After an intellectually rigorous but stimulating day at the Unconference today, my ears are ringing with some fantastic ideas from my fellow students. Everything from ’the scourge of sectarianism’ to ‘hosing whisky’ was mentioned today, and I eagerly anticipate hearing the presentations in ten days time after these ideas have been developed further.
I began the day with an almost shotgun approach towards globalization and sport, as I am fascinated by both subjects. Inspired by a few articles from a 2013 issue of the Journal of Global History which directly addressed sport and globalization, I came up with the concept of sports stadiums as ‘theaters of globalization,’ actual places where the interconnections between nations as well as the reach of international bodies or corporations are demonstrated often to a global audience via television broadcasts or internet streaming. Thinking historically, I then began to wonder how sports, specifically football- the unofficial ‘global game’- had come to transcend national boundaries: what is it about football that has brought players, coaches, management, corporate sponsors, and owners from all over the globe to convene in a very confined space that is the sport of football?Transnational history is often thought of as studying the spaces between nations and the interaction that takes place within those spaces, and thus I believe a transnational approach to the history of football would be incredibly useful in understanding a game that has seemingly united much of the globe in a passion for the sport.
In the afternoon session, I began to narrow my focus to something more specific. In thinking about how football has become such a global phenomenon, my thoughts turned to what had facilitated the growth of the sport in history- the ‘transnational actors’ if you will. In his article on the development of football in Europe and elsewhere in the early 20th century, Paul Dietschy examines the key roles played by more efficient and frequent transoceanic travel (more specifically the steamship) and improved communication in the ‘globalizing’ of football. By citing the example of the Buenos Aires side Boca Juniors’ European tour in the 1920s amongst others, Dietschy demonstrates the differences in how football developed differently in South America than it did in continental Europe and that, arguably, the South American sides were superior to their European counterparts yet still were subject to European rule in the sport’s international governing body, FIFA.
An avenue for a project exists in some of the specifics Dietschy discussed: the role of transportation and communication in the spread of the popularity of football. By examining Boca Juniors and other touring sides before the Second World War, one could address my initial questions regarding the rise of the global popularity of football. Through primary sources such as newspaper articles and secondary scholarship that has already been written about the subject, a 5,000-word essay would just begin to uncover an answer to this rather substantial question, but, nonetheless, it would be a solid start.