Africa's World Cup Opens 2013-14 FSF Season

AfricasWorldCup_Cover 2The Football Scholars Forum is pleased to announce the opening of its new season on Thursday, October 24, at 3:30pm Eastern Time (8:30pm GMT). We will read and critique Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann’s Africa’s World Cup: Critical Reflections on Play, Patriotism, Spectatorship, and Space (University of Michigan Press, 2013). You can hear more about the edited book in Peter’s interview with New Books in Sports.

As is customary with FSF, the editors, as well as several chapter authors, will participate in a live 90-minute session that takes place simultaneously in East Lansing, Michigan, and online. If you would like to participate in the Skype discussion, please contact Alex Galarza (galarza[DOT]alex[AT] with your Skype name (if Alex doesn’t already have it). Members are also encouraged to email questions to Alex before October 24.

On November 14, we will discuss FSF member Alon Raab’s special issue/edited volume on “Soccer in the Middle East” published in Soccer and Society (2012). In December, the focus shifts to football publications in a digital age, with special guest Jonathan Wilson, fútbol journalist, author, and editor of the quarterly magazine The Blizzard.

Quantifying Fútbol: Soccernomics with Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper

Soccernomics has been called “the Barcelona of football books” and the “Moneyball of soccer.” On Tuesday, April 16, FSF discussed this influential book with the authors: Stefan Szymanski (in East Lansing) and Simon Kuper (via Skype). One of the most important questions asked was: How does the introduction of big data and “soccer analytics” change our understanding of fútbol clubs, fans, and nations? The forum also featured intriguing comparisons between Western Europe and the United States. Joining the authors were: Andrew Guest, Brian Bunk, Christoph Wagner, Corry Cropper, David Kilpatrick, James Dorsey, Mark Siegel, Hikabwa Chipande,  Christian Orlic, Benjamin Dettmar, Peter Demopoulos, Steven Apostolov, Tom McCabe, Alex Galarza, and Peter Alegi. Listen to the audio from the session here. (For educational/personal use only.)

FSF April: Soccernomics

soccernomicsOn Tuesday, April 16, at 2pm Eastern Time (11am Pacific, 7pm GMT), FSF will meet to discuss Soccernomics by Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper.

Combining an economist’s brain with a sports writer’s skill, the book applies serious data analysis to everyday soccer topics, revealing counterintuitive truths about the professional game and offering a potentially revolutionary way of looking at fútbol.

Stefan Szymanski will join us here in East Lansing for the session. He is the Stephen J. Galetti Professor of Sport Management at the University of Michigan. He started researching the economics of professional football in 1989, and has since come to spend his entire time researching the economics and business of sport. He has published extensively on sports related subjects, acted as a consultant to sport governing bodies and national governments, and appeared in court as an expert witness on the economics of sport. Szymanski is a founding partner, with Simon Kuper and Ben Lyttleton, of the Soccernomics consultancy.

Members who would like to participate in the online Skype discussion should contact Alex Galarza (galarza [dot] alex [at] gmail [dot] com) with your Skype name as he will be running the show.

Going Local: U.S. Soccer History

USMNT-1916bOn Tuesday, February 26, FSF grappled with the works by Steven Apostolov, Gabe Logan, and Tom McCabe on the history of American soccer in Massachusetts, Chicago, and northern New Jersey.

David Kilpatrick, official historian of the New York Cosmos, skillfully moderated the 90-minute online conversation. Joining the authors and discussant were: Melissa Forbis, Alejandro Gonzalez, Hikabwa Chipande, Lindsay Krasnoff, David Keyes, Brenda Elsey, Brian Bunk, Andrew Guest, Peter Alegi, and Alex Galarza.

Listen to the audio from the session here. (For educational/personal use only.)

FSF cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Alex Galarza with his PhD advisor (and FSF member) Ed Murphy
Alex Galarza with his PhD advisor (and FSF member) Ed Murphy

The Football Scholars Forum has garnered national media attention as a venue for innovative and collaborative scholarship. On February 11, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a feature article on rethinking doctoral dissertations that quoted FSF co-founder Alex Galarza, a PhD. student in history at Michigan State University.  Click here to check out his prototype for a digital dissertation on soccer clubs of the 1950s and 60s in Buenos Aires.


What Will it Take for Women's Pro Soccer to Survive?

On Wednesday, December 5, at 3:30pm EST, our final “game” of the 2012 season will feature Jun Stinson’s short film, The 90th Minute.

The 20-minute documentary follows three members of FC Gold Pride, the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer champions. The film sheds light on what it’s like to be a female professional soccer player in the U.S. — a dream that has become more elusive after the demise of the WPS.

Why are Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and others struggling to play professionally in their country? Why have two pro women’s soccer leagues failed since the heady days of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the 1999 Women’s World Cup? What needs to happen for a new women’s league in the U.S. to be sustainable? How does the situation in the U.S. compare with international trends?

Unfortunately, Jun Stinson is unable to join us for the session. However, Peter Alegi interviewed Jun on the film and asked a few questions on behalf of the group. To listen to Peter’s interview with the director, click here. We are pleased that Gwen Oxenham, former Duke and Santos player and one of the producers of the film Pelada , will join us for a terrific season finale!

Send Alex Galarza (galarza1 [at] msu [dot] edu) your Skype name to be included in the call. Alex can also email you the link and password to view the film.

Update: On November 21, “U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced the launch of a women’s professional league which will start play in March,” according to ESPN. Read more about it here and here.

From Aristotle to Zidane: Soccer and Philosophy

PhilosophyOn Wednesday, November 7, at 1pm EST (the day after the U.S. presidential election), the Football Scholars Forum will convene to discuss Ted Richards’s edited book Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game. This session promises to expand the horizons of those of us whose knowledge of the intersections of philosophy and football is limited to Monty Python’s famously hilarious “Germany vs. Greece” video.

“This book is a delight,” Simon Kuper notes, “and it taught me more philosophy than I learned in my entire time at university.”

Ted Richards, “a philosopher who loves soccer,” will be joining the conversation via Skype, along with chapter authors David Kilpatrick and Jesús Ilundáin. We have selected several chapters to discuss, though participants are free to delve as deeply into the book as they wish. The selected chapters are:

•    Stephen Minister, “What’s Wrong with Negative Soccer?”
•    John Foster, “Tell Me How You Play and I’ll Tell You Who You Are”
•    Victor Durà-Vilà, “Why Playing Beautifully is Morally Better”
•    David Kilpatrick, “Nietzsche’s Arsenal”
•    Jesús Ilundáin and Cesar Torres, “Embellishing the Ugly Side”

Please RSVP by emailing your Skype name to Alex Galarza (galarza1 AT msu DOT edu) so that you can be included in the online call.

Globalizing "El Tri": Mexican fans in the U.S.A.

Our inaugural meeting of 2012-13 was an exciting affair. It revolved around Javier Pescador’s new work on Mexican fans of “El Tri” in the United States. The uses of wrestling masks, Aztec symbols, churros and other markers of Mexican-ness demonstrate some of the ways in which fans are helping to transform the Mexican national team into a global brand.

The discussion covered many important topics and themes, including youth soccer, commercial and media imperatives, differences between Mexico-based and U.S.-based fan experiences, club vs. national team tensions (in MLS, for example), and the sources and methodology informing this research. Pescador’s Flickr photostream here is worth checking out.

Participants: Alejandro Gonzales, Hikabwa Chipande, Ben Smith, Ed Murphy, and Peter Alegi (all with the author in East Lansing); David Keyes, Corry Cropper, Melissa Forbis, Ana Paula Martinez, Andrew Guest, Sean Jacobs, Chris Bolsmann, and David Kilpatrick (via Skype).

Listen to the audio recording here. (For educational/personal use only.)

2012-13 Season Gets Underway: Mexican Fans in the U.S. & the "El Tricolor" Brand

On Wednesday, September 26, at 1pm EDT, historian Juan Javier Pescador (Michigan State University) will participate in a discussion of his paper entitled “Global Fútbol, the Masked Fan and Flat Screen Arenas: Mexican Soccer Communities in the United States and the Genesis of the Tricolor Brand in Global Landscapes, 1970-2012.”

This paper analyzes the profile, evolution and transformation of Mexican soccer communities in the United States in the context of current globalization processes that are redefining national identities, recreational activities, ideals of youth and manhood, and consumer practices among people of Mexican origin or descent in the United States. Focusing on the interactions and connections U.S. Mexican soccer communities have developed with the Mexican national team and with the increasingly dominant Big Time sports global media, this study discusses new ways of producing and framing Mexican nationalist symbols in global arenas with significant and unexpected consequences.

The session, as is our custom, will be physically held in East Lansing, Michigan, and live online via Skype. For a copy of the paper and to participate online please contact Peter Alegi at alegi [at] msu [dot] edu and provide your Skype name.

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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