Global Graffiti is intended as a place to engage with global arts and culture. This year’s World Cup in South Africa provided a fitting venue for discussions of some of the issues that interest us, including the interaction between local and global culture, the role of nationalism in concepts of identity, and the like. For GG’s inaugural issue, we have chosen pieces that in some way focus on soccer’s literary and cultural iterations.
These are questions that I’ve been considering on a personal level during the tournament. I’ve caught World Cup fever along with the rest of the world…even though my “home” teams have been knocked out before quarter-finals. I find that the Cup offers fertile territory for contemplating concepts of affiliation. A colleague asked me a couple of weeks ago—“Who do you root for?” This is an interesting question in a city like mine—Los Angeles—in which there are so many of us with multiple national associations. On my way home from work in the evenings, I see a street vendor displaying flags from all over the world appended to a chain link fence. I pass a Honduran restaurant whose flags change regularly based on which Spanish-speaking country is left in the running after Honduras’s exit. And on the cars that drive by, at least until last weekend’s Mexico-Argentina game, a sea of Mexican flags perched on plastic anchors in car windows. (Hector Becerra recently wrote an article on the return of the Mexican flag in relation to the soccer tournament after years of purposeful political recourse to the US flag over the Mexican one.)
As someone who wonders about how much we need another event to reinforce national loyalties, the concept of the World Cup can be problematic at times. Is this after all just a spectacle of national pride? Does it spark international understanding or retrench national divisions? When Italy and France, the 2006 World Cup finalists, failed to advance past the first round of this year’s tournament, the returning French players had to explain their disgraceful playing to Sarkozy and the Italian papers blared “Vergogna” on their front pages. But one doesn’t need to look far to see the ways in which individual experiences evade those national categorizations. Beyond the multiplicity of national affiliations amongst fans, one can also look at the players. I believe that all but one of the 23 members of the powerhouse Brazilian team play outside of their home country. This is the same for many teams. It reminds us of the generally increased mobility of people throughout the world. (Interesting graphics and statistics are included in this recent New York Times article.)
I watch weekday games on Univision, the Spanish-language network, where the sportscasters’ nickname for the US soccer team is “el equipo de todos.” I wonder about the resonances of this Spanish-language appellation, especially in light of the current political climate in the US that has given rise to Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws (Harry Gamboa calls them “anti-laws”), with similar measures being considered in many other states.
Global Graffiti does not intend to answer all of these questions here, but our contributors engage with the sport of soccer from a variety of creative and critical perspectives.
In our featured interview, Sesshu Foster discusses his book of prose poetry, World Ball Notebook. WBN uses soccer as a unifying motif and springboard to consider issues as varied as community, politics, and the vocation of the poet. In this extensive interview, Sesshu also gets into his views on poetic history and form.
George Fragopolous’s essay focuses on one of the most famous/infamous figures in soccer: Zinedine Zidane. In this piece, George explores Zidane as a melancholic figure representing a larger European malaise. He riffs on Belgian writer Jean-Phillippe Toussaint’s The Melancholy of Zidane and the recent documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.
Next is David Sharp’s article which analyzes Argentine writer Ricardo Feierstein’s novel Mestizo. David explores Feierstein’s consideration of Jewish Argentine assimilation by zooming in on a pivotal soccer match (portrayed in both text and artwork) that affords the narrator a chance to understand his place in the nation.
Giulia Po reviews Walter Veltroni’s latest book on the Heysel Stadium Disaster of 1985. The theatrical monologue was written by the former Roman mayor to commemorate the champions League final in which 39 soccer fans died, including 32 Juventus fans. However, Giulia also focuses on the ways in which this traumatic event allows the protagonist, a survivor, to contemplate greater issues of love and madness.
We hope that you enjoy the issue and that it sparks some debate of your own. We encourage comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.