UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Football and forlorn hope : an ethno-graphic exploration of the sporting utopias presented by FIFA and a South African local football association Forde, Shawn Douglas


Numerous governments, non-government organizations, corporations, social movements and various other individuals and community organizations mobilize in, around, and through sport to achieve social change. These groups have been a feature of research relating to what is often called the sport for development and peace (SDP) sector, industry, or movement. This dissertation began with an interest in comparing how the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) through its Football for Hope Movement and how the Unemployed People’s Movement, a social movement in South Africa, through a local soccer association, connect the idea of hope to soccer, and position sport as a tool for building a better world. While in South Africa, my research became focused on the nostalgia that former soccer players held for their time playing soccer in the 1970s and 1980s. Methodologically, I employ a form of arts-based ethnography. I utilized sketching, drawing, and comics as part of my research process to collect, analyze, and reflect on my ethnographic data. Some of these images are presented throughout the dissertation. I argue that the hope and better world that FIFA promotes through its Football for Hope Movement is essentially the maintenance of the status quo. The difference being that through sport more people can succeed in the current system—improve themselves, compete, and accumulate wealth. That being said, aspects of FIFA’s Football for Hope Movement, including decision-making processes, and understandings of joy, friendship, and mutual support illustrated potentially alternative visions of the future. These alternatives were also present in my historical research on soccer in South Africa. A detailed exploration of the historical role that soccer played in social and political life, of a particular township, during apartheid shows how soccer challenged, reinforced, and sometimes seemingly operated outside of the apartheid system. My main argument is that soccer, and soccer spaces were amorphous, used for social and political purposes, imagined as conservative, progressive, and radical spaces; and, set up to attend to community crime and violence, yet also sites of violence. In this way, a social history of soccer upsets the simplified notions of hope put forward by FIFA.

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