Reading the #WorldCup | Roxanne Dubois

by Roxanne Dubois last modified 2018-06-24T16:30:10-04:00
Football fans across the globe are focused on the World Cup, which started just over a week ago and is hosted in Russia. The tournament takes place every four years, and will be, as always, one of the most watched sporting events of the year. For this non-sports fan, the World Cup is an object of fascination with good timing. In these early days of summer, watching football and getting into the game is a welcome distraction. Here is a short, global, and somewhat political reading list for following the World Cup.

I don't follow sports; I don't even pretend to do so. There is something about the World Cup that makes me wish I did. It might be because I live in Toronto and love having a cup of of coffee in Little Portugal. Or, perhaps it has to do with witnessing the unmatched historical celebration that was Berlin in 2006, where I travelled on my own completely unaware, before arriving, that Germany was the host country at the exact time I would travel there.

Despite my lack of awareness, I spent the first week of the tournament immersing myself into long reads and essays about the World Cup. Soccer is a central theme, of course, but so are the people, the memories, the history and the politics that surround football of the non-American style.

A+ for good sports reporting

I'm more of an arts and culture person normally, but am often annoyed by cultural reporting that does little more than shamelessly promote popular movies or music released this week. Good sports reporting, I have found, digs deeper into the stories that breathe live into the games themselves.

I read all of Simon Kuper's posts from the Financial Times: a columnist stationed in Russia for the next month. He also authored the book Soccernomics, so I would think he knows what he's talking about. He suggests actually watching the games, and avoid getting lost in the Twitter chatter. Good advice: How to get the most from the World Cup.

Marc Cassivi is a columnist for the French daily La Presse. Since the newspaper's website does a good job preventing the newest content from being accessible, I recommend his twitter feed (forget the no-twitter rule stated above for one second, and read his columns if you can). His daily columns on the latest games are as exciting as watching live.

As enthused as I am with this whole endeavour, I can't deny that there are some aspects that make me uncomfortable. Nationalism, generally, is not something I usually partake in. Issues of violence, racism, injustice are as present in sports as they are anywhere else. I have discovered the brilliant, confronting and political writing of Musa Okwonga. His love for football is not disconnected from his questioning of some of the problematic, oppressive dynamics at play on the world stage. Here's a good example: When Nationalists Don’t Like the National Team . He heads up the New York Times newsletter Offsides, for those interested in email updates from him.

Dave Zirin is well known as a socialist sports writer, and his World Cup posts over at the Nation are worth checking out.

Literary essays to get into the game

Without even talking about the game of soccer, there has been enough ink shed about FIFA alone to fill a field of newspapers. Even since the last World Cup, scandals broke out around FIFA and its top officials. Plenty to dig into there, but for starters, the Guardian has a long read that recaps the process by which Russia became this year's hosts: How Russia won the World Cup

The New York Times Book Review is publishing a series of essays for the occasion. Francisco Goldman's Waiting for ‘Golazo!’ is the high-paced account of a non-initiated soccer fan who adopted Mexico and their passion for fútbol.

Africa is a country has a special series of essay entitled Football is a country. The left-wing opinion site explores the culture and history of the World Cup with short essays and stories from various authors. So far, they are the most eclectic and entertaining short blurbs. The first one is The Beautiful Month by Sean Jacobs.

Where are the women?

I was going to write about the difficulties of temporarily suspending one's feminist principles in the name of a great game, however beautiful a month-long tournament can be. Thankfully, two women are stealing the show and providing some of the best analysis so far. They know their stuff and, without surprise, face sexism.

The Financial Times' theatre critic, Sarah Hemming, wrote an quirky post on the inevitable spectacle that becomes football and large international manifestations such as the World Cup: A tragicomic spectacle of theatre on the grandest stage

The women's world cup will take place next year in France. The qualifying matches are going on right now, with the Canadian women's team being a serious contender, despite last week's loss against Germany. I have been told by a credible source that Christine Sinclair, the team's captain, is nothing less than a national hero. The team is legendary and ranks among the top 6 in the world.


For those interested in the legal side of football, Simon Archer breaks down the Commodification and Juridification in Football in a paper from 2014.

When sports and good journalism collide, I'm paying attention. As a result, this non-sports fan has even managed to watch a few games in their entirety, and even been aware of which games to watch for in the coming days. May the summer distractions continue.

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