Summer Series: The Age of Football

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With Euros 2020 postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19, FSF has found a way to stay fútbologically engaged during June and July.

We are very pleased to announce a 5-part series featuring David Goldblatt and his massive new book, The Age of Football: The Global Game in the Twenty-first Century [UK edition here / US edition here].

In many ways, this book is a sequel to Goldblatt’s acclaimed The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football, which FSF discussed here and here. “David Goldblatt’s globe-trotting magnum opus about football is both jaundiced and idealistic about the sport,” Tobias Jones noted in his review of The Age of Football in The Times of London. “He admits in his introduction that the game nurtures ‘monomania, ignorance, atavistic loathing and mindless stupefaction’. But he also believes that, through its fans, football can be a place of ‘resistance to the intrusion and overweening importance of economic and political power’. It can, he suggests, ‘serve as a collective insistence that there are other moral logics and priorities in this world’.”

Goldblatt will join us for five 90-minute Zoom sessions focused on different chapters as per the schedule below:

  • Tuesday, June 9: Introduction and Chapter 1 (Africa)
  • Tuesday, June 16: Chapters 2-3 (Middle East; South America)
  • Tuesday, June 23: Chapter 4 (Europe)
  • Tuesday, June 30: Chapters 5-6 (Asia; North America/Caribbean)
  • Tuesday, July 7: Chapters 7-8 (FIFA; Russia) and Conclusion

All sessions begin promptly at 2pm US Eastern Time (7pm UK time).

There are a limited number of Zoom invitations available on a first-come, first-serve basis. RSVP to Peter Alegi (alegi AT msu DOT edu) or Alex Galarza (galarza DOT alex AT gmail DOT com) by June 8, 2020.

FSF Soccertown USA

On April 18, the Football Scholars Forum held a discussion on the recently released documentary SOCCERTOWN, USA, an award-winning film about how Kearny, New Jersey, helped nurture three friends—USMNT legends John Harkes, Tony Meola and Tab Ramos—on their way to successive World Cups. 

Tom McCabe, a historian, and Kirk Rudell, a Hollywood writer and producer, shared insights and experiences in making soccer documentaries, from writing the script by “letting the story tell itself” to interviewing people and “making it seem like a conversation in the bar.”

Several rounds of questions about the documentary’s key topics and themes followed, including how “Scotch professors” spread the game in the United States, what constitutes a “soccer town,” the role of class and gender, how street soccer develops players, the importance of high school soccer in community building, the making of an organic American soccer culture and more.

On another Saturday without live football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 20 participants in three continents were left with a deep appreciation for this cinematographic “love letter” to the game.

Listen to an audio recording of the session (for educational/personal use only):

FSF Saturday Football Films: Soccertown USA

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Sadly, there will be no live football on Saturday, April 18, but there will be a Football Scholars Forum! 

At 2pm Eastern (7pm in London), FSF welcomes Tom McCabe, a historian, and Kirk Rudell, a Hollywood writer and producer, for a Zoom session on their film “Soccertown USA.” It was released last week on YouTube and is freely available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=havPy5C2XIU.

In the 1870s, Scottish immigrants brought soccer to Kearny, New Jersey. A few years later, they brought it to Brazil. While the game was spreading across Europe and South America, it was being played in the streets, parks, and playgrounds of a small town just across the meadows from New York City . . . but a world away. And in the 1980s, when the flame of American soccer was flickering, it was three kids from Kearny who helped save it.

“Soccertown USA” is the story of Tab Ramos, John Harkes, and Tony Meola, who grew up with a passion for the game in a country that didn’t share it. It’s the story of the USA team at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, when these childhood friends formed the backbone of a team that willed its way to famous victories and inspired the generations that would come after. But it’s also the story of a town – an American town – in which we can see the past, the present, and the future of the world’s game.

“Soccertown USA” premiered last year at the Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. Join the writers and producers for a lively discussion about making soccer documentaries, from writing the script to interviewing subjects, and from taking it to film festivals to looking for distribution and using it in our teaching.

RSVP to Peter Alegi (@futbolprof) or Alex Galarza (@galarzaalex) by April 16. 

“The English Game” Sets Record

Darwen FC (The English Game)

A record crowd of 37 turned out for the Football Scholars Forum (FSF) and Society for American Soccer History (SASH) joint session devoted to The English Game miniseries, developed by Julian Fellowes for Netflix. 

In the absence of live football due to the global COVID19 pandemic, the session started at the traditional 3:00pm UK kickoff time. Moderated by David Kilpatrick and Tom McCabe of SASH, with opening remarks from Peter Alegi and Alex Galarza representing FSF, an all-star squad of 19th-century fútbologists offered five-minute comments on the historical drama. 

Old Etonians (The English Game)

Andy Mitchell, author of the biography on the series’ protagonist, Arthur Kinnaird: First Lord of Football, shared his insight as a consultant to The English Game. Ged O’Brien, author of Played in Glasgow and Chief Historian of The Hampden Collection, discussed the role of “the Scotch Professors” in the series. Martin Westby, author of England’s Oldest Football Clubs 1815-1889 and A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889, provided more context on the emergence of clubs in mid-19th century competition.

Tony Collins, Emeritus Professor of History at DeMontfort University and author of How Football Began, discussed the emergence of tactics as various football codes evolved. Jean Williams, Professor of Sport at the University of Wolverhampton, addressed literary elements of the drama. Then Club Historian of Rangers Football Club, David Mason, provided a sense of how English clubs drew from Scottish football’s talent pool at the time. With the constituent elements of drama as outlined in Aristotle’s Poetics providing a framework, the ensuing discussion addressed issues like authenticity, class conflict, sport governance, and pedagogical uses for the film.

Click here for an audio recording of the session (for educational use only).

No Live Football? FSF to the Rescue!

While football is on pause in this time of pandemic and social distancing, the Football Scholars Forum and the Society for American Soccer History intend to bridge our physical distance with an online discussion devoted to The English Game, the Netflix miniseries that made its debut on March 20, 2020. 

Join other fútbologists as we discuss the cinematic and historic merits (and demerits) of this deep dive into the origins of the modern game. Spoiler alert: all six episodes of season one will be discussed. David Kilpatrick and Tom McCabe will moderate the session. Kickoff is set for the traditional UK match time  of 3:00pm (London time) on Saturday, March 28 (11:00am US EDT). 

As usual, the 90-minute teleconference session will be conducted via Zoom. RSVP to Peter Alegi (alegi.peter@gmail.com) or Alex Galarza (galarza.alex@gmail.com) to receive a Zoom invitation. Another email will be sent to confirmed participants by Friday, March 27.

For more info: 

The English Game – https://www.netflix.com/title/80244928 

Football Scholars Forum – http://footballscholars.org/

Society for American Soccer History – https://www.ussoccerhistory.org/

FSF Futbolera

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What a great opening to the 2019-20 season! Authors Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel joined us for a discussion of their new book, Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America. The conversation was moderated by Alex Galarza.

Participants: Laurent Dubois, Rwany Sibaja, Danyel Reiche, Patrick Ridge, Javier Pescador, Martha Saavedra, Andrew Guest, Chris Gaffney, Melissa Forbis, Tom McCabe, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to an audio recording of the session:

FSF 2019-20 Schedule

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#1 Tuesday, September 24, 3pm (US ET)

Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel, Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America [https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/elsey-nadel-futbolera] (Moderator: Alex Galarza)


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#2 Wednesday, October 30, 3pm (US ET)

Nuno Domingos, Football and Colonialism: Body and Popular Culture in Urban Mozambique [https://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Football+and+Colonialism] (Moderator: Todd Cleveland)


#3 December 3-5 (tbc)

FILM: This Is Football (Amazon Prime) [https://www.amazon.com/This-Is-Football-Season-1/dp/B07T8KT8TT]


#4 February (tbd)

Caitlin Murray, National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer [https://www.uswntbook.com/] (Moderator: Tom McCabe)


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#5 and #6 (March-May tbd)

David Goldblatt, The Age of Football: The Global Game in the 21st Century [https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/david-goldblatt/the-age-of-football/9781509854240] (Moderators Simon Rofe and Peter Alegi)


All sessions take place via Zoom. To participate contact Peter Alegi or Alex Galarza.

FSF May: The Quiet Fan


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On May 22, at 3pm (US Eastern, -5 GMT) soccer writer and journalist Ian Plenderleith joins FSF to discuss his memoir, The Quiet Fan.

Neither Fever Pitch nor a hooligan’s account, this book instead examines the role of football as a reassuring, ever-present background to life’s thrills, pains and fluctuations.

Contact Peter Alegi (alegi AT msu DOT edu) to participate in the online forum.