Women’s Football: Global Perspectives

FSF’s last session of the year featured a wide-ranging discussion of women’s soccer. Discussion focused on three posts written by Jean Williams, Martha Saavedra, Gwen Oxenham, and a co-written piece by Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel. The posts and conversations centered on local contexts for fútbol femenino, mixed football, a possible boycott of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and strategies to connect our academic expertise on the women’s game to journalistic coverage.

Participants: Alon Raab, Brenda Elsey, Brian Bunk, Danyel Reiche, Gwen Oxenham, Hikabwa Chipande, Jean Williams, Joshua Nadel, Laurent Dubois, Lindsay Krasnoff, Martha Saavedra, Melissa Forbis, Roger Kittleson, Steven Apostolov, Liz Timbs, Peter Alegi, and Alex Galarza.

Audio can be downloaded here, and the four posts are below:

Martha Saavedra – A Pitch of Her Own
Gwen Oxenham – The National Teams We Know Nothing About
Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel – Marimachos*: On Women’s Football in Latin America
Jean Williams – When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

A Pitch of Her Own

Author (standing, first from left) with Ethiopia's national women's team. National Stadium, Addis Ababa, 2011. Photo: Saavedra.

Author (standing, first from left) with Ethiopia’s national women’s team. National Stadium, Addis Ababa, 2011. Photo: Saavedra.

By Martha Saavedra

Martha Saavedra is Associate Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of California Berkeley. Trained as a Political Scientist, she has taught at St. Mary’s College of California, UC Berkeley, Ohio University and the Escuela de Estudios Universitarios Real Madrid. Her research has ranged from agrarian politics, development and ethnic conflict in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to gender and sport in Africa to a collaborative project on representations of Africa in Chinese popular culture. She has been on the editorial boards of Soccer and Society; Sport in Society; and Impumelelo: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Sports in Africa. A veteran of Title IX battles, she has played soccer for over 30 years and coached boys teams for 12 years.


On Tuesday at the University of California, Berkeley, I attended a panel discussion on Gender for a New Century: Countering Violence and Social Exclusions. The panel focused on important issues that the international community will be addressing in 2015 via United Nations’ assessments of efforts derived from the Millennium Development Goals and the Beijing Platform for Action frameworks. Faculty from UCB raised a number of really important topics including transnational labor markets, migration, sustainability, water & sanitation, disability rights, 2+ genders systems, culturally embedded gender-based violence, economic policy implications, nationalism and education. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UN Women, the featured speaker, responded to these points and suggested how gender might be addressed given the convergence at the UN of post-2015 MDG and Beijing 20+ discussions. It was an invigorating discussion setting out important aspirations, points of leverage, and boundaries for upcoming high level and impactful debates. Yet, nary was intimated about sport, physical activity, or, that all important endeavor, football.

Earlier that day in the office, before the gender event, a couple of us watched the United Nations sponsored ‘Africa United’ videos on youtube featuring Idris Elba as well as Carlton Cole, Yaya Touré, Andros Townsend, Patrick Vieira, Kei Kamara and Fabrice Muamba. (Also dubbed in Krio and French.) You’ve got to watch them if you love football, and ‘007 Idris, and if you are at all involved in efforts to confront the fears, misconceptions and realities of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Idris says “Its key strength is passing.” How can you not believe? “We are not heroes.” The health workers – “you are the true heroes”. The world’s most important team. Kudos to them. Not much to argue with there. But, of course, the UN does not call upon women footballers to help carry this message.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The National Teams We Know Nothing About

FBL-WOMEN-ECU-TTO

By Gwen Oxenham

Gwen Oxenham is the author of Finding the Game and coproducer of the documentary film Pelada. A Duke University soccer alum, she played professionally for Santos FC in Brazil in 2005. Gwen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame and currently teaches English and plays in pickup games in Southern California.


In 2004, I played futebol feminino for Santos FC. We hitchhiked to practice, shared our field with a horse, slept four or five girls to a room, wore XL hand-me-downs from the men, did plyometrics over make-shift cardboard hurdles and often ran sprints on the main highway, occupying a lane, cars swerving around us.

This experience made me wonder about the women’s football happening in the rest of the world: If this was what futebol feminino looked like in Brazil, the mecca of futebol, what does the women’s game look like in other countries? What’s it like to be a female player in Ecuador? In Côte d’Ivoire? In Argentina? Like Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel noted in “Marimachos: On Women’s Football in Latin America,” television networks and newspapers are slow to cover even big events like World Cup qualifying tournaments. If media outlets don’t even cover outcomes, how little is out there about the actual experiences of women footballers?

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Marimachos*: On Women’s Football in Latin America

IMG_5149.JPG

By Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel

Dr. Brenda Elsey is an associate professor of history at Hofstra University and the author of Citizens and Sportsmen: Fútbol and Politics in Twentieth Century Chile. Follow her on twitter @politicultura. Dr. Joshua Nadel is assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean history and associate director of the Global Studies Program at North Carolina Central University. His book Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America was published in 2014. Follow him on twitter @jhnadel


Not to complain, but it’s not easy to be a feminist and a scholar of sports. On the one hand, many researchers are hostile to feminist scholarship. On the other hand, many feminist scholars express disgust at the mere mention of studying sport, seeing it as an overdetermined site of sexism. Even scholars who have embraced the study of masculinity and recognize the importance of gender often neglect to discuss how it shapes women’s lives. In practice, this has meant that men remain the protagonists of history.

In Latin America, there is a further criticism from our peers. Some argue that feminism is an imperialist imposition, an import that has distracted from the need to analyze economic and political inequalities, despite the fact that gender is a prime determinant of one’s position in both of those hierarchies. It is surprising how otherwise critical and brilliant minds react to this work. Several of the reactions can be grouped and, when taken seriously, reveal important assumptions that need to be overturned. In her excellent post, Jean Williams mentions similar misconceptions. We think it’s worth reflecting on them at length.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Two Elephants Fight, It is the Grass That Suffers

Williams_Blatter

A meeting of two great football minds

Dr. Jean Williams is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for Sporting History and Culture De Montfort University in Leicester England. Having written on women’s football since 1998, Jean has recently published A Contemporary History of Women’s Sport 1850-1960 (Routledge, 2014). She is currently writing Send Her Victorious: A History of Britain’s Women Olympians 1900-2014 (Manchester UP, 2015).

In 1998 I spent some time in Namibia for the second World Conference on Women in Sport. I had a dual purpose to collect information on women’s football in Namibia for my PhD thesis and to raise my awareness of the issues facing African women who wanted to participate in sport. Several national women’s football teams were represented at the conference and they met as a group to protest at the lack of support from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the world governing body of football. Being present at the meeting of the African women’s national teams and FIFA representatives, I was invited to advise FIFA how the Women Sport International 1994 Brighton Declaration on Women’s Sport, a commitment to increase the number and visibility of women in world sport, could be applied specifically to international football. My research therefore anticipated pledges to increase gender equity in the football industry. The Los Angeles Declaration on Women’s Football was launched at the second FIFA World Symposium to coincide with the Los Angeles Women’s World Cup in 1999.  At the symposium, my academic work was showcased on a panel with presentations from the head of the Football Association of PR China, Zhang Jilong; the French Minister for Sport, Marie George Buffet and Anita De Frantz, a Vice President of the International Olympic Committee. All 203 FIFA member national associations attended, with over 500 delegates. It seemed like real change was about to come for women’s football and I was optimistic.

I was a little daunted about telling all those FIFA representative countries assembled at the symposium in 1999 about the institutionalized nature of sexism in the world game. In the end I should not have worried. I only spoke fifteen minutes and it was not as if my audience were going to be enlightened or challenged by my presentation. Kevan Pipe of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) was one of the most supportive and friendly of the national representatives in LA. Some years later, I applauded the decision to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, thinking of Kevan’s support for women’s soccer.  However, he has since retired from the CSA and I became gradually aware that some of the institutional attitudes towards women’s soccer I had spoken out against in 1999 were still very much in evidence almost sixteen years later.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Indiana Jones of Fútbol Journalism

FSFMontagueChristened the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism” by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, James Montague had barely survived the interminable journey from Australia to London only to plunge into a place without time or space–the Football Scholars Forum online.

What ensued was a vigorous discussion of his 2014 book Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey. Montague revealed the African sources of inspiration for the project; the challenges of writing an ambitious travelogue on the unglamorous edges of world football; the pleasures of lessons learned and insights gained. One big surprise sprung by the Skype conversation and Twitter backchannel was the discovery of Next Goal Wins, a documentary film about American Samoa’s World Cup team chronicled so evocatively in 31-Nil. (Click here to watch the trailer.)

Participants: Danyel Reiche, Alex Galarza, Roger Kittleson, Andrew Guest, David Kilpatrick, Martha Saavedra, Chris Henderson, Tony Adedze, Steven Apostolov, Alejandro Gonzales, Liz Timbs, and Peter Alegi.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the session.

Here’s a Storify version of the event on Twitter:

 

FSF’s next session is a roundtable on the state of the women’s game internationally, on the pitch and in the literature. The discussion will pivot around pre-circulated blog posts on this website by Jean Williams (@JeanMWilliams), Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental), Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Brenda Elsey (@politicultura) and others. The event will take place during the week of December 9-11, with a final date and time to be determined soon!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Brand Brazil: Past as Prologue

Brasilidade, class, gender, futebol força versus futebol arte, tropical modernity, the 2014 World Cup, and globalizing “brand Brazil” were just some of the topics discussed in the Football Scholars Forum’s inaugural event of 2014-15 with historian Roger Kittleson.

Joining the author of The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil, were: Danyel Reiche, Christoph Wagner, Lindsay Krasnoff, David Kilpatrick, Rwany Sibaja, Andrew Guest, Brenda Elsey, Javier Pescador, Austin Long, Chris Henderson (all via Skype), and Nubia Rodrigues, Liz Timbs, David Glovsky, Alejandro Gonzales, and Peter Alegi in the Michigan State University History Department‘s new LEADR Digital Lab.

Many thanks to Liz Timbs for this Storify version of the event on Twitter:

 

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the session.

FSF’s next event is on October 30 (time TBD). James Montague (@JamesPiotr), aka the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism,” will participate in a discussion of his new book Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Kittleson’s The Country of Football To Open 2014-15 Season

9780520279094With the 2014 World Cup circus come and gone, and students beckoning, it’s time to announce the fall schedule for the 2014-15 season of the Football Scholars Forum.

Our first session picks up where Germany left off, in Brazil! On September 25, 3pm Eastern Time (-5 GMT), historian Roger Kittleson (@rogerkittleson) joins us to discuss his new book The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil.

To participate in the 90-minute Skype session, please send Alex Galarza (galarza.alex AT gmail.com) your Skype name (if Alex doesn’t already have it) so you can be added to the call.

In our second event, on October 30 (time TBD), we are pleased to welcome the “Indiana Jones of soccer journalism” (Grant Wahl’s words): James Montague (@JamesPiotr), author of Thirty-One-Nil: On the Road With Football’s Outsiders: A World Cup Odyssey.

The third session will consist of a roundtable on the state of women’s football internationally. It will take place during the week of December 9-11, just after the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw (on Dec. 6). Jean Williams (@JeanMWilliams), Martha Saavedra (@tricontinental), Gwendolyn Oxenham, and Brenda Elsey (@politicultura) are among the confirmed participants who will pre-circulate blog posts on this website to spark discussion and stimulate debate.

The schedule for spring 2015 is also coming along nicely. More news on that front as it becomes available. See you on the pitch!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Post-Hofstra: Now for an unconference!

DSC_0783Brenda Elsey and Stanislao Pugliese deserve congratulations and thanks for organizing “Soccer as the Beautiful Game: Football’s Artistry, Identity, and Politics”, one of the largest and most important conferences on studying the sport ever held. Assembling many of the field’s most dynamic and productive figures in one place warrants praise alone, but the quality of ideas exchanged and setting a successful precedent for this sort of thing is even better. A few highlights:

David Goldblatt’s keynote on the urgent need to reform soccer was a sharp, inspiring, and necessary critique of the game’s governing bodies and surrounding culture. David began by pointing to the problematic reality that the game is governed at the local FA and international (FIFA) in a corrupt and secretive largely by men who aren’t representative of the sport’s constituents (especially when considering gender and practitioners). He also brought up the pervasiveness of match-fixing and rampant commercialization that fails to channel profit into grassroots development.

Pelé’s honorary degree conferral had me excited before the conference, but while at Hofstra his visit felt like more of a distraction. The star arrived forty minutes late to the ceremony, delivered a short speech, and left. I did not attend the banquet, though I did hear it wasn’t terribly exciting. At the following morning FSF panel, I couldn’t help but relate the underwhelming presence of Pelé to Simon Kuper’s biting critique of the awe fans, journalists, and academics hold for players and the spectacle of professional soccer. Kuper’s message was direct and simple; as academics we need to bring analysis and critique to our studies rather than fandom. It’s a message I can get behind, though I think there is a place for fandom, awe, and an appreciate of the ludic elements of even the professional game and its varied ties to society across the globe.

Indeed, Peter and I planned that very FSF panel around the idea of a scholarly pickup game, a free-flowing discussion in which we would discuss our previously circulated posts and talk to the audience about anything related to academics and journalists covering soccer. The discussion was lively, at times heated, and was the most fruitful exchange of the conference from my personal perspective. Folks producing digital scholarship will be familiar with the THATCamp model, one in which folks assemble an ‘un-conference’ in which participants show up, suggest ideas for sessions, and break off into groups to get busy talking and doing. A fantastic next step for futbologists, as Peter might call us, would be to take the most interesting points of overlap from Hofstra and hold an unconference to get work done on those points. Such an unconference could only finish by repeating the joyful pickup at the end of the conference that left me smiling all the way back to Argentina. ¡gracias a todos!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

FSF at Hofstra Soccer Conference

FSF_backdrop2
Storify of the Football Scholars Forum on Academic vs. Journalistic Writing About the Game. Featuring: Simon Kuper, Grant Wahl, John Foot, Brenda Elsey, Alex Galarza, Peter Alegi, and Chuck Korr.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment