The battle of the ballgames is on!
Rounding out my coverage of how our global sports world was significantly shaped by the First World War a century ago is this recent piece for The Athletic. Reporting on “How the Great War Made Soccer the World’s Most Popular Sport—and Led to Its First Viral moment,” I learned a lot more than I anticipated. As a sports specialist with a sub-specialty on the First World War (thanks to my work on the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy France’s World War One Centennial project), I thought I knew the story’s key turning points. But as Jean Williams and Arnaud Waquet reminded me, there were many more.
Of particular interest to many is how the war era served as a golden age of women’s soccer, in Britain and elsewhere. Crowds of 10,000 paid to watch women play in 1917 and 1918, and a few years later, some 55,000 people crowded into Goodson Park to watch a women’s match. As Williams pointed out, makes you wonder why organizers of women’s professional soccer today don’t look to the ways that their predecessors shined 100 years ago in terms of getting the crowds out en masse with regularity...
When soccer news from outside of Europe penetrates the global consciousness, it is often some outlandish item, a curiosity of the can-you-believe-it variety. Two of the more famous incidents to come from West Africa since the turn of the millenium include the February 2002 arrest of Cameroon head coach Winfried Schafer at the Africa Cup of Nations for allegedly planting an amulet on the field and, in the summer of that year, the wild ride of Senegal’s team at the World Cup, where their success was rumored to be aided by the country’s marabouts, which are similar to shamans.
This month marks fifty years since the 1968 Mexico Games, most often recalled for the athlete protests they spotlighted as part of that year’s global turbulence. But while popular memory focuses upon the Olympians and professionals whose actions, rhetoric, and examples helped draw attention to injustices, what about the athletes they inspired?