Football on the Zambian Copperbelt with Hikabwa Chipande

Join us on Thursday, March 26, at 3pm EDT for a session on football in Zambia. FSF member Hikabwa Decius Chipande will discuss his paper “Mining for Goals: Football and Social Change on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1940s to 1960s.”

Chipande is a doctoral candidate working with Peter Alegi in the Department of History at Michigan State University. His paper is the result of recent archival research and fieldwork in Zambia, which was funded by a FIFA João Havelange Scholarship.

(The paper was available for download by all confirmed participants.) Please note that the author asks readers not to quote from the paper without permission and not to circulate it beyond FSF circles.

RSVP Alex Galarza (galarza1 AT msu DOT edu).

FSF February: Fútbol in Latin America with Joshua Nadel

NadelFSF action returns after the holiday break with Joshua Nadel’s Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America on Wednesday, February 11, at 2:30pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT).

“Here are the football cultures of Latin America in all their macho glory,” says David Goldblatt; “but here too is the story of women’s football and its challenge to Latino masculinities. Above all, here is an account of football and nationalism, erudite and engaged, that remains rooted in the realities of play.”

Please send an RSVP to Alex Galarza (galarza.alex AT gmail) to be included in the Skype call.

The following two gatherings in March and April will feature papers by Hikabwa Chipande on football in Zambia and Alex Galarza on fútbol clubs in Buenos Aires, both based on doctoral dissertations in progress at Michigan State University.


Women’s Football: Global Perspectives

FSF’s last session of the year featured a wide-ranging discussion of women’s soccer. Discussion focused on three posts written by Jean Williams, Martha Saavedra, Gwen Oxenham, and a co-written piece by Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel. The posts and conversations centered on local contexts for fútbol femenino, mixed football, a possible boycott of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and strategies to connect our academic expertise on the women’s game to journalistic coverage.

Participants: Alon Raab, Brenda Elsey, Brian Bunk, Danyel Reiche, Gwen Oxenham, Hikabwa Chipande, Jean Williams, Joshua Nadel, Laurent Dubois, Lindsay Krasnoff, Martha Saavedra, Melissa Forbis, Roger Kittleson, Steven Apostolov, Liz Timbs, Peter Alegi, and Alex Galarza.

Audio can be downloaded here, and the four posts are below:

Martha Saavedra – A Pitch of Her Own
Gwen Oxenham – The National Teams We Know Nothing About
Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel – Marimachos*: On Women’s Football in Latin America
Jean Williams – When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers


A Pitch of Her Own

Author (standing, first from left) with Ethiopia's national women's team. National Stadium, Addis Ababa, 2011. Photo: Saavedra.
Author (standing, first from left) with Ethiopia’s national women’s team. National Stadium, Addis Ababa, 2011. Photo: Saavedra.

By Martha Saavedra

Martha Saavedra is Associate Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of California Berkeley. Trained as a Political Scientist, she has taught at St. Mary’s College of California, UC Berkeley, Ohio University and the Escuela de Estudios Universitarios Real Madrid. Her research has ranged from agrarian politics, development and ethnic conflict in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to gender and sport in Africa to a collaborative project on representations of Africa in Chinese popular culture. She has been on the editorial boards of Soccer and Society; Sport in Society; and Impumelelo: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Sports in Africa. A veteran of Title IX battles, she has played soccer for over 30 years and coached boys teams for 12 years.

On Tuesday at the University of California, Berkeley, I attended a panel discussion on Gender for a New Century: Countering Violence and Social Exclusions. The panel focused on important issues that the international community will be addressing in 2015 via United Nations’ assessments of efforts derived from the Millennium Development Goals and the Beijing Platform for Action frameworks. Faculty from UCB raised a number of really important topics including transnational labor markets, migration, sustainability, water & sanitation, disability rights, 2+ genders systems, culturally embedded gender-based violence, economic policy implications, nationalism and education. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UN Women, the featured speaker, responded to these points and suggested how gender might be addressed given the convergence at the UN of post-2015 MDG and Beijing 20+ discussions. It was an invigorating discussion setting out important aspirations, points of leverage, and boundaries for upcoming high level and impactful debates. Yet, nary was intimated about sport, physical activity, or, that all important endeavor, football.

Earlier that day in the office, before the gender event, a couple of us watched the United Nations sponsored ‘Africa United’ videos on youtube featuring Idris Elba as well as Carlton Cole, Yaya Touré, Andros Townsend, Patrick Vieira, Kei Kamara and Fabrice Muamba. (Also dubbed in Krio and French.) You’ve got to watch them if you love football, and ‘007 Idris, and if you are at all involved in efforts to confront the fears, misconceptions and realities of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Idris says “Its key strength is passing.” How can you not believe? “We are not heroes.” The health workers – “you are the true heroes”. The world’s most important team. Kudos to them. Not much to argue with there. But, of course, the UN does not call upon women footballers to help carry this message.
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The National Teams We Know Nothing About


By Gwen Oxenham

Gwen Oxenham is the author of Finding the Game and coproducer of the documentary film Pelada. A Duke University soccer alum, she played professionally for Santos FC in Brazil in 2005. Gwen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame and currently teaches English and plays in pickup games in Southern California.

In 2004, I played futebol feminino for Santos FC. We hitchhiked to practice, shared our field with a horse, slept four or five girls to a room, wore XL hand-me-downs from the men, did plyometrics over make-shift cardboard hurdles and often ran sprints on the main highway, occupying a lane, cars swerving around us.

This experience made me wonder about the women’s football happening in the rest of the world: If this was what futebol feminino looked like in Brazil, the mecca of futebol, what does the women’s game look like in other countries? What’s it like to be a female player in Ecuador? In Côte d’Ivoire? In Argentina? Like Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel noted in “Marimachos: On Women’s Football in Latin America,” television networks and newspapers are slow to cover even big events like World Cup qualifying tournaments. If media outlets don’t even cover outcomes, how little is out there about the actual experiences of women footballers?

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When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers

A meeting of two great football minds

Dr. Jean Williams is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for Sporting History and Culture De Montfort University in Leicester England. Having written on women’s football since 1998, Jean has recently published A Contemporary History of Women’s Sport 1850-1960 (Routledge, 2014). She is currently writing Send Her Victorious: A History of Britain’s Women Olympians 1900-2014 (Manchester UP, 2015).

In 1998 I spent some time in Namibia for the second World Conference on Women in Sport. I had a dual purpose to collect information on women’s football in Namibia for my PhD thesis and to raise my awareness of the issues facing African women who wanted to participate in sport. Several national women’s football teams were represented at the conference and they met as a group to protest at the lack of support from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the world governing body of football. Being present at the meeting of the African women’s national teams and FIFA representatives, I was invited to advise FIFA how the Women Sport International 1994 Brighton Declaration on Women’s Sport, a commitment to increase the number and visibility of women in world sport, could be applied specifically to international football. My research therefore anticipated pledges to increase gender equity in the football industry. The Los Angeles Declaration on Women’s Football was launched at the second FIFA World Symposium to coincide with the Los Angeles Women’s World Cup in 1999.  At the symposium, my academic work was showcased on a panel with presentations from the head of the Football Association of PR China, Zhang Jilong; the French Minister for Sport, Marie George Buffet and Anita De Frantz, a Vice President of the International Olympic Committee. All 203 FIFA member national associations attended, with over 500 delegates. It seemed like real change was about to come for women’s football and I was optimistic.

I was a little daunted about telling all those FIFA representative countries assembled at the symposium in 1999 about the institutionalized nature of sexism in the world game. In the end I should not have worried. I only spoke fifteen minutes and it was not as if my audience were going to be enlightened or challenged by my presentation. Kevan Pipe of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) was one of the most supportive and friendly of the national representatives in LA. Some years later, I applauded the decision to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, thinking of Kevan’s support for women’s soccer.  However, he has since retired from the CSA and I became gradually aware that some of the institutional attitudes towards women’s soccer I had spoken out against in 1999 were still very much in evidence almost sixteen years later.

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The Indiana Jones of Fútbol Journalism

Christened the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism” by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, James Montague had barely survived the interminable journey from Australia to London only to plunge into a place without time or space–the Football Scholars Forum online.

What ensued was a vigorous discussion of his 2014 book Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey. Montague revealed the African sources of inspiration for the project; the challenges of writing an ambitious travelogue on the unglamorous edges of world football; the pleasures of lessons learned and insights gained. One big surprise sprung by the Skype conversation and Twitter backchannel was the discovery of Next Goal Wins, a documentary film about American Samoa’s World Cup team chronicled so evocatively in 31-Nil. (Click here to watch the trailer.)

Participants: Danyel Reiche, Alex Galarza, Roger Kittleson, Andrew Guest, David Kilpatrick, Martha Saavedra, Chris Henderson, Tony Adedze, Steven Apostolov, Alejandro Gonzales, Liz Timbs, and Peter Alegi.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the session.

Here’s a Storify version of the event on Twitter:


FSF’s next session is a roundtable on the state of the women’s game internationally, on the pitch and in the literature. The discussion will pivot around pre-circulated blog posts on this website by Jean Williams (@JeanMWilliams), Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental), Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Brenda Elsey (@politicultura) and others. The event will take place during the week of December 9-11, with a final date and time to be determined soon!

Brand Brazil: Past as Prologue

Brasilidade, class, gender, futebol força versus futebol arte, tropical modernity, the 2014 World Cup, and globalizing “brand Brazil” were just some of the topics discussed in the Football Scholars Forum’s inaugural event of 2014-15 with historian Roger Kittleson.

Joining the author of The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil, were: Danyel Reiche, Christoph Wagner, Lindsay Krasnoff, David Kilpatrick, Rwany Sibaja, Andrew Guest, Brenda Elsey, Javier Pescador, Austin Long, Chris Henderson (all via Skype), and Nubia Rodrigues, Liz Timbs, David Glovsky, Alejandro Gonzales, and Peter Alegi in the Michigan State University History Department‘s new LEADR Digital Lab.

Many thanks to Liz Timbs for this Storify version of the event on Twitter:


Click here to listen to an audio recording of the session.

FSF’s next event is on October 30 (time TBD). James Montague (@JamesPiotr), aka the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism,” will participate in a discussion of his new book Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey.

Kittleson's The Country of Football To Open 2014-15 Season

9780520279094With the 2014 World Cup circus come and gone, and students beckoning, it’s time to announce the fall schedule for the 2014-15 season of the Football Scholars Forum.

Our first session picks up where Germany left off, in Brazil! On September 25, 3pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT), historian Roger Kittleson (@rogerkittleson) joins us to discuss his new book The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil.

To participate in the 90-minute Skype session, please send Alex Galarza (galarza.alex AT your Skype name (if Alex doesn’t already have it) so you can be added to the call.

In our second event, on October 30 (time TBD), we are pleased to welcome the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism” (Grant Wahl’s words): James Montague (@JamesPiotr), author of Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey.

The third session will consist of a roundtable on the state of women’s football internationally. It will take place during the week of December 9-11, just after the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw (on Dec. 6). Jean Williams (@JeanMWilliams), Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental), Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Brenda Elsey (@politicultura) are among the confirmed participants who will pre-circulate blog posts on this website to spark discussion and stimulate debate.

The schedule for spring 2015 is also coming along nicely. More news on that front as it becomes available. See you on the pitch!