Category Archives: Football

Zidane’s “Coup de Boule” in Bronze

The Algerian sculptor Abel Abdessemed has created a powerful work of art that commemorates Zidane’s 2006 “coup de boule” during the World Cup final. It is currently on display in front of the Pompidou Center in Paris. Here is a photograph of the sculpture:

Can you find other articles or discussions of this work of art, or more information about the artist? What do you think of the piece?

Soccer Empire

Next week we will be reading and discussing my book Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France. Please read as much as possible of the book as you can, as it provides an overview of many of the key themes in this course. If you are unable to read certain chapters, you can return to them later in the course, but the more you are able to get through this week the more background you’ll have as we continue on with other readings.

Here, for your enjoyment, is a video of Thuram’s second goal during the France-Croatia game of the 1998 World Cup, which I describe in the book.

For our discussion on Thursday, I’d like each of you to focus on one particular chapter that you will be ready to discuss and explicate. By next Wednesday at 5 p.m., in the comments section below, please tell us what chapter you chose to focus on and what elements about it interested you. What is the argument or theme of the particular chapter? How convincing is the argument? What might I be overlooking in my analysis?

As you begin to read, you can consult some of these reviews and interviews about the book:

An academic review of Soccer Empire.

A recent pod-cast I did about the book.

A review in a French online magazine from French historian Pap Ndiaye.

An interview I did with Ryan Brown (a Duke student) for at the time of the World Cup.


The Hijab on the Pitch

Members of the Iranian National Women’s Football team (Source: FIFPro)


On Friday, July 6, the French Football Federation announced that it would ban the wearing of hijab during all organized competitions held in France. The Federation declared that in doing so it was fulfilling its “duty to respect the constitutional and legislative principles of secularism that prevails in our country and features in its statutes.”

The decision came one day after the International Football Association Board — the body within FIFA that governs the laws of the game — unanimously declared that it would, for a “trial period,” allow players to wear the hijab during international competitions. France, then, is seeking to carve out an exception to an international ruling, one that links its football regulations to a broad set of laws that ban veils in public schools and public administration, as well as banning the burqa in all public spaces.

(The hijab covers the hair and neck; generally the term “veils” is used to describe coverings that also cover part of the face, though the usage varies quite a bit; and a burqacovers the entire face).

Scholars including Joan Scott and John Bowen have analyzed the history of these broader debates in rich detail, tying them both to longer colonial histories and contemporary battles over secularism, Islam, and immigration in France. The banning of the hijab from the football pitch was initially a relatively minor subplot in these broader battles over veils, hijab, and burqas in Europe and Canada. But the involvement of FIFA, the Iranian government, a Jordanian Prince, and the United Nations have helped to transform the terrain of football into an increasingly important battleground over the hijab.

The recent controversies are part of a longer, complex story of the presence of Muslim women in football, a topic nicely examined by Risa Isard on the Soccer Politics blog.  But their more immediate background goes back to 2007. In that year, in Quebec, a referee at Under-12 girls’ soccer tournament ordered an 11-year-old player named Asmahan Mansour (pictured below) to remove the hijab she was wearing during play. She refused, and was told she would have to leave the field. As Mansour later explained: “I think it’s pathetic, really, ’cause it’s [the head scarf] tucked in my shirt.”

Asmahan Mansour (Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

In a powerful — but since little-reported — show of solidarity, her entire team along with four others playing in the tournament protested, refusing to continue playing unless Mansour was allowed to play. Their instant reaction to the decision speaks volumes. To them, it seems, Mansour’s hijab was a normal and unproblematic part of their daily lives as players, and the insistence that she remove it seemed an intolerable intervention — one they were so insulted by that they preferred to forfeit than to accept it.

Part of the reason for the strong reaction the girls had to the referee’s intervention is that Quebec’s position was at odds with that of other regions of Canada. In Ontario, for instance — and in Ottawa, where Mansour was from — officials and referees had allowed girls to wear the hijab as long as it was properly tucked into clothing so as not to present a hazard on the field. But the intervention on the football pitch was part of a broader pattern in Quebec, which like France has banned the burqa in all public spaces.

Mansour’s case was referred to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in March 2007. They agreed with the decision of the referee, saying that Law 4 of the Rules of the Game listed the articles players could wear, and did not include headscarves. “If you play football there’s a set of laws and rules, and law four outlines the basic equipment,” said one IFAB member. “It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law four being adhered to.”

The IFAB decision was, perhaps intentionally, vague: no mention was made of safety, the banning of religious or political symbols, or other reasons to prevent women from wearing a hijab. The conclusion was just that the current laws didn’t allow them to do so. In an interview, legal scholar Linda Sheryl Greene explores the potential implications of the decision. What became clear over time was that it was a precedent-setting decision in the world of football. Though national federations still had leeway about how they dealt with the issue in local competitions, the FIFA decision had a necessary trickle-down effect: federations couldn’t place players who insisted on wearing the hijab in teams in international competition.

As importantly, FIFA became the first global international organization to officially take up the issue of the hijab as a human rights issue. (The European Union Court had, on previous occasions, upheld the banning of hijab in both France and Turkey, rebuffing legal activists who claimed they were violations of human rights; but these decisions are territorially limited.) As a result, FIFA’s decision took on a kind of symbolic importance that the members of the organization had perhaps not, at first, expected it would.

The 2007 decision didn’t provide much guidance for subsequent attempts to justify the decision. After all, IFAB can change the Laws of the Game, as they have done on frequent occasions: so why not change them to allow hijab? In response to questions and pressure about the decision, however, FIFA and national federations offered a variety of justifications for the ban. One of the most frequent has been to insist that hijabs pose a safety hazard — that they could get caught during play, for instance, and perhaps strangle a player. This particular argument has always seemed like it would collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. After all, long hair is more likely to get pulled or tangled in play. And one could ask: if wearing something that covers your head poses a danger to players, why are goal-keepers allowed to do so according to Law 4, as Petr Cech famously does to protect his skull in the wake of an injury received on the pitch? The safety argument was probably deployed because it seemed the least controversial, a way to skirt the obvious cultural and religious struggles at work in this debate. The problem for those who wanted to use it to stop the approval of the hijab is that it was also relatively easy to confront: all that was needed was to develop a hijab that was relatively tight and attached with velcro (the way Cech’s headgear is) to avoid the danger of it being stuck around a player’s neck.

Another problem for FIFA is that there has, at least to my knowledge, never been any concern expressed by players themselves about the hijab. Indeed, like the girls in Quebec who walked off the field in 2007, many players have supported the rights of teammates to play while wearing one. The global player’s organization FIFPro came out in support of lifting the ban on veils, for instance. The organization Right2Wear has been advocating at the grassroots for women’s right to wear headscarves while playing football.

Such organizations on their own, however, probably would not have had the clout to reverse FIFA’s decision. Unlike France, Quebec, or Europe more broadly — where the bans on veils and burqas have been contested but never successfully overturned—FIFA has to deal with powerful internal constituencies who opposed their ruling on the hijab. For football federations from North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia seeking to develop the women’s game, the ban on the hijab represented a serious obstacle. Given the increasingly important role played by the region within FIFA, the association began as an ideal site for international political pressure against the ban.

The process of reversing the ban began in 2011, when FIFA officials stopped the Iranian national women’s team from playing in an Olympic qualifying game because their players were wearing hijab. The team was literally minutes from entering the field when they were told they could not play, though FIFA later claimed that the Iranian federation had been warned in advance they would not be allowed to play. Interestingly, during that incident FIFA justified the ban on hijab on the basis of regulations that outlaw the presence of “politics or religion” on uniforms, not based on the safety dangers cited in 2007. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked FIFA, referring to them as “dictators” and “colonialists,” while the Iranian ambassador to Jordan referred to the leaders of the international footballing organization as “extremists.”

As FIFA cynics pointed out at the time, the organization was perhaps the only one in the world capable of making Ahmadinejad sympathetic to a broader global consituency — especially on the issue of women’s rights. If Iran had been on its own in confronting FIFA, they might not have made much headway. But others also began mobilizing to criticize the ban. Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein took up the cause, and in March 2012 insisted that FIFA should overturn the ban. He argued that this decision was vital “to ensure that all women are able to play football at all levels without any barriers or discrimination.” (Jordan’s national women’s team had been forced not to select certain players for international competition because they wished to wear the hijab when they were playing.) And a United Nations sports advisor wrote to FIFA also urging them to lift the ban, arguing that “FIFA has the responsibility to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to participate in football.”

In March of this past year, FIFA voted to end the ban and allow players on the pitch in new, specially-designed, velcro-fastened hijab. Besides spurring on the creation of a whole new branch of athletic wear — one can imagining smiling Nike and Adidas executives reading the news — this was a significant reversal.

(Source: The Muslim Times)

It was, however, still tentative, for the issue of the safety of the hijab was still to be taken up by medical specialists at FIFA. Finally, on July 5, a full — if still temporary — approval of the hijab in international women’s play was passed by FIFA, prompting much celebration in some quarters, and the immediate refusal of the principle by the French Football Federation.

There will, undoubtedly, be more twists and turns to this issue. Globally, the hijab has become a crossroads for political and religious conflict, and it should come as no surprise that this is true in football, too. Yet there is something fascinating about this struggle over the right to play football in a hijab because of the nub of contradictions at work. Though they often used the pretext of player safety, what underlies the decisions of authorities who have banned the hijab is the idea that they were simultaneously protecting women from the veil and protecting the turf from expressions of worn Islamic religious identification. Those who have insisted that women and girls be allowed to play wearing the hijab have argued that to deny them this right is an attack against their freedom and equality. For the moment, the latter argument has — at least tentatively — won the day. This means that girls and women will no longer be asked to make a choice between the hijab and playing the game they love.

In the long-running debates over the banning of veils from French public schools, a minority of critics have persistently insisted on the fundamentally contradictory nature of such regulations. If the goal is to encourage the emancipation of women from patriarchal structures, how is excluding them from school the answer? And sociologists who interviewed the girls who were wearing veils to school in the 1980s and early 1990s found that their motivations, as well as their religious convictions, were extremely diverse and more often expressions of cultural or community pride — or a mechanism to avoid unwanted attention from boys — than the result of pressure from families.

Wearing a hijab onto the football pitch is an inherently complicated act. It is difficult to argue that, in doing so, girls and women are demonstrating deep submission to patriarchal gender constructions, for in the very act of participating in an intense, competitive, and highly public athletic contest they are pushing the boundaries of such constructions. From the beginning, the worry about the implications of wearing a hijab on the pitch has come from referees, national federations, and FIFA authorities, rather than from players. Many of them — like 11-year-old Mansour in 2007 — seem to feel none of the conflict or contradictions that those supervising their play feel about the garment.

Shireen Ahmen has recently written about the experience of playing in a hijab, describing with a mix of humor and irritation the constant questions she gets about doing so. Her piece asks readers to simply understand that wearing a hijab is “how I play. How I CHOOSE to play.” To those who ask her questions on the pitch — “Isn’t it hot?” — she offers: “I am not averse to answering questions. Just not in the middle of a match. Ask me after. I am happy to provide my number, a dinner invitation and a Tariq Ramadan website.” And though she imagines “scoring 3 goals and performing in some Messi-like manner whereby achieving a great victory for all oppressed Muslim women and earning the respect and acceptance of these nimrods,” in fact — just like any player — the reality is more banal. “Some games I play well. Some games I get called for illegal slide-tackles.” Ahmen’s piece offers precisely what we need more of now: an understanding of the lives of “hijabi footballers” as she calls them, that gets us back to reality on the pitch of play — and the play of individuality and community that is ultimately what football is about.

The official debate about the hijab in football is clearly far from over. Authorities in Quebec seem committed to pushing back against FIFA’s new rules, and have curiously brought the story full circle: just days after the ruling, they banned Rayane Benatti, a 9-year-old girl, from playing in a youth match in a hijab. They explained that they would wait until the International Football Association Board determined precisely what type of hijab could be worn (a decision they will take in October) before allowing any girls to play wearing them. But France and Quebec will likely be increasingly isolated in this stance; indeed, the Montreal Gazette itself published a strong editorial attacking the regional football association’s action.

Now that the hijab has been allowed back on the pitch by FIFA, perhaps football can help to confront and unwind the simplistic debates that have surrounded the issue for too long. After all, the day may not be too long off when a player in a hijab scores the winning goal for a country — maybe even England or Germany — in the Olympics or the World Cup, producing an image of triumph and belonging that can serve to trouble the other images of women veiled that govern and shape much debate in Europe on this topic. To allow the hijab on the pitch is to allow football to do the work that it can, at its best, do so well: confusing certainties, upending easy affiliations, and reminding us that no one has a monopoly on the future.

Football et La Politique : « The Two Escobars »

La semaine dernière, j’ai discuté comment les Bleus nous offre un espace intéressant sur lequel la société peut projeter ses scrupules moraux, et même expérimenter avec des façons de répondre à ces questions importants (au sujet de la religion, de la communautarisme, de l’identité, etc.)  Bien sur, Les bleus ne sont pas la seule équipe pour qui la politique et le sport s’affrontent récemment.  Hier soir, j’ai vu un documentaire extraordinaire appelé « The Two Escobars ».  Ce film était partie d’une série de documentaires retraçant 30 histoires de « l’ère ESPN » chacun d’eux explore en détail les enjeux, les tendaces, les gens, les équipes, ou des événements qui ont transformé le paysage sportif depuis 1979.

En ce film « The Two Escobars », les vies de joueur Andrés Escobar et de baron de la drogue Pablo Escobar sont utilisées pour comprendre l’entrelacement du crime et du foot dans la Colombie, leur pays natal, et les liens entre les meurtres de deux hommes.  Bien que le film dure deux heurs, je me trouvais perdu dans l’histoire incroyable.  L’argent de Pablo avait tourné l’équipe nationale sur les champions d’Amérique du Sud, favori à gagner la Coupe du Monde en 1994 à Los Angeles.  Dans leur match contre les Etats-Unis, Andrés, le capitaine, a commis une des erreurs les plus choquants dans l’histoire du foot : il a marqué un but contre son camp qui a éliminé son équipe de la compétition et finalement lui couter sa vie.

« The Two Escobars » est un examen fascinant de l’intersection de sport, de la criminalité et de la politique.  Pour les Colombiens, le football était bien plus qu’un jeu : leur identité nationale a roulé sur le succès ou l’échec de leur équipe.

On peut voir le documentaire en Youtube.  Voici est le lien (HD !)

Un quota discriminatoire dans le foot ?

J’étais très intéressée dans la discussion de Le Pen en classe la semaine dernière. Sa réaction à l’invasion du stade des Algériens m’a frappé comme raciste et plutôt incroyable dans la société actuelle. Quand je recherchais plus le rapport entre Le Pen et le football, j’ai trouvé un article de mai qui présente un autre débat autour du monde du foot.

« Quotas dans le foot : la Fédération française dans l’embarras » s’agit d’un issue scandaleux de la Fédération Française de Football (la FFF). Il y a quelques mois, le journal Mediapart a accusé la FFF d’ayant un quota discriminatoire pour prévenir une abondance de joueurs « noirs » et « arabes » dans les centres de formation et les école du foot en France. Les dirigeants de la FFF nient l’existence d’un quota, mais ils reconnaissent le problème des joueurs enseignés dans ces centres de formation qui quittent la France pour jouer dans les pays africains. Le quota présumé vise en particulier les joueurs ayant la double nationalité.

Le sélectionneur de l’équipe de France de football, Laurent Blanc, est en faveur d’un quota comme cela. Il est concerné que les joueurs ayant la double nationalité vont se forment dans les programmes de France mais vont changer leurs nationalités pour jouer dans un autre pays. Il voit ce système comme un gaspillage des ressources de la France. Il constate :

« Moi c’est pas les gens de couleur qui me posent un problème. C’est pas les gens de couleur, c’est pas les gens nord-africains. Moi j’ai aucun problème avec eux. Mais le problème, c’est que ces gens-là doivent se déterminer et essayer qu’on les aide à se déterminer. S’il n’y a que des – et je parle crûment – que des blacks dans les pôles (de jeunes) et que ces blacks-là se sentent français et veulent jouer en équipe de France, cela me va très bien. »

Que pensez-vous ? Un quota limitant la quantité de joueurs ayant la double nationalité serait-il raciste ? Injuste ? Ou justifié par un désir des joueurs loyaux à la France ?

Battiston down.

Because everyone seems to delight in the action-packed soccer clips we have been watching and discussing over the past two weeks, I found the clip of the 1982 World Cup Inicident in which Battistion is left unconscious because of a run-in with Schumacher on the West German team. Professor Dubois makes note of this event in his book, and it is interesting to examine the comments below the video (I made sure to find one in French). I am guessing that this same clip, if in German recorded by Germany, would have an altogether different title, tone, and string of comments.

Battistion suffered damaged vertebrae and a series of teeth were knocked out, needing to be replaced. In hearing this, Schumacher replied, “If that’s all that’s wrong with him, I’ll pay him the crowns”. He later apologized to Battiston, but what was said and done could not be changed. By examining all these different events and pieces of drama that unfold throughout different World Cups, it becomes more and more apparent just how much fans (as well as players) invest into this competition. So much so, that it seems like sportsmanship waivers as ardent fandom and fervor increase (0r at least in some circumstances).

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

if embedding the video didn’t work, just click here!!


Rogerio Ceni,légende de foot

Il est gardien de but de l’équipe préstigieuse brésilienne, Sao Paolo, avec un portfolio qui consiste de plus de 1000 matchs joués avec 100 buts marqués. Impressionant pour un homme qui occupe ce poste dans le jeu de football. Mais par contre, juste un jeu pour Ceni, qui non seulement marque des buts, mais le fait la plupart de fois en marquant des coup francs à n’importe quelle distance du goal. Impressionant, et ceci avec insistance. Il a été reconnu par la FIFA comme le gardien de but ayant marqué le plus de buts dans l’histoire de football.

Rogerio Ceni du Sao Paolo FC

Coup de Boule

Le coup de boule de Zidane, un joueur français dont les parents sont algériens, est un acte qui m’intéresse fort, et c’est beaucoup discuté dans l’onzième chapitre de Soccer Empire par Laurent Dubois.

Ce coup se passait dans le match final du Coup du Monde de 2006, quand la France jouait contre l’Italie. Un joueur de l’équipe italienne, Materazzi, a jeté des insultes à Zidane, qui les a ignorées au début mais puis y a réagi en donnant un coup de tête dans la poitrine de l’Italien. Pour ce petit acte de violence, Zidane a terminé sa carrière en recevant une carte rouge. Il est possible que son absence du match après ce coup a directement causé la perte de la France contre l’Italie.

Le coup peut se voir ici :

Il y a plusieurs opinions tenues au sujet de ce coup. Il y en a au droit qui considéraient cet acte une démonstration de l’infériorité des gens des banlieues nés des parents immigrés. Ils criaient à Zidane après l’événement, « Ciao, voyou ! (Soccer Empire, p. 253) » Il y a d’autres qui pardonnaient à Zidane parce qu’ils le comprenaient ou parce qu’ils pensaient qu’il avait le droit de se défendre. On regardait le coup comme un moment où l’honneur de l’individu et la défense de la dignité deviennent plus importants qu’un match.

Soccer Empire présente aussi l’acte comme une chute du statut d’un dieu. Mais Zidane n’est pas tombé dans l’enfer ; au lieu, il est tombé jusqu’au niveau de devenir un homme, ou bien un héros. Même s’il a peut-être perdu le match pour la France, il a fait quelque chose qui parlait à tous qui avaient expériencé des insultes similaires. Ce coup est de quelque manière fêté comme un type de victoire alternative.

Voici la chanson qui est apparue bientôt après la fin du match et qui est devenue extrêmement populaire :

C’est une chanson trop entraînante qui donne l’impression de célébrer. Vous pouvez lire quelques paroles ci-dessous :

Attention c’est la danse du Coup de Boule!
Coup de Boule, Coup de Boule !

Zidane, il a frappé, Zidane, il a tapé !

Le rital, il a eu mal,
Zidane il a frappé,
l’Italien ne va pas bien,
Zidane il a tapé,
L’arbitre l’a vu à la télé,
Zidane il a frappé,
Mais la coupe on l’a ratée,
On a quand même bien rigolé !

Un sentiment national

J’ai grandi au Mexique et j’ai joué football jusqu’à ce que j’avais environ 12 ans. Le soccer est un des sports les plus aimés au Mexique, en réalité il est le sport le plus populaire et joué. Chaque quatre ans, quand il était temps pour la Coupe du monde, la nation enitre serait un silence de mort avec impatience, comme si le Mexique se tenait il souffle en attendant le coup d’envoi du premier match. La coupe du monde est un événement très populaire au Mexique, et la propagande annonçant l’événement peut être vu dans tous les produits vendus au Mexique.
Je sais que le Mexique n’a pas la meilleure équipe de football. Pourtant, chaque fois que l’équipe nationale joue, je me retrouve à regarder le match et ont applaudicomme un vrai fan. Peu importe, le Mexique n’a pas fait cela bien dans les Coupesdu Monde depuis plusieurs années. La déception est toujours énorme, et vous pouvez sentir la tristesse s’attarder toute la nation.
C’est alors que la plupart des Mexicains font le choix de l’enracinement de leuréquipe favorite prochaine, et quelque chose que j’ai remarqué est que les équipes qu’ils soutiennent sont généralement le Brésil ou l’Argentine. Je trouve cela trèsintéressant, car il ya beaucoup d’autres équipes dans le monde qui sont le meilleur ou aussi bon que ces deux équipes. Cependant, comme nous le lisons dans Soccer Empire, les espoirs de l’Amérique Latine et Amérique du Sud sont ususally portés par ces deux équipes; FIFA est dominé par les puissances de football européens comme l’Espagne, l’Allemagne, la France et l’Angleterre. L’esprit et l’espoir del’Amérique latine et Amérique du Sud sont effectués par l’équipe du Brésil trop souvent. Un jour, je vais voir le Mexique en finale de la Coupe du monde, et ce sera certainement un des moments les plus excitants pour la nation.

Le Foot, la politique, et les tensions

J’ai lu un article très intéressant qui discutait la relation entre le foot et la politique française—un sujet parfait pour partager sur ce blog. L’article, qui apparaît dans The Economist en 2010, explore le drame de l’équipe française pendant le Mondial cet été. Essentiellement, un joueur a critiqué l’entraineur et il a été puni. En réponse à cette action, les autres membres de l’équipe ont refusé d’entrainer pour le prochain match. Naturellement, les médias français ont exploités ce drame à fond, et le peuple était horrifié. Même le président, Nicolas Sarkozy prenait part de ce drame. L’ampleur de la réaction au drame montre l’importance du foot en France. Président Sarkozy a convoqué une réunion pour discuter la crise et plusieurs d’autres officiels du gouvernement ont fait des commentaires sur la crise—ça nous montre la liaison entre le foot et la politique française. Dans ce cas-ci, le drame nous oblige à considérer des tensions qui existent dans l’équipe—des tensions raciales et religieuses. Ces tensions sont le résultat du fait que les joueurs de l’équipe sont des races et des religions différentes. Il est possible que ces tensions aient contribué au drame. De plus, l’équipe est un microcosme de la société française, qui est rongée par les mêmes tensions. Je trouve la relation entre le drame et les tensions particulièrement intéressant parce que nous avons discuté beaucoup de ces tensions dans notre cours, et nous sommes en train d’étudier le rôle du foot dans la France. Finalement, c’est important de juxtaposer cette crise avec la victoire française dans la Coupe du monde en 1998. On voit que, d’un côté, le foot peut ternir des réputations et révéler des tensions entre l’équipe et la nation. De l’autre côté, le foot peut être merveilleux et peut unifier l’équipe et la nation. C’est clair que le foot n’est pas simplement un sport en France ; c’est un phénomène qui nous raconte beaucoup de la société française.