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11 June 2010
World Cup soccer as cultural artifact

With pomp and pop songs and the hooting of a thousand plastic vuvuzelas, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is finally under way. Over the next month, teams from 32 nations will win, lose, or tie 64 games in stadiums across South Africa. And, as the cliché goes, the world will be watching. More than that, every watcher will be partaking and participating in his or her own overlapping World Cup cultural spheres, from the global to the national to the local to the private. So we ask our readers, soccer fans and otherwise, what do you make of the World Cup? What does the World Cup make of our communities, our countries, us all?

—Nate Barksdale


1. What does World Cup soccer assume about the way the world is?

That: there are many countries; that world travel is possible;that there is an infrastructure of officials, kit and ball production;that there is sufficient political stability in much of the world;a big fan base…

Andii Bowsher

... and that human beings are capable of improvising in a framework of rule-based behaviours and sublimating cultural identity based rivalries into ‘ritual’ events and that we find such events entertaining/pleasurable.

Andii Bowsher

that it is still dominated by the West [at least with english as its language] as proved by the simple fact that all the names printed on the t-shirts are in Roman script, not Korean, nor Japanese, nor Cyrillian, nor…

Arjan Jager
2. What does World Cup soccer assume about the way the world should be?

... relatively easy international trave should be possiblel; that people of different cultural backgrounds could put aside their differences at such sporting events; that the world should be safe and secure enough to allow large numbers of different peoples to share high emotion rivelrous events;

Andii Bowsher
3. What does World Cup soccer make possible?

multicultural enoounter; international violence (!); sales of memorabilia and supporter ‘stuff’; economic inflows into the South African economy; mangling of foreign names by commentators; a whole media circus ...

Andii Bowsher

I was eating breakfast in a hotel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this morning. Two Canadians and a Spaniard shared the next table. The waiter was South African. The World Cup furnished an instant and impassioned conversation that even drew in a few extra waiters!

—kristin burns
4. What does World Cup soccer make impossible (or at least a lot more difficult)?

... the worldwide dominance of some other sport like American Football (sorry guys, you really should get with the plot on this one -this real is a ‘world series’); getting the attention of males (mostly) during June and July at certain times of the day; ‘real’ news on popular news media;

Andii Bowsher
5. What new culture is created in response?

I predict the incorporation of vuvuzelas into the fan repertoire of many nations. Professional soccer already has created a ‘new’ cultural reconfiguration of the impetus to fandom, a set of ‘ritual’ behaviours before, during and after matches often involving the [ab]use of alcohol, synchronised chanting etc. All of which produces feelings of euphoric solidarity. Sometimes this is friendly to other ‘brands’ of fan but often can turn hostile very easily. It probably has aided a sense of multiculturism and helped interracial relations.

Andii Bowsher

I live in NYC, and it’s funny because everyone thinks the city is so isolated and individualistic, and that all working women where 5 inch stilletos to work. But actually this week I’ve walked past bars full of people cheering at 11 in the morning, I called my roommate across town to see if she had seen a score (Celtics…) and we had people over. So even in this cement island, people understand the basic need for community and I’m happy to see strangers come together, share smile and a holler for their team.

Oh, and most women here where flats. Just for the record.

On a second note, I’m annoyed at Bebe’s advertising scheme that sexualizes soccer. Sigh. Really? Is that the best you can do?

On a third note, I LOVE the original art work that was displayed all around the city, it just felt so RIGHT to have something drawn by hand (and mostly by people from other countries) and not these silly computer images for a change.