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Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization
At the beach in Cameroon's Southwest Province. Photo by Phil H. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hi-phi

Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization

With the 2006 FIFA World Cup days away from kicking off, the African Activist Association staged their first conference of its kind, "Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization" on the 31st of May 2006.

The idea had its seeds early in the fall of this academic year, when Rahel Woldegaber and Steven Sortijas started dreaming about a way to blend their mutual passion for soccer with their personal and academic investments in Africa.

by Emad Mirmotahari, African Activist Association

With the 2006 FIFA World Cup days away from kicking off, the African Activist Association staged their first conference of its kind, "Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization" on the 31st of May 2006. The event featured five distinguished speakers Samuel Mchombo (UC Berkeley), Michael Schatzberg (U Wisconsin-Madison), Gerard Akindes (Ohio University), and Jude Akudinobi (UC Santa Barbara) as well as a retired player from the Ghana Women's National Team and prospective graduate student in UCLA's African Studies UCLA, Mimi Osei-Agyemang. These speakers made presentations ranging from incisive academic analyses of the sociological, ideological, and economic under-currents of soccer to personal anecdotes and memoirs. The night culminated with the screening of Le Ballon d'Or (The Golden Ball), the film's official west coast premier at Haines Hall in the evening. The event was generously sponsored by a variety of organizations, institutes, centers and student groups on campus.

Photos by Veronica Gonzalez

The conference finally materialized after much dreaming, planning, late evenings, and frenzied excitement and optimism on the tenth floor of Bunche Hall, home of UCLA's James S. Coleman African Studies Center. The idea had its seeds early in the fall of this academic year, when Rahel Woldegaber and Steven Sortijas (Pres. African Activist Association) started dreaming about a way to blend their mutual passion for soccer with their personal and academic investments in Africa. Their dreams were initially harnessed through the popular and well-attended screening of a documentary "The Beautiful Game: A History of Soccer - Africa: A Game for All & Futures" in Winter Quarter 2006, amidst the African Cup of Nations. The African Activist Association also provided free screenings of key games of the African Cup of Nations. Spurred on by the success of this event, a formal and comprehensive event was the next logical step in exposing the community to the importance of soccer to the vast majority of the world, an importance that exceeds the field.

As expected, "Soccer, Nationalism, and Globalization" elicited interest among a broad cross-section of the campus community as well as the community at large. Undergraduates, athletes, graduate students from a variety of departments and programs, and scholars, among others, attended the conference and had the opportunity to share their thoughts and hopes with the speakers at the intermitting banquet. The African Activist Association hopes to seize on the momentum of this event and plan more conferences and special events that highlight the under-emphasized features of contemporary African society and culture. Togo, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt, and Angola represent the African continent in this year's highly anticipated World Cup, and their presence in this competition has implications, not only for the tournament - arguably the single truly international event, but for how world conceives of the ever-shifting nature of geography, identity politics, and global economics and the way they affect and are affected by sports, arts, and culture.

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