Author Archives: Laurent Dubois

About Laurent Dubois

I am the Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in 2009 as part of a course on "World Cup and World Politics" taught at Duke University. I'm currently teaching the course under the title "Soccer Politics" here at Duke. My books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France and, most recently, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History.

Why was one of Africa’s greatest athletes forced to strip naked?

That is the question posed in an excellent essay by Shireen Ahmen, whose blog Tales of a Hijabi Footballer is a must-read for those interested in the global politics of global football. It is published at Football is a Country, part of the Africa is a Country blog.

The piece focuses on a recent incident of “gender testing” directed at Genoveva Anonma, a football player from Equatorial Guinea who was named Africa’s Female Footballer of the Year in 2012. It offers a powerful critique of the treatment of women’s football players by the sporting federations and institutions:

“Officials and administrators in football are supposed to be advocates for the beautiful game and for footballers — irrespective of gender.  But the treatment of female players with regard to gender testing is deplorable. Officials have no boundaries when it comes to shaming female players.”

Read more…

Soccer Politics Class Begins

This week I began teaching “Soccer Politics” here at Duke University for the third time. This blog will host the writings of students in the course in four different languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

You can see the class readings here.

On the first day of class we analyzed three bits of the visual archive of the sport. First, a clip from the brilliant film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

Then, this moment in Algiers, one of the most crystallizing videos I have seen of the intensity of joy the World Cup can produce at its best. I wrote about the Algerian team’s 2014 run here and here.

And finally, a return — slightly traumatizing for U.S. fans, joyful for Belgium fans (I’m part both) — to what I think were some of the most thrilling moments of the 2014 World Cup. I wrote about this game hereSoccer Politics Syllabus for Blog 2015.

On the Ends of the World Cup

This was my concluding piece, part of a series I wrote for the New Republic “Goal Posts” blog, on the World Cup:

“… This World Cuphowever we have lived ithas just taught us once again what it always does. Though we watch from many locations, separated from one another by distance, we are brought together during the time of the game. We effuse, we argue, we mourn. And we remember that, most of all, what we want is to be together.”

Read the Full Piece Here.

Algeria’s Historic Victory

For the first time, Algeria moved on to the Round of 16 in the World Cup yesterday. As the game ended, a crowd hoisted a man in a wheelchair up above them to celebrate. Here is what the scene looked like from above in another plaza where a crowd waited out the final seconds of the game.

For more on what this means for Algeria, read my pieces here and here.

Update: after Algeria’s loss to Germany, I wrote this piece mourning & celebrating what they had achieved.

A Prayer for the Goalies and Referees of the World Cup

(I wrote this for the Goal Posts Blog at The New Republic, to which I will be contributing throughout the tournament. I didn’t realize then I was writing it for Iker Casillas)

Here is one thing I can predict with total certainty about this World Cup: an as-yet-to-be determined number of goalies and referees are going to suffer terrible fates. They will be vilified. They will ruin their lives as we watch. They will shoulder the rage and sorrows of entire nations.

As we saunter into this month-long spectacle, let us take a moment to thank them. For their suffering is what makes this theatre possible.

Read the complete article



Carla Overbeck and the 99ers

Next week in our Soccer Politics class we will have the honor of having Carla Overbeck, the captain of the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup team, visit our class. She’ll be offering us her perspectives on the broader history of women’s soccer in the U.S. In preparation, we’ll be exploring a range of materials that explore this history.

This recent ESPN documentary called the 99ers provides a riveting recounting of the events of 1999.

This blog includes a range of materials on women’s soccer.

The Soccer Politics page on “Women’s Soccer in the United States” offers a great overview of key moments as well as important issues surrounding the topic.

These two blog guides, produced by two currents students in the class, analyze the ways in which women’s soccer is (or isn’t) dealt with in the blogosphere.

Finally, there have been a series of posts on women’s soccer on this blog by various authors.

These include

A 2010 post by me called “Kicking the Silence” about the lack of media coverage of women’s soccer in the U.S.

A 2012 post by me called “The Hijab on the Pitch” about the debate surrounding whether women should be allowed to play wearing hijab. 

The video below is an extract from a lecture delivered by Jennifer Doyle about the history of women’s soccer on the international stage, called “Marta’s Pink Star.”

As a supplement to this I highly recommend the archive of Jennifer Doyle’s commentary on women’s soccer from her (now defunct) blog From A Left Wing.

We welcome your thoughts and reactions to this material as well as other suggestions.

Lilian Thuram’s Autobiography

Published in 2004 in France — and not yet translated into English — Lilian Thuram’s autobiography 9 Juillet 1998 is a fascinating portrait of contemporary France and of the world of football. In it, he describes his childhood in Guadeloupe and his family migration to the suburbs of Paris, where he grew up in a project outside Fontainebleau. His descriptions of life in the banlieue are particularly striking because of the very positive representation he offers of these spaces that are often seen in a very negative light. He celebrates the diversity and the community he found there. His stories of his early footballing career, notably his mentorship by Arsene Wenger among others, will interest football fans. And his lucid vision — at once celebratory and cautious — of the impact of the 1998 World Cup on France is one of the most interesting parts of the book. In the comments below, students from Duke’s Fall 2013 “Soccer Politics” offer some translations and analysis of particularly interesting passages from this book.

When Football Modeled Democracy: Socrates in Brazil

This short documentary film (narrated by an inimitable, bearded, Eric Cantona) tells the story of Socrates, a Brazilian footballer who along with his teammates turned a football team, Corinthians, into a space for democratic practice and ultimately contestation against the dictatorship in Brazil. The film is part of a larger series co-produced by Al Jazeera and Arte called “Rebelles du Foot,” “The Rebels of Football.” It includes another film on Rachid Mekloufi and the role of football in the struggle for Algerian independence, nicely reviewed here by Shireen Ahmed at the blog A Football Report.

Enjoy the film and share your thoughts here!