An Afternoon of Soccerdemia


Yesterday I went to college. Or to a college I should say. There was a panel discussion entitled Africa's World Cup at The New School here in Manhattan that sounded crushingly academic but kind of like soccer nerd heaven so I gave up my afternoon to it. So did about 25 other NYers of all stripes who braved the gauntlet of co-eds in summer dresses to show up as well.

Hosted by Sean Jacobs, assistant professor at the graduate program in International Affairs, the panel included Time magazine senior editor Tony Karon, Austin Merrill of Vanity Fair's Fair Play blog and writers Binyavanga Wainaina and Teju Cole. Aside from Austin all of the panelist hailed from the The Place Formerly Known As The Dark Continentand brought some very unique perspectives on the upcoming World Cup.

There was so much ground covered over the 2+ hours of discussion that it's almost impossible to concoct anything bordering on a complete recap but here's a few interesting bullet points.

  • Africa is being presented almost as a country, not a continent, by advertisers. Check out recent ads by Puma and Coca-Cola and you could almost get the idea that a multitude of country's are hosting the event, not just South Africa.
  • Very few Africa-based players will actually participate in the first World Cup to be held on the continent. Most of the African teams will field a side made up of players who ply their trade in Europe.
  • Drogba is damn near a God in Africa; dirty dude has even inspired a genre of dance music called "Drogbacite" in West Africa.
  • African club football is screwed. It's easier for people to keep up with Euro soccer than local leagues because it's on free TV; imagine how much harder it would be to sell people MLS on FSC if the EPL, La Liga and Serie A were available on NBC, CBS and ABC.
  • Loads of brainy soccer humor from this bunch. You know you are nestled firmly amongst the football intelligentsia when the entire room is ROTFL to jokes whose punchlines center on a player being Andalusian, Basque or Catalan.
  • But no matter how connected to soccer these people are, by and large they don't appear to be connected to American soccer at all. Not the Africans, not the Americans, not the African-Americans. When one person mentioned the U.S. team the room let out a collective laugh that is probably still echoing around the room 24 hours later; it's always depressing when people so passionate and knowledgeable are so dismissive.


andrés said...

Nice pick-up SF! For better or for worst, American soccer fans are probably some of the most educated in the country. Although I don't actually have any data proving this, some basic participatory research on BS would likely prove that's the case! Haha. Anyways, always enjoy some good intellectual masturbation and some of the best is done at the New School!

Dan said...

Fuckin' Europoseurs.

Serge said...

I'll never understand the snobbery. In my opinion they, immediately discredit themselves.

geoffersen said...

Amen, Serge. Any American who laughed deserves some serious scorn and, probably, a bitch slap.

Anonymous said...

Great Post, SF! I agree with the whole South Africa = Africa, and SA = continent. Its been pissing me off from the beginning.

Just an example our ignorance as a whole of Africa. I was in Tanzania in January, and most people I told had no clue where it was. I kept getting "isn't that south of Australia"?

If any one has found a T-shirt with the geographic shape of South Africa on it and not the continent. I would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

If Serie A were on network TV that would be the death knell for soccer in America.

Mr. Fish said...

The dismissive attitude is depressing. And yet, this isn't 1990.

Has another country outside of Europe or SA beaten Brazil, Argentina, and Spain, and has been to the WC Quarters in the last dozen years?

American soccer fans have nothing to be ashamed of. It's these snobs' loss.

Sean said...

SF: Great post.

You should have introduced yourself.

One correction: The US came up in two instances.

First, when I asked the panel whether the experience of this world cup as opposed to past world cup will be experienced differently in the US and I premised my remarks by talking about ESPN's investment in soccer and the World Cup and the existence of FSC (despite their acting like the US fans only want to see mostly English football) and how things had change since the mid 90s when I first came here.

Second, The belly laughs came after Mr Cole had suggested the US would win the World Cup. Even you have to agree that’s funny.

-- Sean

I reposted on my blog:


SF said...


First off great panel, really enjoyed it. Secondly it's not funny, the U.S. can win it! I'm telling you cousin, we can do it --it might loads of luck and coordinated tragedies in other groups but we can do damn it! We Americans have a long history of ruining things for other countries, why no the World Cup?