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)  And see how you find this ‘first eleven’:

1)  There have been lots of recent articles and commentary on the scandal in French football around facial quotas.  Excellent coverage and all the essential links are available from former Football Scholar Forum featured author and FSF member Laurent Dubois at his site Soccer Politics (see particularly—and in chronological order—here, here, here, here, and here).

2) The critique of Brazil 2014 seems to be gearing up.  In recent weeks progressive sports commentator Dave Zirin, ESPN feature writer Wright Thompson, and The New York Times have all hit on a theme I suspect we’ll hear a lot about over the next few years: hosting a World Cup creates a vicious tension between global mega-events and local rights.  Note several powerful comments from former Football Scholars Forum featured author and FSF member Christopher Gaffney, including his provocative claim that “Similar to a military invasion, the only way to successfully occupy the country with a mega-event is to bombard people with information, get rid of the undesirables, and launch a media campaign that turns alternative voices into anti-patriotic naysayers who hate sport and ‘progress’.”

3) Speaking of human rights, there have been several articles in recent weeks about the ease with which oft-criticized Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been able to garner (buy?) the support of famous footballers.  This was contextualized in a particularly interesting way in a Spiegel article analyzing how Ruud Gullit—once famous for dedicating his 1987 European Footballer of the Year award to Nelson Mandela—ended up as manager of Kadyrov’s FC Terek Grozny.

4) In a random note from the architecture world, the 2011 Pritzker Prize (the highest honor in world architecture) was awarded to Eduardo Souto de Moura—notable in my mind for designing what may be the most visually striking football stadium in the world: the Estádio Municipal de Braga carved out of a granite quarry.

5) An engaging, creative, and artistic video take on Gareth Bale briefly became an internet sensation recently, to be followed up by a short on “El Clásico.” Does it matter that the work seems to have led to employment with an advertising agency?

6) The ongoing crises in the Middle East and North Africa have generated some fascinating analysis through football—the hub of which seems to have been FSF member James M. Dorsey’s site The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer (Dorsey also has an interesting series on; see here, here, and here).

7) Speaking of sports and national politics, amidst the extensive recent attention to WikiLeaks I almost missed this fascinating compilation of “soccerleaks” put together by James Montague for CNN documenting “how powerful people have tried to harness football for their own ends and how the game has been used by ordinary fans as a crucible of opposition in otherwise restrictive societies” (in Jordan, Eritrea, Iran, Sierra Leone, Bulgaria, and Myanmar).

8) Some interesting thoughts from Danyel Reiche on Lebanese football (and other sports) illustrating ways sports divide as easily as they unite (see, in particular, the extended excerpt in Beruit’s Daily Star).

9) Can a football based soap opera oriented towards themes of conflict resolution really make a difference in countries such as Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Congo, Liberia, Nepal, Palestine, Sierra Leone and Pakistan?  “The responsibility project” seems to think so, but Kathryn Mathers writing at Africa is a Country has a more critical eye.

10) Alex passed along a note about a conference on “International Football: Ideology, Culture, Politics and Everyday Life” in November at the University of West Indies in Jamaica.  If the travel funds allow, it sounds like a great chance to explore football in the Caribbean and beyond (looks like the submission deadline is July 31).

11) Finishing with a recommendation, I’ve just recently stumbled upon the weekly BBC World Service World Football podcast (which is also available on iTunes)—though not specifically focused on scholarly perspectives, it’s the most thoughtful and critical analysis of the global game that I’ve found in a podcast (with recent stories on topics ranging from anti-Semitism to the Indonesian FA).  Does anyone know of other good sources of a similar ilk?

As one final note, I’d hoped to include some interesting pieces relating to the upcoming 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany—but haven’t had much luck finding relevant work (though the always thought provoking From a Left Wing by Jennifer Doyle—facilitator for the most recent Football Scholars Forum—is an excellent starting place).  So, as always, I’m interested in recommendations…

2 thoughts to “Football Scholar Miscellany: A First Eleven”

  1. Thank you Andrew for a terrific piece filled with excellent, juicy stories and links. May it become a regular FSF feature.

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