When I began my research for my project, I was very optimistic about the role that primary sources would play in my sources. Much like Sebastian Conrad examined the role of work in his study of migration in 19th Century Germany, my initial idea was to focus on transoceanic tours and examine their role in the rise of football around the globe as a spectator sport, and this examination would rely very heavily on newspaper articles. I actually had a lead on a particular Argentinian newspaper called Crítica that extensively covered Argentinian club Boca Juniors’ 1925 tour of Europe from Paul Dietschy’s article on the rise of international football. However, I have come up empty so far in my attempts to find a library in Scotland with access to archives containing this particular newspaper, and I learned quickly that South American newspapers are not particularly easy to get hold of from St Andrews. So, as I have apparently reached a dead end and with the end of the semester rapidly approaching, I’ve decided to temporarily set aside the tours and examine alternative ways of going about the project.
International tours, though an inherently transnational aspect of football, perhaps might not even be the best angle from which to approach this project. Dietschy speaks about South American players moving to Europe- particularly France and Italy- in the 1930’s to play for professional clubs. A simple analysis of rosters and squad lists from top-flight professional leagues could shed light on the extent of migration to Europe, which then- again taking inspiration from Conrad- could prompt an inquiry into the push and pull factors behind this flow of South American players to Europe. Using a database could be very helpful in analyzing the rosters and players’ nationalities, although it might also overcomplicate a simple process.
This analysis could also be done with regards to European players signing for South American clubs during the same period to avoid a possible Eurocentric focus for the project (Natalie Davis’s stated concern that global history is too Eurocentric is certainly on my mind). Many of the South American teams during the period played football as good as or better than their European counterparts: Uruguay won the Gold Medal at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics and the first-ever World Cup in 1930, and Boca Juniors won 15 out of 19 matches played in Europe during their 1925 tour. Therefore, it will be important not to give Europe an exaggerated role in promoting football to the world. Arguably, the South American club and national sides did a great deal to invigorate an interest in the sport in Europe with their dazzling performances against European sides.
Conrad, S. Globalisation and the Nation in Imperial Germany (Cambridge; New York: 2010).
Davis, Natalie Zemon, ‘Decentering History: Local Stories and Cultural Crossings in a Global World.’ History and Theory 50, no. 2 (2011), pp. 188-202. Accessed Online via the Wiley Online Library.
Dietschy, Paul. “Making Football Global? FIFA, Europe, and the Non-European Football World, 1912–74.” Journal of Global History 8, no. 02 (2013): pp 279–98. doi:10.1017/S1740022813000223.