Gender and the Selling of Women’s Pro Soccer

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The second FSF session of 2019 featured sociologist Rachel Allison, author of an engaging new book titled, Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer.

The conversation delved into the team at the heart of the book and then examined various aspects of the marketing of WPS—the second women’s pro soccer league in the United States—as well as its social context and audiences. The book’s themes of race, class, gender, sexuality, and social media were explored in detail. The discussion also brought out continuities and changes between the defunct WPS and its successor, the NWSL, now in its seventh season.

For her next project, Allison will be traveling to the 2019 Women’s World Cup to conduct a study of women’s soccer fandom. This exciting new work is funded by a prestigious FIFA-CIES research scholarship.

Participants included: Andrew Guest, Adam Winkel, David Kilpatrick, Steven Apostolov, Danyel Reiche, Titi Kou, Todd Cleveland, Chris Henderson, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to an audio recording of the session below.

Eusebio and Beyond: Afro-Portugal

On February 26, Todd Cleveland joined us for a discussion of his book, Following the Ball: The Migration of African Soccer Players across the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1949-1975 (Ohio University Press, 2017).

Cleveland grappled with questions about different aspects of his multifaceted and player-centered history of migration to Portugal from African colonies such as Mozambique and Angola. Cleveland, a social and labor historian of Africa at the University of Arkansas, explained his use of archival and oral sources, and stressed how African soccer migrants, despite many challenges under colonial rule, managed to find ways to negotiate a better life for themselves in Portugal.

Participants included: Danyel Reiche, Martha Saavedra, Michelle Sikes, Jacob Fredericks, Tianyi “Titi” Kou, Andrew Guest, and Peter Alegi.

Below is an audio recording of the session.

Portugal and Africa: Football, Empire, and Migration

FSF’s first session of 2019 takes place on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 1pm US Eastern Time (-5 GMT). Historian Todd Cleveland joins us to discuss his recent book Following the Ball: The Migration of African Soccer Players across the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1949–1975.

For free access to the book’s introduction click here, and for a journal article that provides a sample of the book’s main argument and its rich evidence click here.

Please RSVP to alegi AT msu DOT edu to participate in the Zoom call.

Looking ahead: our next session is scheduled for March 26 at 2pm US Eastern Time. We will welcome sociologist Rachel Allison (@rallis2 on Twitter), author of Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer. An ideal read in the build up to the 2019 Women’s World Cup!

It’s Football, Not Soccer

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Stefan Szymanski and Silke-Maria Weineck, authors of It’s Football, Not Soccer, joined the Football Scholars Forum on December 13 for the final session of 2018.

The discussion raised a number of interesting issues and questions, from historical usage of “soccer” vs “football” in US and UK media to American exceptionalism, regionalism, gender, psychology, and market logic.

Participants: Rachel Allison, Andrew Guest, Tarminder Kaur, David Kilpatrick, Adam Winkel, Chris Gaffney, Tom McCabe, Chris Henderson, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to a recording of the session below.

The Away Game

Author and former AP Islamabad bureau chief Sebastian Abbot joined FSF on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, for a discussion of his first book: The Away Game: The Epic Search for Soccer’s Next Superstars.

The online conversation delved into multiple aspects of the book’s descriptions of Aspire’s global network linking West Africa, the Persian Gulf and Europe. Topics discussed included age cheating, Qatari power, the complexity of academies, the role of socio-economic forces, and education’s place in elite sport development.

Participants: Tom McCabe, Brian Wesaala, Danyel Reiche, Andrew Guest, Liz Timbs, Itamar Dubinsky, Gerard Akindes, and Peter Alegi. Listen to audio of the session below.


Next FSF session: December 13, 2pm US Eastern Time, featuring Stefan Szymanski & Silke-Maria Weineck, authors of It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Viceversa) [link]. RSVPs to Peter Alegi [alegi AT msu DOT edu].

2018-19 Season Opener with Amy Bass

The 2018-19 season of the Football Scholars Forum opened on Tuesday, September 25, with a discussion of Amy Bass’s new book, One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together.

The genesis of the book, which has been described as in the tradition of Friday Night Lights and Outcasts United, goes back to this article Bass wrote for CNN in 2015 about Somali immigrants in Lewiston, Maine, playing for Lewiston High School’s Blue Devils.

The Emmy-winning author and historian was joined by Andrew Guest, Lindsay Krasnoff, Liz Timbs, Tom McCabe, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi. The FSF conversation shed light on a number issues, including the author’s methodology and writing process, as well as race, language, immigration, community dynamics, and youth soccer. We look forward to the Netflix version of this remarkable soccer story in the near future.

Click here for an audio recording of the session.

FSF 2018-19 Schedule

Announcing FSF’s 2018-19 “Apertura” season!

  • September 25, 3pm: Amy Bass, One Goal: A Coach, a Team, and the Game That Brought a Divided Town Together [link]
  • October 17, 2pm: Sebastian Abbot, The Away Game: The Epic Search for Soccer’s Next Superstars [link]
  • December 13, 2pm: Stefan Szymanski & Silke-Maria Weineck, It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Viceversa) [link]

To participate in these online events, please contact Peter Alegi (alegi AT msu DOT edu).

Laurent Dubois’ The Language of the Game

FSF held its sixth and final session of the 2017-18 season on Thursday, April 26th.

The group welcomed longtime FSF member Laurent Dubois, Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University, to discuss his new book, The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer ”a passionate and engaging introduction to soccer’s history, tactics, and human drama.” The session was made more special by the fact that the author graciously included FSF in the book’s acknowledgments!

Dubois provided background on the book’s genesis and the way that his teaching, blogging, and writing for a broad audience shaped it. The group discussion touched on the structure of Language of the Game, video assisted refereeing (VAR), soccer in the classroom, and writing style.

Participants included: Andrew Guest, Andrew Lee, Melissa Forbis, Lindsay Krasnoff, Adam Winkel, Patrick Ridge, Danyel Reiche, Anakwa Dwamena, Shawn Stein, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi.

Listen to the recording here.

#FSFSocrates – Andrew Downie on a Brazilian Legend


On Friday, March 23, FSF held its second session of 2018. Andrew Downie, author of Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend joined the group to discuss his 2017 biography of the Brazilian. Chris Gaffney, a longtime FSF member whose book Temples of the Earthbound Gods was the subject of a 2010 FSF session, stepped seamlessly into a moderator role for Andrew’s book.

Andrew opened his comments on his book by citing his longtime Hibs fandom and experiences working with Sócrates’ unpublished memoirs. That manuscript, alongside Andrew’s research and interviews, was a central pillar of the group discussion. Our conversation also touched on Sócrates’ personal life, his legacy, contemporary soccer politics in Brazil, and the book’s reception amongst an English-speaking audience.

During the conversation, Andrew mentioned a book recently published by Sócrates’ widow and the footballer’s collection of columns for Carta Capital magazine.

Participants included Shawn Stein, Alex Galarza, Peter Alegi, Andrew Guest, Roger Kittleson, Chad Black, and Anakwa Dwamena.

Listen here.

FSF Socrates

Doctor Socrates book coverWHAT: Intellectual pelada with Andrew Downie, author of Doctor Socrates. Moderated by Dr. Christopher Gaffney.

WHEN: Friday, March 23, 2pm US Eastern Time

WHERE: FSF sessions take place online via Zoom.


To participate in the session, send an RSVP to Alex Galarza (galarza.alex AT gmail).

See you on the pitch!