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Intersectionality Meets Football

November 23, 2010 — by Ryan1


The Collision of Ethnicity, Class, and Memory in My Father and Other Working Class Football Heroes

If one believes the authors of Soccernomics, the provincialism of the nation’s working class remains one of the maladies plaguing English football. Though the authors acknowledge England’s creeping post war “embourgeoisement”, working class attitudes continued to dominate footballing circles and not necessarily for the better. In America, football depends largely on the middle class, but in England, for much of its sporting history, working class culture produced the vast majority of players. Soccernomics laments this development, suggesting the exclusion of the nation’s middle classes from competitive soccer acts as a “brake” on England’s international hopes. Furthermore, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that the provincial proletarian mindset continues to bedevil the sport. Pointing to the insights of Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson as evidence, Britain’s working class players subscribe to a theory of work in which they are “entitled” to a couple pints every night (provided they’ve put in an honest day’s work), not to mention the semi-frequent Saturday night bender. Ferguson identifies this belief system as a direct result of “the shift worker’s mentality”. How very Scottish.

The authors are not completely unkind. They point to long traditions of self education among working peoples, the rise in college attendance among the general British public, and the blame that the middle and upper classes deserve for the wayward educational opportunities of England’s proletariat, yet despite these examples “the anti-intellectual attitudes that the soccer administrators encountered do seem to be widespread in the English game,” write the authors, “These attitudes may help explain why English managers and English players are not known for thinking about soccer.” [21] For many players and managers, education serves as a mark of suspicion rather than achievement; Kuper and Szymanski label this the “anti-educational requirement.”[22] While Soccernomics points to many truths about the game, it is not the rosetta stone of football. The book is sometimes guilty of ahistoricism (or at the very least flawed periodization that doesn’t always fully reveal all the nuances and turns of their subject’s narrative) and economic determinism (which some fairly point out should not be a surprise considering its title). The question is, how to get at these slippages?


Guardian Football’s World XI

October 25, 2010 — by Suman

Guardian Football has been doing a “World XI” series over the last couple weeks: “To mark Diego Maradona’s 50th and Pelé’s 70th birthdays, Guardian writers and readers set out to choose the greatest football team of all time.”

Here is the side chosen by the Guardian readership:

Guardian Football's readers' World XI

The odd man in is of course Steven Gerrard:

Looking at this World XI one name will immediately jump out at you: Steven Gerrard. He’s good, but is he really that good? The rest of the World XI is probably, give or take a personal favourite or two, the team most people would eventually choose. But how did Gerrard make it into the middle?

Click thru on the image to read all about it.


A Premier League Preview

August 5, 2010 — by John Lally

The 19th Premier League season begins on August 14th with an exciting round of opening fixtures, including last season’s 4th and 5th placed teams, Tottenham vs. Manchester City, and two of the “traditional” big 4 squaring off when Liverpool play Arsenal on Sunday 15th. I say “traditional” because it’s good to remember that things weren’t always like this.

Nowadays, the Premier League is the biggest league in the world with huge television revenues and very little turnover in terms of who competes for the title or finishes in the top 4 spots, which bring with them Champions’ League qualification and more money to boot.  But this oligarchic nature of the top flight of English football is a product of the Premier League structure rather than something that has always been in existence.  In its first season, the Premiership looked much different, and was a lot less predictable.


Soccer in Sun & Shadow: A Brief History of Uruguayan Football

July 6, 2010 — by Suman3

"Soccer in Sun & Shadow" by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano

“Other countries have their history. And Uruguay has its football.” -Ondino Viera, Uruguayan national coach during the 1966 World Cup

On the surface, it appears that among the 4 remaining teams, Uruguay is the minnow, the surprise. No one really expected them to be playing today–some even doubted whether they would advance from their group, given that they were placed with two purported soccer powers in Mexico and France, as well as the host South African side.

But from another perspective, this is a return to the sun for Uruguayan football, after decades spent in the shadows.

Consider that of the remaining semifinalists, Holland and Spain have never won the World Cup (perhaps the two greatest footballing nations never to have won), and while Germany has won 3 times (as West Germany, actually: twice as hosts, in 1954 and 1974, and again in 1990), Uruguay is right behind them, having won twice, in 1930 and 1950.


Brilliant Orange: A Brief History of Dutch Football

July 6, 2010 — by Suman4


[Editor’s note: this post was written the morning of Friday July 2, prior to Holland’s upset of Brazil. We will need to update this post for Friday’s victory–the most significant in Dutch history at least since dramatic quarterfinal win over Argentina in 1998 (see video below), and perhaps since winning Euro ’88 over the USSR.]

Today’s first quarterfinal match may just be the most anticipated of the bunch–Brazil vs. Holland.  It’s a contest between two great footballing nations, both known over the decades for playing beautiful football–technically precise, individually and tactically creative, seemingly able to maintain possession as long as they want–and for producing some of the greatest players of all time.  From Brazil: Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Romario, Garrincha, and of course Pele. From the Netherlands: Ruud van Nistelroy, Denis Bergkamp, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, and the greatest and original Dutch master, Johan Cryuff.

Where Brazil and Holland differ, of course, is in their records of World Cup success.  Brazil has won the Cup five times, more than any other nation–in 1958, 1966, 1970 (those three with Pele on the squad), 1994, and 2002.

By way of comparison, Italy has won four times, Germany three (twice as West Germany), Argentina and Uruguay twice each, and England and France once each.

Conspicuously absent from that list is Holland.  The Dutch have come close–twice in a row finishing in 2nd place, both times losing to the hosts: to West Germany in 1974 and to Argentina in 1978, and advancing to the semifinals in 1998, only to lose to Brazil in a penalty shootout.


Germany v England: A Primer

June 24, 2010 — by Sean10

England and Germany have played one another for more than a century, but it was only after WWII that the tensions really showed. The origins of the bad blood do in fact reach back before the conflict, to the rise of the Nazi party and a friendly played in Berlin before 100,000 fans. The English squad were given commands to perform a Nazi salute before the game, which they did, at the time not particularly caring one way or another. Looking back, it’s a sure sore spot. By the by, that 1938 matchup ended in a win for the lions.

War and interim friendlies aside, we come to the World Cup final of 1966, played in Wembley between England and the newish West Germany.