Before taking Nigel Boyle and Andre Wakefield’s History and Politics of World Soccer course I felt alone in my fervor and thought reading books about the economic systems of European football as opposed to baseball or the poetic musings of a Uruguayan football fanatic, or following the development of the Croatian football league in the years after independence couldn’t lead to any sort of scholarly, acceptable work.
On the first day of class, still a little skeptical about the seriousness of the subject in a collegiate setting, I glanced at the syllabus and saw readings from books that tackled the game in terms of American Exceptionalism to readings that compared the Dutch style of play to Piet Mondrian’s art as well as a lecture and discussion with former U.S. National Team Head Coach Steve Sampson. This brief look at the syllabus was enough to get me excited, but the enthusiasm, humor and academic rigor Nigel and Andre brought into the classroom every day hammered home the idea that soccer is an interesting lens through which one can view many different aspects of the modern and contemporary world.
Throughout the semester we were encouraged to fall in love with the sport, a difficult task for some, and to scrutinize the way in which politics and history inform the sport. For me this meant writing about the break up of the former Yugoslavia using soccer as a flash point for conflict and in relation to the stagnation of Balkan sporting talent.
After taking this class, a madhouse of joy grounded in the often brutal reality of soccer’s role in political and historical systems, I understood that I could take my passion and use it to mold my future; applying for a Watson Fellowship with a soccer focus, working towards soccer journalism, and living unabashedly as a soccer fanatic.
—Matt Herceg ’07