Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Football Is a Game for Rough Girls . . .

The excellent anthropology site Savage Minds has an interview with Elise Edwards, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Butler University in Indiana, who is working on a book about soccer, corporate sport, and national identity construction in Japan in the late 1990s and into the present, Fields for the Future: Soccer, Nation, and Citizens in Japan at the Turn of the 21st Century. She also played for three seasons in Japan’s women’s professional L-League in the mid-1990s and continues to be involved with the sport, serving as the goalkeeping coach for Butler University’s varsity women’s team.

Many have drawn comparisons between baseball and soccer, with baseball and its militaristic-style training symbolizing the hardworking, group-oriented, and hyper-disciplined Japan of the past, and soccer representing the rapidly changing, foreign derived, and more individualistic post-industrial economy and culture of the present. In this overdrawn binary, baseball is marked as the “national” or “domestic” sport, in contrast to the “international” game of soccer. This is rather ironic since the two sports were actually both introduced to Japan in the early 1870s. (Of course, baseball, as some of these commentators have pointed out, has no equivalent to soccer’s World Cup Tournament, making it less of a “global sport.”) Other writers have suggested that the skills required of soccer players on the field – as individual decision makers in a complicated web, or network, of 21 other players – are exactly the skills required of workers in the new 21st century economy. Of course, for many soccer represents things other than globalization and its requisite dispositions; players, fans, and plenty of sports writers have characterized soccer as embodying a new found individuality and a spirit of change in the country. In 1993, the year the J-League launched, I remember a forty-year old female friend gesticulating wildly as she explained how these young soccer players expressed the freedom and rebelliousness of youth culture in a way not found in baseball. In her opinion, it was wonderful – to watch and for Japan.

1 comment:

J.J said...

Define use of the word 'Rough'!!!!