FSF Nov. 9: "Soccer in the Classroom" Draws Record Crowd

“Football/Fútbol/Soccer in the Classroom” drew 17 people, a new record for FSF! It was an extremely productive and fulfilling session.  Peter Alegi, Tom McCabe, Steven Apostolov, Sean Jacobs, Alon Raab, and David Kilpatrick kicked off with brief comments on each of their soccer courses. A vigorous and wide ranging discussion ensued.

Among the many questions and issues tackled by the collective, were the following: how can we integrate technical and tactical aspects of the game into broader intellectual analysis? Given the huge canvas of “global soccer,” how have instructors dealt with thematic, geographic, and chronological coverage? Which films and popular literary works have worked well and why? What is the state of “football archives”?

Several individuals spoke of the importance of knowing your audiences and valuing diversity.  Other participants commented on the challenges and rewards of being the first to teach sport-focused courses in their departments and institutions.  After nearly two hours, the session ended with Alon reminding us of what Swami Yogananda once said: “You will be closer to Heaven through football than by the Gita.”

Audio of the session is available here.

Participants (in random order)

Graham Stinnett
Alejandro Gonzalez

Klinsmann's USA project: Reform or Revolution?

The international break generated debate about Jürgen Klinsmann’s short tenure as USA selector and coach. Results of friendlies aside, George Vecsey of the New York Times points out that the German is a proponent of “the revolutionary theory for young players that soccer should be fun” and invites fans to watch the team’s training sessions. Together with Claudio Reyna — the former fantasista turned head of US player development — Klinsmann believes “coaches can teach soccer, but on the field, soccer is not a teachable sport. [ . . .] Athletes must play the game by themselves; they must be creative.”

Of course, the US soccer system has demonstrated little such creativity so far. In general, its pay-for-play youth system marginalizes or excludes the working class and the poor and almost invariably produces robotic, Anglophile, tactically troglodytic teams. So is Klinsmann’s project reformist or revolutionary?

Amy Lawrence in The Guardian’s Sports Blog writes that “the great German enthusiast is trying to overhaul football in the US not just the national team.” The post picks up on some of Vecsey’s insights and adds Klinsmann’s criticism of both the short MLS season and the archaic system of using college soccer to form professional players. Readers’ comments on the blog page make for fascinating reading. What do you think about the Klinsi debate?

Women’s Football Session Breaks New Ground

With the 2011 Women’s World Cup around the corner, it seemed especially appropriate to hold our first session on the women’s game on April 18. Facilitated by Jennifer Doyle and featuring author Cynthia Pelak, the group covered some key issues and topics, including the hidden history of women’s football; gender, sexuality, and class; media disinterest about women’s sports; the impact of FIFA’s takeover of the women’s game; South African dynamics; law and government policy; coaching and playing styles; empowerment and disempowerment.

The audio for the meeting is available here.

In attendance:
Jennifer Doyle
Cynthia Pelak
Martha Saavedra
David Toms
Tom McCabe
Laurent Dubois
John Turnbull
Andrew Guest
David Roberts
David Keyes
Alex Galarza
Peter Alegi

Cairo Ultras in Egyptian Protests

Anti-government protests in Egypt are being driven by young men, including Egyptian ultras writes FSF member James Dorsey. “Soccer fans constitute a well-organized and feared pillar of the marshalling grassroots coalition determined to ensure that President Hosni Mubarak suffers the same fate as Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was toppled earlier this month by mass demonstrations.” Full article here.

For more details on Egyptian ultras and the social and political implications of the game in Cairo, listen to David Goldblatt’s The Secret Policeman’s Football: Al Ahly v Zamalek (part 2 of his BBC radio documentary “The Power and the Passion”) and read this multimedia essay by one of the founders of Egypt’s first ultras group.