Category: History

Excavating American soccer fields, uncovering buried layers of sport

Excavating American soccer fields, uncovering buried layers of sport

Martha Saavedra conducts a virtual excavation of youth soccer fields, showing that all sporting terrain leaves a legacy in sediment and memory.

Auschwitz and the perversion of football

Auschwitz and the perversion of football

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we interview William Heyen about his poem “Parity,” concerning a 1944 football match at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Beside crematoriums, Nazis engineered the ultimate perversion of sport.

Ukrainian will, Carpathian pride and the summer of ’69

Ukrainian will, Carpathian pride and the summer of ’69

Some 30,000 Ukrainians descended on Moscow in Aug 1969 and sang folk songs in the heart of the Soviet empire. FC Karpaty supporters celebrated the regional second-division club’s surprising place in Soviet soccer history.

In Atlanta, spreading soccer contagion at parade rest

In Atlanta, spreading soccer contagion at parade rest

Ron Newman helped build the U.S. game, calling on carpentry skills to construct goalposts out of discarded building materials. In Atlanta in 1967, he jumped off a Memorial Day float and kicked a ball to youngsters. With podcast »

In 1937 appearance, Joyce joined Hungarians ‘in the middle’

Why has a 1937 alignment of literary stars not featured in Vienna in the European Championship’s cultural program? Vladimir Nabokov lectures in a Parisian literary salon and espies James Joyce “sitting, arms folded and glasses glinting, in the midst of the Hungarian football team.”

Scotland | As foretold in scripture: ‘The queen of the South will rise up …’

Dumfries, Scotland, Apr 18 | “All our dreams are viable,” ventures songwriter Chris Belford, launching into the refrain of the Queen of the South anthem. “We’re the only team in the Bible.” The strength of the connection to Jesus’ prophecy about the “queen of the South” rising at judgment day (Matthew 12:42) is dubious, but Doonhamers’ supporters, following the side’s first berth in a Scottish Cup final, are convinced about the rest: “Something greater than Solomon is here!”

History | Were Paterson FC the first stateside association football club?

Which was the first American association football team? Some evidence points to Oneida Football Club of Boston, honored with an obelisk in Boston Common as “the first organized football club in the United States.” While Oneida played one of the football codes—perhaps a soccer-rugby hybrid—beginning in 1862, photographic evidence offered by a descendant of a Paterson FC captain suggests that the New Jersey side, formed in 1880, staked claim early to playing by the FA rules established in London in 1863.

History | Remembering New Jersey’s immigrant soccer past

Newark, New Jersey, Mar 30 | At the start of its 13th season, MLS lacks a nuanced appreciation for history. But the sense of American soccer as a game among immigrant enclaves has been preserved, with regional focus, at Sport Clube Português and within a northeastern amateur league featuring divisions along ethnic lines (see New York Times coverage).

Poetry | ‘View well this Ball, the present of your Lords …’

We publish an excerpt from Matthew Concanen the Elder‘s 1720 canto describing a six-a-side football match in Dublin—at variance with a traditional view that only the frenzied folk football variety was contested at the time. The players “around the field in decent order stand …” (Mar 13)

Books | For centuries, life has had its uppies and downies

Hugh Hornby, author of a comprehensive account of Britain’s 15 surviving festival football games—Uppies and Downies: The Extraordinary Football Games of Britain (English Heritage, 2008)—says the ideal venue for these mass-participation events is a town of between 5,000 and 10,000. With podcast »

History | In hard stone, ancient ball-playing exploits remain

Ongoing exhibits in Chicago (“The Ancient Americas”) and Washington, D.C. (“Exploring the Early Americas”), feature artifacts of ball-playing in Mesoamerican cultures as part of larger surveys. (Mar 6)

Islands | A multihued archipelago, tuned to soccer’s harmonics

Honolulu, Feb 29 | Gamba Osaka’s 6–1 victory over Houston Dynamo in the Pan-Pacific Soccer Championships final added another jot to the history of the Japanese on the Hawaiian Islands—a history that spans three centuries and that has helped create a multicultural population well-suited to building soccer from the grassroots.

History | Soccer fields, for King and Atlanta, lent space to move ‘beyond Vietnam’

Atlanta, Feb 5 | His work in ministry, as a public speaker and as face of the American civil rights movement prevented him from developing strong sporting enthusiasms, but at least once in his career Martin Luther King Jr. stepped onto a soccer field.

Metaphorically, King’s strides on the Sacramento State pitch in Oct 1967 point toward soccer as a place of social change in America of the civil rights era.

Books | A majestic history built around games (w/ podcast)

The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt, appears at booksellers in North America this week, and we wonder how many will read the title’s four words as a direct challenge to the myth of American centrality in all things.

Pathos | Manchester is united

Manchester, England, Dec 7 | Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 6 Feb 1958 Munich airplane crash that killed 23, including eight Manchester United players, will incorporate the entire city and avoid commercial tie-ins, organizers have decided.

Mixed media | Round ball, flat art

The quiet launch to the Web of a portion of 50,000 drawings and an even greater number of prints—so-called flat art—within the British Museum collection makes football-related arcana even easier to find. With multimedia »

Canada | First among soccer nations

Beckham, on Vancouver swing, tries football by Canadian rules

Vancouver, British Columbia, Nov 7 | As usual, David Beckham‘s North American barnstorming circuit—with a stop tonight at BC Place Stadium—to us raises more interest in pre-existing soccer traditions than in the soccer actually being played.

England | Rough girls, delicate boys

England women try to surmount culture of contempt

Leicester, England, Sept 21 | With the United States and England preparing to meet in a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal Sept 22 in Tianjin, China, the contest matches players who, to some degree, owe their footballing fortunes to the deeds of Lancashire forebears.

We interview Jean Williams of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture on the early history of English women’s football and on the “contemptuous” attitude that has endured toward women playing the national game.

Souls on ‘The Line’ | Guatemala City sex workers turn to fútbol for a sense of who they are

Of football documentaries that favor the human element there is no shortage of late. One of the most recent is Estrellas de la Lí­nea, screened at English-language film festivals as The Railroad All-Stars, about Guatemala City sex workers who in 2004 organized themselves as a football team.

‘It wesnae a goal, Geoff’ | Worldwide, Scots lend ‘fitba’ their distinctive style

Dundee, Scotland, May 31 | In our second podcast, Billy Kay, author of The Scottish World, recalls Scotland’s influence on the worldwide spread and ultimate dominance of the passing, artistic style of association football. Scotland will not let England forget that “it wes us.”

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