- Football and the Boundaries of History: Critical Studies in Soccer ed. by Brenda Elsey, Stanislao G. Pugliese
Edited by Brenda Elsey and Stanislao G. Pugliese, Football and the Boundaries of History is a collection of seventeen essays that explores the value of studying the local articulations of footballing experiences across time, space, and disciplines. This review seeks to offer a broad thematic summary and analysis of the volume while paying critical attention to the ways in which the majority of these essays are constructed around the relationship between football and the histories of power, identity, and politics.
Historians Jean Williams and Kay Schiller present essays that interrogate the multiple expressions of masculinity and the marginalization of women athletes in football. Schiller investigates the instability of footballing masculinities through the career of Franz Beckenbauer and convincingly suggests that Beckenbauer acted as a “trailblazer for the European ‘metrosexual’ footballers of the 1990s,” articulating a sexuality that lessened the hegemony of soldierly, aggressive, homophobic, and macho athletic masculinity (216). Williams provides a history of independent women’s football clubs in England, with a focus on the Doncaster Belle Vue Belles, that highlights the persistence of sexist and gendered ideals and practices of English men’s and women’s football. Both articles contribute to bringing marginalized sporting identities to the center of discourse. Similarly, Roger Kittleson unearths the [End Page 369] history of marginalized racial identities and interrogates the ways Afro-Brazilian footballer Fausto dos Santos challenged popular characterizations of “mulatto football” that required obedience and discipline among the newly emergent black and indigenous athletes on the soccer pitch.
Daniel Haxall, Steve Menary, and Tamba M’bayo share an understanding of colonialism’s role in constructing modern sporting structures and representations. While Menary demonstrates the role of soccer in establishing a sense of “footballing independence” (132), particularly among former and current Dutch, British, French, and American colonial territories, M’bayo entertains the footballing and national predicament of Sierra Leone, where he interrogates the paradoxical arrangement of football as the most popular national sport and its organizational dysfunction. While both these studies show a relationship between colonialism and football, their conceptualization of postcolonialism, as the period following the absolute deconstruction of colonial power, limits their analysis by absolving the persistent legacies of coloniality. In a different register, Haxall studies the visual and political significance of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy. Haxall demonstrates how Zidane’s ethnic and religious heritage shaped the way fans interpreted his persona, both fulfilling the colonial representations of “Islamic extremism” (35) and anticolonial representations of a “heroic rejection of European hegemony” (47). On the contrary, Rosario Forlenza refuses to engage the colonial significance to Italy’s “soccer politics,” as she mentions in a passing sentence how Achille Lauro, the celebratory figure of her essay, “made his first millions from the arms trade linked to Fascism’s colonial adventures, after he won the navy contracts for the African campaign of the 1930s, which culminated in the conquest of Ethiopia” (251).
The essays that focus on ethnicity pay close attention to the nationalizing processes of football that attend to the construction of racial and national identities. Similar to the ways football in Brazil came to reflect dominant projections of brasilidade (Brazilianness), Jon Bohland, Jim O’Brien, Mauricio Borrero, and Aaron Horton are interested in the role soccer plays in the construction of national identities in the United States, Spain, the former Soviet Union, and North Korea, respectively. Bohland’s article, which investigates the nativist and nationalistic tropes that underscore the discourse around dual-national players on the U.S. Men’s National Team, appears especially timely as similar discussions emerged in the wake of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the first time they’ve missed the tournament since 1990. Similarly, Borrero’s essay draws our attention to the Soviet Union and the complicated constructions of particular individual nationalisms...