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For the past ten days, I have been in Argentina – specifically Buenos Aires and Rosario – leading a course about soccer and globalization in conjunction with the Clemson men’s soccer program. The students had a series of lectures and presentations pre-departure, mostly based off of Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. Foer’s thesis is that “globalization has failed to diminish soccer’s local cultures, local blood feuds, and local corruption, and may have actually increased the power of local entities.” The students have been asked to reflect on this global/local tension of soccer cultures through a series of seminar discussions and journal entries while we are in country. Upon our return to the United States, the students will have to complete a major paper that, in part, addresses Foer’s thesis as viewed through the lens of their own experiences in Argentina, including playing games against local squads (such as the reserve teams of San Lorenzo and Newell’s Old Boys, to name but two), going to local matches (including at River Plate and Argentinos Juniors), and through their own informal interactions with the sporting and non-sporting cultures of Argentina.
As you can imagine, the students have experienced many different aspects of globalization and its local resistance throughout the journey thus far, from playing an impromptu five-on-five street match against locals in the La Boca community to being swept-up in the atmosphere of El Monumental during a match.
(Street match in La Boca)
During my conversations with the students, and perhaps because of my own research interests, the role of heritage and its relationship to Argentinian fútbol has become a focal point of our discussions. One of the aspects I pointed out to the students, particularly after we toured La Bombonera – home of Boca Juniors – and visited the team museum, is that heritage (including team traditions, history, rituals, and culture) is one of the products that is packaged and sold to fans both locally and globally. Similarly, I told them that touring team museums and stadiums was, in a sense, an entry-point for many to acquire or re-enforce their fandom. Judging by the number of students who left La Bombonera with Boca merchandise (and who said they would support Boca upon their return to the US, despite the fact we did not actually see Boca play in their home stadium), there is something to the theory that experiencing heritage may lead to support and fandom.
(Touring La Bombonera)
The students noticed that, despite the local cultures and chants, the teams were largely sponsored by international companies – and, often, American companies like DirectTV. They also commented that most of the music played in the stadiums we went to were American or British artists.
(Watching a game at El Monumental, home of River Plate)
However, the interesting thing that the students did mention – and related to both globalization and heritage – were the styles of play they were encountering when playing against Argentinian clubs. They noted that it was a very distinct style of play, similar to the style that the Argentinian national team plays, primarily in terms of speed and aggression. Interestingly, they noted that some of the teams they’ve played anticipated a very “American” style of play from Clemson, and were surprised when Clemson played above expectations. Similarly, they have noted both the style of refereeing to be different and, in some cases, more knowledgable than US referees (with a few exceptions). They have also been enamoured with the fact that they are immersed in a soccer culture all the time, something that they rarely get to experience in the US.
(Clemson versus San Lorenzo, with the Estadio Pedro Bidegain in the background)
One of the interesting aspects I have noticed at each of the grounds we have visited are the murals situated outside of the stadiums. While many are fútbol-related, others appear to be more about social and political struggle.
(Two murals, one fútbol-related at San Lorenzo, the other more politically related at Boca Juniors)
We still have a few days remaining in-country, and I expect there will be more lessons to be learned – both on and off the pitch. We have seen some of the impacts of inflation in the country, and while in Buenos Aires we witnessed several major protests right on our doorstep. The students have two more games to play in Rosario, as well as a number of non-sport activities including a city tour, and I expect we will have many more interesting discussions about globalization, heritage, and soccer.
The city of Liverpool has numerous heritage-based claims to fame. It’s role in immigration, shipping, and transportation is well known. Of course, it is also home to the most famous band of all time, The Beatles. However, it is also a major centre for sport heritage – and, as a recent trip to Merseyside revealed – the city’s sporting past is well represented through museums, tours, and other heritage-based experiences.
Of course, Liverpool’s sport heritage begins – most notably and publicly – with the city’s football teams. Liverpool FC is, far and away, the most broadly and widely represented – at least in the tourist areas in the city centre and at the Albert Dock. In fact, there is a dedicated hop on/off Liverpool FC tour bus that runs between the Albert Dock and the team’s home stadium, Anfield.
The bus runs all day (with the team’s famous anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, blaring from the bus’ speakers). En route to Anfield, the guide provides a thirty minute commentary about the team’s background, as well as it’s historical connections and rivalry with Everton, before arriving at the gates of Anfield.
In speaking with our guide, Paul, he mentioned that the tour bus has been running for a little over a year and has been immensely successful. Specifically, he noted that the bus was initally only going to run during the summer peak tourist season, but that demand pushed it to a year-round venture. It should be noted that my colleague and I were the only patrons on the bus during our tour, though Paul mentioned that this was quite unusual. He did say, however, that as Anfield was undergoing extensive renovations, the stadium tours were somewhat limited and they did notice a dip in visitors this summer. That said, Liverpool boasts over 500 million global supporters and, as such, there seems to be the potential for a steady supply of sport-based pilgrims. It is also fascinating – and, as far as I know, unique – to have a city tour and tour company dedicated to a specific sport club. Indeed, this appears to signal a growing demand – at least in certain places – for sport heritage experiences and particular forms of heritage sport tourism. Places like Anfield appear to be able to welcome a variety of visitors who wish to “make a day” out of experiencing the club’s heritage and culture. Arriving at the stadium, tourists could take a standard stadium tour, a tour with an ex-player (demonstrating the links that both myself and Sean Gammon of the University of Central Lancashire have explored linking sport heritage to “living” artefacts like ex-athletes), as well as visit the team museum, take their picture next to several team statues and plaques, visit a large team shop, and dine at a team-themed restaurant (complete with team and player artefacts adorning the walls).
Just across Stanley Park from Anfield resides Goodison Park, home of Everton FC. Although the two squads compete in the same league, and the stadiums reside steps from one another, they feel like a world away – at least in terms of touristic support. Everton feels like a local club, whereas Liverpool appears to have much larger global ambitions. Similarly, a tourist could spend much of a day at Anfield, whereas Goodison Park did not offer a stadium tour and had a small shop across the road . In fact, my colleague and I appeared to be the only people visiting the stadium. That said, there is still a very prominent representation of the club’s history and heritage around the stadium. For example, the entire circumference of the stadium is ringed with a club timeline, highlighting the club’s major victories, players, and accomplishments.
The main gates to Goodison Park also featured a statue of Everton’s greatest and most beloved player, Dixie Dean.
While the heritage experience at Everton was much more muted, and less public, that at Liverpool, there was a strong appeal to it as well. In many respects, it was a heritage for the faithful; for people who already loved and supported the club, rather than as primarily a commodity for a large international fan base. As complicated as this word is, it felt more real and, in that I suppose, that give it a greater sense of authenticity.
The importance of both Liverpool and Everton football clubs are also prominent in the Museum of Liverpool’s popular culture gallery. In particular, the events of the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 Liverpool supporters were killed at a match in Sheffield in 1989, are described and commemorated in the gallery, and specifically how the two local rival clubs came together in remembrance.
However, the gallery represents much more than football, demonstrating the variety of different sports, pastimes, and athletes that make up the city’s sporting heritage. From horse racing, to athletics, to boxing, the gallery shows just how many different sports are “played in Liverpool.”
Indeed, one of the surprising elements of the gallery are the variety of different sports played in Liverpool and how they have shaped different parts of the city. Perhaps most surprising is that the city has a significant baseball heritage stretching back several generations.
Many cities seem to hide their sport heritage, or don’t actively represent or promote it, perhaps viewing it as less serious than other cultural markers. However, Liverpool is a perfect example of how sport cultures can be embraced, and exist beside – and even enhance – other heritage attractions. Indeed, having the Liverpool FC bus or the city museum’s popular culture gallery displayed next to Beatles exhibits, or contemporary arts galleries, or a slavery museum simply demonstrates the broad heritage palate of the community. Tourists and locals can be both interested in a Jackson Pollock exhibition AND maritime heritage AND architecture AND sport. Liverpool is a great example how these different topics can co-exist in telling the stories of a community, and other cities should look to their example to see how this can be accomplished.
Sport heritage, like most any form of heritage, has many ingredients. One of the more important aspects are personal memories, where we contextualize our own recollections in terms of broader contexts. Sometimes this takes the role of a “where were you?” during an important event or moment, but often it is on a much smaller scale, where the heritage is much more at the family or community level.
In any event, a few months back the folks at the Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada asked me to contribute a submission to their website. ECAMP’s role, at present, is to act as a repository for the city’s intangible heritage – the histories, stories, memories, and lore that tell the city’s story – from the infamous to the intimate. I was born and raised in Edmonton and, as such, they felt I might be able to add something sport-based to their collection, particularly as I have been away from the city for a number of years. Edmonton’s sporting heritage is vast, covering many different sports, athletes, and events throughout its history. Some of this history, particularly those from the late 1970s through early 2000s are a part of my own story and heritage as well. And, though I thought about doing a “where were you?” piece – or even a more objective heritage “moment” (such as recapping and recalling particularly famous sporting moments or events), I elected to go with the more community level heritage, and perhaps capture a time when the gulf between professional athletes and working class families wasn’t great at all.
My story, called Me and Lee, is unabashedly sentimental and, as a few former classmates have reminded me, may have happened differently or perhaps not even at all. I have a strong memory of this particular piece of community lore and my reaction to it and, as a good friend reminded me, memory isn’t subject to facts (nor, often, is heritage).
If you would like to have a read (ECAMP’s website is open access and does not require subscription), please click the link here.
Every May for the past three years I have been a visiting scholar at KU Leuven in Belgium. Although part of my role here is teaching, primarily in an EU-sponsored master’s degree, I do have the great fortune to see a variety of heritage sites and get involved in a number of heritage-based research projects (some of which do involve sport heritage topics). In any event, as you can imagine much of the heritage tourism in Belgium is focused on the First World War, particularly during the centenary commemorations. This past weekend I went to an exhibition called Ravaged at Museum Leuven. The text below describes the purpose of the exhibition:
The sacking of KU Leuven’s library, detailed in the introduction of Margaret MacMillan’s excellent The War That Ended Peace, was one of the most shocking instances of cultural heritage being targeted in wartime, and placed Leuven as having a shared-heritage of destruction with other cities around the world. However, beyond topic itself – which is very interesting, and awfully depressing – of particular interest to me was that this was the first instance that I had encountered of (for lack of a better term) “meta-heritage.” In other words, here was a heritage site essentially staging an exhibition about heritage. I’m sure there are loads of other examples, particularly in celebration of anniversaries of heritage legislation and heritage organizations (though these would seem to me to be a bit once-removed), but this was the first exhibition I have encountered where the heritage was the…heritage.
Of course, this hasn’t a lick to do with sport heritage – until, of course, sport heritage gets very self-referential.
I am pleased to announce the online publication of Indigenous sport and heritage: Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum by Murray Phillips and Gary Osmond of the University of Queensland, and Sandra Morgan of the Cherbourg Historical Precinct District.This paper is part of the special “Sport, Heritage, and Tourism” issue of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, available in its entirety this autumn.
From the abstract:
So much has been lost about the culture of Australia’s Indigenous people. Their languages, traditions and heritage were dissipated under the process of white colonization from 1788. This paper investigates the actions of the people from Cherbourg, an Aboriginal settlement in southeast Queensland, Australia, to reclaim their culture, identity and heritage. The focus is specifically on the Ration Shed Museum (RSM), which officially opened in Cherbourg in 2004. The RSM is a particular type of Indigenous museum, a community museum, in which those who curate the museum are simultaneously its subjects. Through a combination of ideas drawn from new museology, critical heritage and cultural geography, the relationships between the three buildings of the museum – the Ration Shed, the Superintendent’s Office and the Boys’ Dormitory – and the displays of sport are examined via the voices of Cherbourg people. The buildings evoke stories of surveillance, discipline, punishment and control and, in many ways, sport mirrors these features of life at Cherbourg. Importantly, however, sport functioned in a parallel capacity by creating identity: sporting achievements were symbols of pride, resilience and hope for Indigenous people.
My thoughts on the paper, from the forthcoming editorial:
Phillips, Osmond and Morgan use sport heritage – this time, at a museum – as a means of revealing heritage as both a tool for collective pride and as an instrument for challenging dominant narratives. Many sport heritage narratives, particularly at museums and halls of fame, are about remembering great sporting achievements and, in this, the Ration Shed Museum is no different. However, the role of sporting achievement takes on a much broader social and political context at the Ration Shed Museum, given the history of Aboriginal athletes in Australia. Similarly, sporting achievement in this case also becomes a tool for challenging stereotypes and, as such, these sport heritage narratives provide an even more potent form of inspiration. However, the capacity for heritage to reflect both positive and negative legacies (Lowenthal, 1998; Smith, 2006) is tested here, as the “sport heritage” displayed at the Ration Shed Museum was also about anguish and humiliation. The authors aptly employ James’ (2013) Beyond a Boundary to this case, revealing that sport – and, perhaps by extension, sport heritage – is a tool for both liberation and subjugation. Perhaps most importantly, these mixed sporting legacies are given a voice, reflecting the wider concern of “whose heritage” is being told and to what end (Hall, 2008). The tourism question is left somewhat ambiguous by the authors, and one has to wonder to what extent sport will be used in the on-going promotion of the site, and whether tourists seek out the museum based on its association with sport. Similarly, will there be any tension between the cultural and economic ends of this museum (Graham, Ashworth & Tunbridge, 2000), given that many museums that employ sport, as Vamplew (1998) reminds us, are unabashedly commercial.
I am very pleased that this paper is part of the special issue, as I believe it helps move the sport heritage debate into some new and much needed areas.