Football Scholars Miscellany: A First XI Summer Edition

Photo from Creative Commons on Flickr by Sister72

With all the buzz around the upcoming European Championships and the Olympics,  I thought it would be a good time for another installment of Football Scholars Miscellany— a ‘First XI’ of miscellaneous themes and links as food for FSF thought from recent months.  As always, the intention is not to try to cover everything nor to focus on the specifically scholarly. Instead, the intention is to draw from a mix of the scholarly and the broader football world for thoughtful and thought-provoking perspectives. 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) So far, the off-field narrative for the 2012 European Championships seems focused on the political dynamics of the host countries and their fan cultures. The BBC Panorama program ‘Stadiums of Hate’ appears to have created the most buzz, along with analyses of the relationship between the tournament and current Ukrainian politics (here’s an example from Play the Game). On a related topic, a few months back an Economist blog linked to an interesting FIFPro ‘Black Book’ report on the problems players face in eastern European football beyond just the 2012 championships.

2) And what about the financial impact of such big money games? From the skeptical economics department, see this analysis of the Champions League Final and Premier League promotion play-offs. Or, from the less skeptical department, see the reports noted on The Least Thing blog on the Deloitte Football Money League and the Ernst & Young estimates of the 2014 World Cup impact on Brazil.

3) The other major international tournament in recent months was the African Cup of Nations—which also generated interesting questions about the political dimensions of hosting tournaments (see, for example, Jonathan Wilson’s take on whether the leaders of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea should get credit for their hosting). Of course, AFCON was most notable for the dramatic story of Zambia’s underdog run to the championship; discussed by one of our FSF captains Peter Alegi here (with video), by The Guardian here, and by Laurent Dubois here. For a different angle, see Sean Jacobs on Africa is a Country considering the TV commercials related to the tournament, or The Telegraph on the African Cup of Nations for amputee football. And if you want something more scholarly, note the recent special editions of the International Journal of the History of Sport and of Soccer and Society focusing on Africa.

4) The other, sadder, recent topic related to African soccer was the Port Said disaster in Egypt. Again, Africa is a Country offered thoughtful and thought-provoking takes (from Sophia Azeb here with links to other interesting pieces). For American fans the Port Said disaster, and other events in Egypt, have also made for interesting Bob Bradley watching—seeing how the former US coach is adapting to his new environs has been the subject of recent features in the NYTimes and ESPN The Magazine (here and here).

5) From the research department, I’ve recently stumbled across the Football Research in an Enlarged Europe (FREE) project, an interdisciplinary group supported by financial support from the European Framework Programme for Research who are hosting a variety of research conferences including a September 2012 event on ‘The Origins and Birth of a Europe of Football.’ I’ve also seen much activity lately from the International Centre for Sports Studies–which works with FIFA each year to offer the João Havelange research scholarship.

6) Speaking of FIFA, it was interesting to see the ultimate ‘old boys network’ finally add a female executive committee member: The President of the Burundi FA, Lydia Nsekera. The BBC also has an interesting story about another women’s executive taking inspiration from Nsekera in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, the news for women in football was not all good with Women’s Professional Soccer in the US folding.

7) And what would a FIFA mention be without some reference to the ‘reform’ process—here’s an old note on Transparency International giving up on FIFA; a March Simon Kuper take on Mark Pieth and his role as the inside reformer; and a more recent take from The Least Thing grading FIFA reform after their Congress.

8) On a more optimistic note, it was interesting to see a few articles on fan ownership in Germany (see straight from Supporters Direct here and from The Guardian here)—nicely complemented by a special edition of Soccer and Society looking at “Football supporters and the commercialisation of football: comparative responses across Europe.”

9) In other media, the film department has nearly been overwhelmed with trailers and teasers of movies that might be of interest to football scholars. A few examples include: a documentary ‘Beyond the Team’ on the San Francisco Spikes as a “predominantly gay non-profit social organization which provides an opportunity to play soccer in a positive and friendly environment”; a documentary ‘Kei’ on Sierra Leone and MLS striker Kei Kamara; a documentary ‘Over the Wall’ on a British team in Egypt and Palestine in the midst of the Arab Spring; ‘Manyas’ on Club Atlético Peñarol fans; ‘Laduma’ on American fans in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup; ‘From the Streets to the Fields’ on South African children’s experiences of 2010; and, just for fun, ITV’s take on ’20 Goals That Shook the World’. Luckily, football films get a more thorough vetting from the Kicking and Screening festival which is on at the end of the month in New York.

10) A few books have also shown up from the regular library. Examples include a pair from Routledge that are not football specific, but seem to draw heavily on the game: Kevin Young on Sport, Violence and Society (with a cover of the iconic Zidane headbutt – also memorialized recently by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed), and an edited volume on Security Games: Surveillance and Control at Mega-Events. On the American front is the 2011 Distant Corners: American Soccer’s History of Missed Opportunities and Lost Causes by David Wangerin (reviewed here), and Robert Andrew Powell’s journalistic take on the game across the border in Ciudad Juarez (see an excerpt here). Also note the Jimmy Burns book La Roja: A Journey Through Spanish Soccer is now out in the US.

11) And as a final note, one more from by way of the semantics department; a shocking explanation for the origin of ‘nutmeg’ in its football usage (though perhaps not definitive) and a reminder about the intrigue and importance of words.

As always, suggestions, substitutions, replacements, or tactical adjustments are most welcome…enjoy the football summer.