Spanish soccer is on top of the world, at international and club level, with the best teams and a seemingly endless supply of exciting and stylish players. While the Spanish economy struggles, its soccer flourishes, deeply embedded throughout Spanish social and cultural life. But the relationship between soccer, culture and national identity in Spain is complex. This fascinating, in-depth study shines new light on Spanish soccer by examining the role this sport plays in Basque identity, consolidated in Athletic Club of Bilbao, the century-old soccer club located in the birthplace of Basque nationalism.
Athletic Bilbao has a unique player recruitment policy, allowing only Basque-born players or those developed at the youth academies of Basque clubs to play for the team, a policy that rejects the internationalism of contemporary globalised soccer. Despite this, the club has never been relegated from the top division of Spanish football. A particularly tight bond exists between fans, their club and the players, with Athletic representing a beacon of Basque national identity. This book is an ethnography of a soccer culture where origins, nationalism, gender relations, power and passion, lifecycle events and death rituals gain new meanings as they become, below and beyond the playing field, a matter of creative contention and communal affirmation.
Based on unique, in-depth ethnographic research, this book investigates how a soccer club and soccer fandom affect the life of a community, interweaving empirical research material with key contemporary themes in the social sciences, and placing the study in the wider context of Spanish political and sporting cultures. Filling a key gap in the literature on contemporary Spain, and on wider soccer cultures, this book is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in sport, anthropology, sociology, political science, or cultural and gender studies.
Table of Contents
"But Why, We Lost!" An Introduction PART ONE: PASSION, COMMUNITY AND DOUBLE BINDS Chapter One:"An Englishman Came to Bilbao:" A Social History of Athletic Club Chapter Two: "A Unique Case in the World:" Basque Exceptionalism and Identity through Soccer Chapter Three: Bilbao Catch-22: Passions and Double Binds in Soccer Madness PART TWO: A MATTER OF BALLS Chapter Four: Melodramas of Masculinity and Morality Chapter Five: Fans, Writers, Leaders and Players: Women`s Breakthroughs in Soccer`s Gender Regime Chapter Six: Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Women: The Fear and Fantasy of Soccer Wives and Girlfriends in Spain PART THREE: POLITICAL GEOGRAPHIES Chapter Seven: Together and Apart at the Basque Derby: A Prisoner`s Dilemma Chapter Eight: "The Spanish Fury:" The Basques, the Catalans and the National Team PART FOUR: LIFE, DEATH AND CONTINUITY Chapter Nine: Death in the Cathedral: Life Cycle Rituals and Mortuary Practices in Sport Stadiums Epilogue: "Now is the Time to Rise!"
Mariann Vaczi is Research Associate at the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, USA. She is a cultural anthropologist focusing on the social, cultural and political dimensions of sports, especially soccer.