A Fall First XI: Football Scholars Miscellany

It’s been another few months of abundance for those of us interested in thinking about ways the scholarly might engage with the sporty, so I thought I’d have another go at a ‘First XI’ of miscellaneous themes and links as food for FSF thought.  As always, the intention is not to try to cover everything (I’m particularly sorry that I haven’t yet been able to find much on the upcoming African Cup of Nations; the hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon should offer lots of talking points)—nor to focus on the specifically scholarly. Instead, the hope is to draw from a mix of the scholarly and the broader football world to offer perspectives that might be of interest to those thinking about such intersections. And please let me know what I’ve missed through comments or email—the First XI is never necessarily the best eleven; it’s just what’s available on the day…

1) Conferences; there’s been a bunch. Probably the largest in-person aggregation of FSF members came in the DC area at George Mason’s ‘Sport in the Global South’ conference (abstracts available at the linked page—though not all football specific), graciously hosted by John Nauright and the Academy of International Sport. Read More

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 World Cup Miscellany: A First XI

Can you be a ‘football scholar’ and not appreciate a World Cup?  Even if you get frustrated by the politics and/or the play, the spectacle of a particular, peculiar version of the modern world on stage always seems to cry for interpretation and engagement.  And, sometimes, ever so briefly, for letting slip the critical lens to simply enjoy a good game of football.

This 2011 Women’s World Cup, to conclude on Sunday in Frankfurt, has offered up a bevy of both cultural artifacts to deconstruct and the beautiful game to savor.  So it seems like a grand occasion for the next iteration of a FSF First Eleven—an eclectic attempt to highlight works that might be thought/reaction-provoking for scholars, even if not explicitly scholarly.  I’ve gotten a few suggestions from others, and I’m sure I’m missing much other good work, but I make no claims on being comprehensive.  Instead, the hope is to try to help create spaces for exchanging and enriching perspectives related to the game—this time specifically related to the women’s game and with particular emphasis on this World Cup—so please feel free to add, suggest, or critique in the comments or via email [drewguest(at)hotmail.com].  And allow me the immodest liberty of mentioning one of my own modest efforts from a few years back, since it was a collaboration with current US team member Stephanie Cox (the article is based on her senior thesis data from working with me at the University of Portland—a true scholar-athlete!).

But without further ado, here’s a first eleven: Read More

Football Scholar Miscellany: A First Eleven

In the spirit of helping to make the Football Scholars Forum a space for exchanging and enriching scholarly perspectives related to the beautiful game, I suggested the possibility of periodically posting a collection of links to and notes about work or events that might be of interest or use to the group.  After that initial suggestion, however, I’ve realized that I’m not exactly sure what could be of most interest or use.  But as a starting point I’m thinking of something like Arts & Letter Daily, morphed into something like Football & Letters Quarterly (or perhaps Football & Letters Very Periodically).

So my current idea is to periodically (every few months?) post a ‘first eleven’ of works that might provide food for thought to football scholars.  The initial ‘goal’ is to mostly highlight work in the space between peer-reviewed journal articles and casual blog posts—to identify articles, documentary films, books, or other media that offer thoughtful perspectives on football in ways that might just stimulate thought and discussion.  Each post would be intentionally eclectic; not the ‘best eleven,’ but a ‘first eleven’ chosen somewhat randomly in an effort to delve into the rich diversity of what might intrigue a football scholar.

Of course, these types of links are now readily available on blogs, twitter, and elsewhere in electronic clouds—in fact, my pleasure at stumbling across such links amidst otherwise aimless web surfing is why I think this might be worthwhile.  What I find that piques my scholarly interest (in contrast to my fan’s interest—of which there is much!) is often scattered and haphazard, and limited in opportunities to discuss, so perhaps an effort at collecting some together could be useful.  But perhaps not.  The hope is that others interested in the concept might contribute their own concepts, links, and feedback towards however this could prove of interest.  Then we can see what is worth doing.  I’ve already had some feedback that it might be useful in the future to include more journal articles, and I’m going to try to do that next time (I’d also note this post was originally put together a few weeks ago; in fine academic form there’s a bit of a lag effect).  So please leave comments or send thoughts to me at drewguest(at)hotmail.com.  And see how you find this ‘first eleven’:

Read More

World Cup Daily

As Africa prepares to stage its first World Cup, Trevor Nelson travels to South Africa to explore the nation’s passionate relationship with the beautiful game and to confront his own reservations about a country with a history of apartheid.

Peter recommends: “Trevor did a fine job with this documentary piece. One of the best I’ve come across in the media frenzy surrounding the tournament.”