World Cup; Pan-Africanism and the performance of African teams; and the political and economic impact of the tournament.

Click here to listen to the podcast. (mp3)

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