2017-18 Season Opener

Gwen Oxenham opened the 2017-18 FSF season with her highly original and engaging new book, Under The Lights and in the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer.  The author shared insights about the process of writing the book and grappled with labor rights in football.

The forum considered the book’s stories about the Portland Thorns, 2017 NWSL champions, and weighed the club’s potential as a model for the future development of women’s pro soccer. Other topics covered included: sexual harassment, gender discrimination, motherhood, generational relations, representations of the women’s game, the importance of crowds and beer, and the possibility that a film may emerge out of parts of the book (e.g. the underground futsal scene in Queens, NY).

Participants: David Kilpatrick, Danyel Reiche, Itamar Dubinsky, Shawn Stein, Cara Snyder, Martha Saavedra, Chris Bolsmann, Kevin Tallec Marston, Liz Timbs, Alex Galarza, Patrick Ridge, and Peter Alegi.

Storify-ied tweets are here. A recording of the session can be found here.

FSF October: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer

The Football Scholars Forum announces its first session of the 2017-18 season. Author and filmmaker Gwen Oxenham will join us on Wednesday, October 25, at 2pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT), to discuss her new book: Under The Lights and in the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer.

Under the Lights and in the Dark takes us inside the world of women’s football, following players across the globe, from Portland Thorns star Allie Long, who trains in an underground men’s league in New York City; to English national Fara Williams, who kept her homelessness a secret from teammates on the English youth national team. Oxenham takes us to the depths of Siberia, where players battle more than just snowy pitches in pursuing their dream of playing pro, and to a refugee camp in Denmark, where Nadia Nadim, now a Danish international star, practised after her family fled from the Taliban.”

Please send an RSVP to Alex Galarza (galarza.alex AT gmail), if you wish to be included in the session. FSF conducts its online sessions with Zoom. As always, the event will be recorded and archived on this website for those who cannot participate.

Stay tuned for an announcement about the rest of 2017-18 schedule.

#FSF Obrigado – Soccer Poetry in February

On February 28th, 2017, FSF stalwart David Kilpatrick joined the group to discuss his book of soccer poetry: Obrigado: A Futebol EpicObrigado offers a poetic take on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, with a poem from each of the sixty-four matches plus an introductory poem: “an epic narrative of heroic emergence from conflicts between nations, promoting cosmopolitan awareness through the spirit of play.”

David began by sharing the experience of planning and writing the book during the 2014 World Cup. He talked about the literary influences and devices present in his poetry and the difficulty in writing during the compressed drama of a one-month tournament. Participants asked about the book’s structure, themes, adventures in language, and the wider relationship between football and art. Our conversation also touched on the study of soccer’s history and how it influences the production of poetry

Participants included: Andrew Guest, Danyel Reiche, Brenda Elsey, Laurent Dubois, Steven Apostolov, Itamar Dubinsky, Alon Raab, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

Audio of the session can be found here

FSF February: World Cup Poetry

obrigado_bookcoverAfter the holiday break, the 2016-17 FSF season is set to resume with David Kilpatrick’s book of soccer poetry: Obrigado: A Futebol Epic. [Download here.]

The collection offers a poetic take on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, with a poem from each of the sixty-four matches plus an introductory poem: “an epic narrative of heroic emergence from conflicts between nations, promoting cosmopolitan awareness through the spirit of play.”

Dr. Kilpatrick is Associate Professor of English at Mercy College in New York and Club Historian at the New York Cosmos. He is a stalwart of FSF and we are looking forward to discussing his work online on Tuesday, February 28th at 2:30pm U.S. Eastern time.

To participate in the first FSF gathering dedicated exclusively to poetry, contact Alex Galarza or Peter Alegi.

Men In the Arena


On December 15, 2016, FSF welcomed filmmaker J.R. Biersmith for a discussion of his film: “Men in the Arena.” The film tracks the stories of two young Somali men chasing their dreams of soccer stardom in the toughest of circumstances.

Biersmith told the story of how he first got interested in Somalia and explained why he chose to make the film the way he did. A lively discussion unfolded about the character journeys of Saadiq Muhammad and Sa’ad Hussein, the two protagonists, and around the complexities of the three-year filmmaking process in Mogadishu, Nairobi, and in several locations in the United States. The forum also learned new details about Saadiq and Sa’ad’s current situation in St. Louis, Missouri, and what the future may hold for the young Somali immigrant footballers.

Participants included: Itamar Dubinsky, Martha Saavedra, Rose Eveleth, Andrew Guest, Derek Catsam, Danyel Tobias Reiche, Alejandro Gonzalez, Tarminder Kaur, Emmanuel Yolo Thoba, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

Danyel Reiche, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut (@Danyel_Reiche), conveyed the feelings of many of us in a tweet: “The film @MenInTheArena deserves a large audience. Hopefully @netflix or other big media are interested.” The film’s official release is scheduled for April 2017.

Listen to the audio here

FSF December: Men in the Arena–Somali Footballers



Somalia takes center stage in our final gathering of 2016.

On Thursday, December 15, at 2pm Eastern U.S. time, FSF will host a discussion of the new film “Men in the Arena” with director and producer, J. R. Biersmith. The film tracks the stories of two young Somali men chasing their dreams of soccer stardom in the toughest of circumstances.

Contact Alex Galarza (galarza1 AT msu DOT edu) to participate in the online session.

The Limits of Soccer for Development: Xhosa Maradona and the “Hand of God”

On October 27, 2016, FSF welcomed Dr. Tarminder Kaur (University of the Free State) for a discussion of her paper: “AmaXhosa Maradona: Global Icons, Local Following and Soccer Talent as a Gift and Curse for South African Youth.”

This ethnographic exploration of soccer and development in the rural Western Cape of South Africa sparked a critique of sport-for-development programs and highlighted the human drama of “Maradona” (aka Abongile Qobisa), a talented footballer with a promising future who died tragically at the age of 19. The paper is part of an evolving book-length manuscript that grapples not just with sports, but also with broader themes such as the history of agricultural labor migration, regimes of labor extraction in South African “Homelands”, and structural, interpersonal, everyday, and “invisible” forms of violence.

“What a privilege this was to have such engaged scholars to read my paper,” said Dr. Kaur after the session. “It is this kind of engagement that every scholar craves. It was not only gratifying, the discussion and conversations [also] gave me so much to work with to improve this paper.”

In addition to the author, participants in the forum included: Emmanuel Yolo Thoba, Danyel Reiche, Andrew Guest, Alejandro Gonzalez, Gerard Akindes, Chris Bolsmann, Tom McCabe, Itamar Dubinsky, Hikabwa Chipande, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to the audio here.

FSF October: The Xhosa Maradona

Maradona with South African soccer playersOn October 27, 2016, at 1:30pm Eastern (-5 GMT, note the new time), the Football Scholars Forum holds its 37th session. The group will discuss Dr. Tarminder Kaur’s paper “AmaXhosa Maradona: Global Icons, Local Following and Soccer Talent as a Gift and Curse for South African Youth.”

Dr. Kaur is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of the Free State’s Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice in South Africa. Her study tells the moving story of Abongile Elton Qobisa (aka Maradona), a very promising young black footballer from the Western Cape region. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, the paper engages critically with “sport-for-development” discourses and reveals how talent and opportunities in soccer were both a gift and a curse for the Xhosa Maradona.

For more information and to participate in the online session, please contact Alex Galarza (galarza1 AT msu DOT edu).

James Dorsey on Soccer and Politics in the Middle East

FSF began the 2016/2017 season by discussing James Dorsey’s The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. A longtime FSF member, Dorsey shared insights on writing the book in addition to answering questions from the many participants in our online session. Our wide-ranging discussion touched on a number of issues in the book including cyber-ethnography, women’s sport, the Olympics, and soccer and Islam.

Peter has posted an extended summary on his blog.

Participants included: Chris Brown, David Kilpatrick, Sean Jacobs, Simon Rofe, Lindsay Krasnoff, Tarminder Kaur, Deirdre Dorsey, Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario, Osasu Obayiuwana, Itamar Dubinsky, Aubrey Bloomfield, Ildefonso Correas Apelanz, Liz Timbs, Alon Raab, Andrew Guest, Daniel Makagon, Danyel Reiche, and Shireen Ahmed.

Audio of the session can be found here.

FSF September: The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer with James Dorsey

book cover of The Turbulent World of Middle East SoccerOur seventh season begins on September 19, 2016, with a discussion of FSF member James Dorsey’s long-awaited new book The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. [For the UK edition click here].

Dorsey is a journalist and a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. His blog on Middle East soccer “(has) become a reference point for those seeking the latest information as well as looking at the broader picture,” notes FSF member Alon Raab.

The book, according to the publisher’s website, examines the game “as an arena where struggles for political control, protest and resistance, self-respect and gender rights are played out. Football evokes deep-seated passions and offers unique insight into the region. Examples include clandestine Saudi women football clubs; political demonstrations at Algerian matches; Somali child solders turned soccer stars; and Iranian women who disguise themselves as men to watch matches.”

For more information about this event and to participate via Skype contact Alex Galarza (galarza1 AT msu DOT edu).