Fútbol Writing in a Digital Age with Jonathan Wilson

InvertingPyramidOn December 5, the final FSF event of 2013 featured  Jonathan Wilson, journalist, author, and founding editor of The Blizzard, a symbol of independent fútbol writing in a digital age. Wilson fielded questions from an international audience from five continents as part of a 90-minute conversation that can be described as a blend of English pragmatism and fútbol romantico.

The discussion pivoted around the notion that there is a growing English-speaking audience for longer-form writing about the game that goes beyond mixed-zone clichès, diatribes about managers, questionable refereeing decisions, and other narrow, shallow concerns of so much contemporary sport journalism. The challenges and opportunities of publishing in print and digital formats sparked debate, as did the evolving relationship between the futbology work of reporters and academics.

The event set a new FSF record for participants with 21: James Dorsey, David Winner, Lindsay Krasnoff, Alex Galarza, Brian Bunk, Alon Raab, Christoph Wagner, Brenda Elsey, Rwany Sibaja, Juan Pablo Ospina, Andrew Guest, Laurent Dubois, Melissa Forbis, Chris Lash, Davy Lane, David Kilpatrick, Tom Vinacci, Javier Pescador, Liz Timbs, Dave Glovsky, and Peter Alegi.

For a Storify Twitter timeline click here with special thanks to Liz Timbs (@tizlimbs).

The audio recording of the session is available here.

FSF December: Independent Fútbol Writing in a Digital Age

20131201-181105.jpgJonathan Wilson, journalist, author, founder and editor of The Blizzard, joins us on Thursday, December 5, at 4pm Eastern (9pm GMT) for a free-wheeling 90-minute discussion about the craft of independent fútbol writing in a digital age.

In case you are unfamiliar with it, The Blizzard is a noncommercial football quarterly that combines short- and long-form writing and publishes in both analog and digital formats. Issue Nine is being served up for Thursday’s session, download it here. It includes a tasty menu featuring, among others, 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; Gwendolyn Oxenham’s search for a kickabout in Iran; Anthony Clavane’s examination of Leeds, ‘the North’, and the contradictory narrative of northern realism; and Igor Rabiner speaking with Lev Yashin’s widow.

Independent English-language publications like The Blizzard and the recently defunct U.S.-based XI Quarterly, or Howler for that matter, suggest that journalists and scholars share many similar challenges and opportunities in publishing rigorously entertaining, meaningful football writing aimed at readers worldwide. We plan to tackle many different issues and questions related to this topic [Click here to read Peter Alegi’s blog post on this].

To participate in the 90-minute session that takes place simultaneously at Michigan State University and online via Skype, please contact Peter Alegi (alegi.peter AT gmail.com) with your Skype name (if Peter doesn’t already have it). Members can also email or tweet him (@futbolprof) questions before the session.

Football and Society in the Middle East

aboutreika_gaza2On November 14, football in the Middle East took center stage at FSF. The conversation focused on a special issue of the journal Soccer and Society, edited by Alon Raab and Issam Khalidi. It 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 qualitative scholarly work on football.  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.

Participants via Skype from around the world were: Alon Raab, James Dorsey, Andrew Guest, Orli Bass, Hikabwa Chipande, David Kilpatrick, Lindsay Krasnoff, Steven Apostolov, Raj Raman, and Derek Catsam. Liz Timbs, Dave Glovsky, and Peter Alegi participated from Michigan State University.

The audio recording of the session is available here.

From *Africa’s World Cup* to Brazil 2014

AfricasWorldCup_Cover 2FSF members from four continents convened online on October 24 for a lively discussion of Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space, a new collection edited by Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann.

With the editors and several chapter authors in attendance, the group considered the book’s attempt at blending scholarly and journalistic approaches, as well as the process of writing, editing, and publication. A fruitful comparison between South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 put the spotlight on how the FIFA World Cup is entangled in a web of national and international politics, economics, and culture. There was also a fair share of debate over Luis Suarez’s handball (against Ghana) and the contradictory legacies of this “African” World Cup.

The participants were: 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).

The audio recording of the discussion is available here.

Africa's World Cup Opens 2013-14 FSF Season

AfricasWorldCup_Cover 2The Football Scholars Forum is pleased to announce the opening of its new season on Thursday, October 24, at 3:30pm Eastern Time (8:30pm GMT). We will read and critique Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann’s Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space (University of Michigan Press, 2013). You can hear more about the edited book in Peter’s interview with New Books in Sports.

As is customary with FSF, the editors, as well as several chapter authors, will participate in a live 90-minute session that takes place simultaneously in East Lansing, Michigan, and online. If you would like to participate in the Skype discussion, please contact Alex Galarza (galarza[DOT]alex[AT]gmail.com) with your Skype name (if Alex doesn’t already have it). Members are also encouraged to email questions to Alex before October 24.

On November 14, we will discuss FSF member Alon Raab’s special issue/edited volume on “Soccer in the Middle East” published in Soccer and Society (2012). In December, the focus shifts to football publications in a digital age, with special guest Jonathan Wilson, fútbol journalist, author, and editor of the quarterly magazine The Blizzard.

Quantifying Fútbol: Soccernomics with Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper

soccernomicsSoccernomics has been called “the Barcelona of football books” and the “Moneyball of soccer.” On Tuesday, April 16, FSF discussed this influential book with the authors: Stefan Szymanski (in East Lansing) and Simon Kuper (via Skype).

One of the most important questions asked was: How does the introduction of big data and “soccer analytics” change our understanding of fútbol clubs, fans, and nations? The forum also featured intriguing comparisons between Western Europe and the United States.

Joining the authors were: Andrew Guest, Brian Bunk, Christoph Wagner, Corry Cropper, David Kilpatrick, James Dorsey, Mark Siegel, Hikabwa Chipande,  Christian Orlic, Benjamin Dettmar, Peter Demopoulos, Steven Apostolov, Tom McCabe, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.
Listen to the audio from the session here (mp3).

FSF April: Soccernomics

soccernomicsOn Tuesday, April 16, at 2pm Eastern Time (11am Pacific, 7pm GMT), FSF will meet to discuss Soccernomics by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper.

Combining an economist’s brain with a sports writer’s skill, the book applies serious data analysis to everyday soccer topics, revealing counterintuitive truths about the professional game and offering a potentially revolutionary way of looking at fútbol.

Stefan Szymanski will join us here in East Lansing for the session. He is the Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan. He started researching the economics of professional football in 1989, and has since come to spend his entire time researching the economics and business of sport. He has published extensively on sports related subjects, acted as a consultant to sport governing bodies and national governments, and appeared in court as an expert witness on the economics of sport. Szymanski is a founding partner, with Simon Kuper and Ben Lyttleton, of the Soccernomics consultancy.

Members who would like to participate in the online Skype discussion should contact Alex Galarza (galarza [dot] alex [at] gmail [dot] com) with your Skype name as he will be running the show.

Going Local: U.S. Soccer History

USMNT-1916bOn Tuesday, February 26, FSF grappled with the works by Steven Apostolov, Gabe Logan, and Tom McCabe on the history of American soccer in Massachusetts, Chicago, and northern New Jersey.

David Kilpatrick, official historian of the New York Cosmos, skillfully moderated the 90-minute online conversation. Joining the authors and discussant were: Melissa Forbis, Alejandro Gonzalez, Hikabwa Chipande, Lindsay Krasnoff, David Keyes, Brenda Elsey, Brian Bunk, Andrew Guest, Peter Alegi, and Alex Galarza.

Listen to the audio from the session here (mp3).

FSF cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Alex Galarza with his PhD advisor (and FSF member) Ed Murphy
Alex Galarza with his PhD advisor (and FSF member) Ed Murphy

The Football Scholars Forum has garnered national media attention as a venue for innovative and collaborative scholarship. On February 11, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a feature article on rethinking doctoral dissertations that quoted FSF co-founder Alex Galarza, a PhD. student in history at Michigan State University.  Click here to check out his prototype for a digital dissertation on soccer clubs of the 1950s and 60s in Buenos Aires.


What Will it Take for Women's Pro Soccer to Survive?

On Wednesday, December 5, at 3:30pm EST, our final “game” of the 2012 season will feature Jun Stinson’s short film, The 90th Minute.

The 20-minute documentary follows three members of FC Gold Pride, the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer champions. The film sheds light on what it’s like to be a female professional soccer player in the U.S. — a dream that has become more elusive after the demise of the WPS.

Why are Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and others struggling to play professionally in their country? Why have two pro women’s soccer leagues failed since the heady days of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the 1999 Women’s World Cup? What needs to happen for a new women’s league in the U.S. to be sustainable? How does the situation in the U.S. compare with international trends?

Unfortunately, Jun Stinson is unable to join us for the session. However, Peter Alegi interviewed Jun on the film and asked a few questions on behalf of the group. To listen to Peter’s interview with the director, click here. We are pleased that Gwen Oxenham, former Duke and Santos player and one of the producers of the film Pelada , will join us for a terrific season finale!

Send Alex Galarza (galarza1 [at] msu [dot] edu) your Skype name to be included in the call. Alex can also email you the link and password to view the film.

Update: On November 21, “U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced the launch of a women’s professional league which will start play in March,” according to ESPN. Read more about it here and here.