2012 November | FREE

Archive the month of November 2012

November 30, 2012

Football supporters present their vision for the game in Brussels

From left to right, William Gaillard (UEFA), David Lampitt (SD) and Emmanuel Macedo (EPFL). (c) Supporters Direct

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Brussels launch of Supporters Direct Europe (SDE) position paper on football governance. The event was organised in the premises of the European Parliament and hosted by the prominent centre-right Belgian MEP Ivo Belet. The turnout of the event is testimony to the work that Supporters Direct Europe has done over the last five years. Congratulations are certainly in order to Antonia Hagemann, the bright, efficient and hard working mind behind SDE. Most of the speakers reminded that five years ago, in the same building, the launch of SDE as an organisation only managed to attract a handful of persons. The work of Supporters Direct and other sister organisations such as Football Supporters Europe (FSE) have established the supporters as recognised stakeholders in football governance. Perhaps the latest and definitive endorsement was the award by the European Commission of several projects under the preparatory actions in the area of sport to networks of supporters organisations. They are also a recognised observer in the Council’s expert group on governance.

Post by : Borja García in the category : Governance, Identities, Posts - No comment

November 27, 2012

The Great Match

Ever attended a French ‘Habilitation’ defence? It’s a wonderfully old-fashioned academic ritual, in which an already established scholar submits a kind of second original dissertation plus a retrospective account of his entire scholarly work and career to a jury of his peers in order to obtain the official authorisation to direct doctoral research. You may well wonder how other countries such as the US and the UK managed to produce dozens of Nobel Prizes without this procedure, but then again, each culture has its own rites of passage.

The habilitation defence I attended yesterday at Sciences Po in Paris was our friend Paul Dietschy’s. While there is no doubt that he’s the uncontested top French football historian and more knowledgeable on his object of study than any of the seven members of his habilitation jury (all of whom were male…), but still he underwent the ritual with humility and grace.

Paul delivering a great match in front of his jury

The title of his original research was ‘The Great Match’, borrowing from a newspaper headline dated 3 August 1914, the author of which was Henri Desgrange (the journalist who had invented the Tour de France eleven years earlier). It’s a metaphor that oscillates between war and sport, at the same time shockingly euphemising the brutal reality of war and introducing a kind of hyper-patriotism that was to carry the sports press through years without much ‘normal’ sport to write about.

Paul’s habilitation, which I sincerely hope to see published in book form among the numerous publications that the centenary of World War I will no doubt unleash in 2014, retraces the evolution of French sport between 1914 and 1920 (see also his own blogpost of last August). As usual his work is rigorously based on a patient exploration of different types of archives, synthesizing and integrating where useful a large array of secondary sources.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : History, Memory, Posts - No comment

November 11, 2012

The legacy of mega-events

In his recent article published in The Guardian on the day of the presidential election in America, Aditya Chakrabortty discusses the polarised US politics and recalls playwright Arthur Miller’s question from the 2004 election: “How can the polls be neck and neck when I don’t know one Bush supporter?” Despite the biggest and most expensive campaign in the country’s history, the two sides never talk to each other, and, as Chakrabortty argued after the conference he attended earlier this autumn, even the leading technical experts cannot agree on the judging criteria for the discussion: they just express their subjective opinions, followed by no discussion.

I would argue that it is not only American society that has become divided and lacks common ground for meaningful debate. At the recent conference “From London to Rio: Social Change and the Sporting Mega-event” held in the British Library in London, when discussing the legacy and future of the Olympic Games, the speakers seemed to be using two incongruous languages. One was the language of capital growth, development, international recognition, competitiveness and entrepreneurship; the other, of the needs and hopes of local communities and the quality of life of the present and future generations of citizens. Those who spoke the latter stressed the fact that while mega development projects open public space for capital investments and consumption, they very often cordon off space to its regular users. The rhetoric of the first language used people’s passion for sport to justify the gigantomania behind the new projects. One wished the debate could have gone beyond discussing the pros and cons of “the London model”, as well as beyond the final argument that although mega-events are unsustainable by definition, we cannot really do anything about this situation because, well, they do take place. It should have rather reflected on the legitimacy of all the capital expenditures being implemented everywhere around our planet.

Last summer, over the course of a few days I conducted research in the Balkans and visited Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the host city of the 1984 winter Olympic Games. After just a few years, the Olympic venues were turned into battlefields, and today the scarred stadium neighbours a formidable graveyard of the predominantly young victims of the Balkan Wars. The ruins of the Olympic stadiums in the current turmoil of Greece, photographed by Jamie McGregor Smith for his project Borrow, Build Abandon, should teach us the very same lesson of humility. Not that we did not learn it from history lessons on the once proud and invincible ancient Greek and Roman empires. Right?

Post by : Gosia Kowalska in the category : Governance, Memory, Posts, Public Sphere - No comment