David Goldblatt: The Ball is Round (Part 2) and Beyond

Author, scholar, and journalist David Goldblatt became the second FSF author to visit Michigan State University in person (March 15-16). We had a lively discussion on the second half of his sacred text of football history: The Ball is Round. and learned more about David’s new project on the cultural politics of football in Britain since 1989. Participants included: Alejandro Gonzales, Hikabwa Chipande, Andrew Guest, Ben Dettmar, Aaron Passman, Alex Galarza and Peter Alegi (all with the author in East Lansing), and David Kilpatrick, Ben Healy, Brenda Elsey, Corry Cropper, and Alon Raab via Skype. The recording is available here. Goldblatt’s March 15 talk on football, Britishness, and Englishness is available here.

FSF March – David Goldblatt's The Ball is Round (Part 2)

A reminder that our next session will take place on March 16, 2pm EST. David Goldblatt will join us in East Lansing to discuss the second half of his book, The Ball is Round. Our first session left off at page 479, so anything after that is fair game. A recording of our last discussion centered on the first half of the book can be found here. As always, please RSVP by sending me an email (galarza1 [AT] msu. [DOT] edu) with your Skype name so that I can include you on the call.

For the curious, David also has a fantastic BBC Audio doc series “The Power and the Passion” and LSE Talk “This Sporting Planet: Global Sport and Global Capitalism”

One Giant Leap Day for US Soccer

By David Kilpatrick, DKilpatrick [AT] mercy [DOT] edu

“There are no friendlies in football” is a well-worn cliché of the game, one that supporters of the sport in the United States are resorting to in defense of their enthusiasm for the men’s national team’s 0-1 victory over Italy in Genoa this week.  As any Yank who has ever played overseas knows well, each match – whether pickup or pro – is a battle for respectability.

To be sure, there have been more shocking and significant results in the history of American soccer, from the win over England by the same scoreline in Belo Horizonte at the 1950 World Cup, to the 2-0 win over the defending European and eventual World Champion Spanish side in the semifinal of the 2009 Confederations Cup in Johannesburg.  But this was the first time in eleven efforts that the Americans were able to defeat the Azzurri.  The 1-1 draw between the sides in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup Finals, the US playing much of the match with ten men, may well have been a greater accomplishment, as they were the only side to play but not lose to the eventual champions of that tournament.   While no title was at stake this week, the result would be less impressive if earned on neutral soil; one cannot overstate the significance of Italy suffering their first defeat in Genoa since 1924.
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“We Had it All” — Ray Hudson and "Once in a Lifetime"

once-in-a-lifetimeProfessional soccer in the U.S.A. took center stage at FSF on February 24. Ray Hudson not only braved the “football think-tank,” but also answered questions in the inimitable style he brings to broadcasting a Clásico on GolTV. Using the documentary film Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, FSF discussed Cosmos and the NASL, as well as the representation and construction of history on film. “We had it all, man!” said Hudson looking back fondly to his playing days with the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

Steven Apostolov, David Kilpatrick, Ben Healy, Melissa Forbis, Corry Cropper, Peter Alegi, Ben Dettmar, Hikabwa Chipande, and Alex Galarza participated in the session. The audio recording of the conversation is here.

FSF is holding its next online session on March 16, 2pm EST. Author David Goldblatt will be in East Lansing, Michigan, to discuss the second half of his book, The Ball is Round. FSF’s discussion of the first installment is here. For more information, contact Alex Galarza: galarza1[AT]msu[DOT]edu

FSF February 24 2pm – Once in a Lifetime

Our next session is less than a month away. Clive Toye and Ray Hudson will be joining us to discuss the film Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos. The session will be held on Friday, February 24, at 2pm Eastern Time. The film will be an excellent launching point to discuss not just the Cosmos and NASL, but also the representation and construction of sport history on film. Clive Toye’s book, A Kick in the Grass, also discusses the history of the NASL and would be worth perusing before the session.
I would also remind everyone that we are building a film repository. This project can be a great success with the group’s contributions in the form of annotations and adding titles.


As always, please let me know ASAP if you plan on attending so that I can include you for the Skype conversation (please include your username).

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