CfP on Soccer’s Defining Historical Moments

An call for papers for a special edition of Soccer and Society on the history of soccer, focusing on defining events has been put out. 500 word Abstracts are due March 15. Here are some details that come of H-Net: As the most popular mass spectator sport across the world, soccer generates key moments of […]

via CfP: Moments, Metaphors, Memories: Defining Events in the History of Soccer — Bread and Circuses

CfP Disobedient Democracy

There is a great project happening in Zagreb with the title Disobedient Democracy. In their words, it is “a comparative research project exploring how protest politics advances democracy.” In June 2018 they will host a one day workshop on “biographical and transformative aspects of activism” The submission deadline (500 word abstract, 200 word bio) is April 30, 2018.

See the full call here:


(revised 24.11.2017)

The conference Queering Football took place in Ljubljana from the 17-18 November, 2018, hosted at the university’s Faculty of Sport. It was the culmination of a two year, European project to address, and confront homophobia in sports. Under the title Queering Football: Addressing Homophobia at Mega-Sport Events the conference brought together European wide civil society actors, LGBTIQ fan groups and activists, fan organizations (such Football Supporters Europe), anti-discrimination-in-sports organizations (such as FARE), and representatives of the Slovenian state, football players and athletics unions. A glaring absence was the Slovenian Football Association, who despite numerous invitations, never replied.


Panel discussion on combating homophobia at the 2018 World Cup

The range of contributions are impossible to capture here, so some of the main points are presented, along with some thoughts on the topic. Through a combination of panels and workshops, the conference brought practical experiences into the discussion on how things have changed for fans, athletes, and sports institutions, and how major sporting events, such as the upcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar (2018, 2022 respectively), can be pushed to ensure the safety and rights of gay fans and players, domestic and foreign.

The panels were a combination of short presentations on how an organization or individual is encountering homophobia, what they are actively doing about it, and what the challenges are in their work. Rožle Prezelj, a representatives of the Athletics union, spoke about the differences between collective and individual sports for individual athletes and how open they can be about their private life. In his opinion, it is less of a challenge for athletes in individual disciplines to be openly gay because they do not have to balance relations with team-mates in order to succeed. Moreover, the training team they surround themselves with is one they chose. That is not to say there are not still issues with athletes coming out, or with fans, but in Prezelj’s opinion, this has more to do with a wider social context that still views LGBTIQ athletes (and the wider community) negatively. This is also reflected in the public discussions around hyper-androgynous, and intersex athletes (most famously, Castor Semenya).

For Marko Levovnik, representative of the Slovenian sport syndicate that is effectively the football players union, homophobia was an issue that had hardly registered in their work thus far. He thought that addressing homophobia in sport is also a question of fans and of the union itself, as the division between these groups is less clear than it appears. Particularly the fans are influential here, as players know where fans are on the issue. A strongly homophobic fan scene will make any initiative to start discussions in the locker room almost impossible. In addition, in a country where 41% of players are not paid on time, he admitted that it was very challenging to also make the discrimination and repression visible.

Fan-activist Di Cunningham of the Proud Canaries (Norwich City), and Sofia Karlsson, gender equality officer for the Swedish Sports Confederation, spoke about the successes and problems of working with fans and institutions. The lack of support, or mixed signals from local FAs and UEFA/FIFA was a common theme. Fans being at best unresponsive, and at worst issuing death threats, also suggested this is a deeply divisive struggle even in social environments where homosexuality is no longer taboo. Speaking to the perhaps most extreme challenge presented at the conference was Alexander Agapov, of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation. They are working and organizing in a context where there are laws on the books to prevent LGBT being presented in a positive light. A vital point made here is also what is left for LGBT activists and the community after a World Cup or Olympics packs up and leaves? It is not enough just to demand Russia (for example) ensure fan and player safety during the tourney. Fans and organizations need to find ways for transnational solidarity and action beyond the media fest tournaments.

The conference was undoubtably a rich contribution to the ongoing struggle to make sport accessible on all levels. Yet the conference was not without a few lacks. As refreshing as it was to have the content come from mostly activistic perspectives, an academic contribution might have gone a long way to address some this wider context mentioned above. This point was driven home in a discussion I had with our Contentious Images collaborator Julia Tulke about the conference and this post. In our email correspondence she wrote:

I’m somewhat curious, though, as to the name choice of “queering football,” for that suggests a more wide-reaching gesture than just looking at LGBTQ* fandom and organizations. In my understanding of the term queering (which mostly stems from gender studies) as a practice it would mean excavating histories of queerness in football itself, interrogating the role of homosociality etc. Did any pushback against that come up during the conference?

The short answer to her question is no, but this is exactly where some additional, non-soccer, non-sport based participants could have brought important contributions to the debate. Importantly it might have prompted more  consideration of where these struggles addressed intersect with others. One of the workshops picked up the idea of intersectionality and common struggle with others discriminated against. Yet a deeper discussion on queerness in sport was absent from this final round of the project.

In fact, there was little discussion around contacts to, and connections with activists/organizations beyond sport, in the wider society. What challenges exist within the wider struggle between those in sport and those in other parts of the society? How can struggles for LGBTIQ rights be connected to other issues in sport (gentrification, labor, racism)? Sport, in this regard, often poses a challenge to progressive organizing, as it too often dominated by problematic masculinity or too dominated by commercial interest that exercise too much control over stadia and media coverage. Yet, we also clearly recognize the sport and the sport stadia as social environments that are not isolated from the society, reflecting popular (and populist) discourses, trends, etc.

This is also where the conference, and LGBTIQ fandom in sport intersect with my own research. While this conference was dominated by NGO and institutional actors, this is a struggle for rights and recognition, contentious in ways that it is also outside of sports. This is part of a wider struggle and social movement. Because it is composed on one side of fans, it draws on the tools of fandom to make itself visible. But if I initially felt uncomfortable with the dominance of NGOs and civil society organizations over grassroots fan groups, it became abundantly clear that without these, the fan groups would have few if any allies.

If I think about it in the Slovenian context where I currently research, there is no initiative of LGBT fans in the first division. If there were, it would face a deeply hostile environment, and I doubt is would gain much attention. It is even a question if it could rely on support from the wider community. Though Ljubljana is generally pretty embracing of the more mainstream LGBT community, the same is not true for the rest of Slovenia. With many fires still to fight, it does not seem likely that there would be much support for taking the fight to one of the environments least sensitive to this. Particularly if there is no hint of institutional support from any other part of the sport.

Here there remain some questions over where LGBT fans in sports can draw on for support? Where does their struggle for recognition intersect with other issues in sport? How might such an intersection produce a productive union?

There were other threads flowing through this conference, most prominently the position of UEFA/FIFA in as a source of support and a pressure mechanism in any place where these mega events are held. But these are topics to fill another post. Here I have focused on the discussions most pertinent to my work, and were I find this struggle reflects its social importance the most. In sum, the conference provided insightful reflections upon struggles that remain all too hidden, opening new questions for my own research.

Celebrate Football, Fight Homophobia!

Our Common Statement on Recent Attacks Against Critical Thought

We find deeply disturbing the recent success of right-wing groups and individuals to impose themselves on university campuses across the United States, and to silence critical voices as they amplify their own. The suspension of George Ciccariello-Maher by Drexel University, along with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor cancelling her own speaking event, Mark Trahant’s resignation, Third World Quarterly publishing a text suggesting a positive view of colonialism and arguing for a partial recolonization of former colonies, and the attacks against Dr. Farhana Sultana for her vocal criticism of the text and its publication, are part of a successful attack of the far right on critical thought and exchange. These are of course just a few recent, high-profile examples of such attacks on the academy in North America. The repeated justification—in the name of free speech—of hosting white supremacist Alt-Right speakers and groups on campuses by university administrators is also disappointing. This creates an environment where racist, homophobic, and sexist-chauvinist speech is given equal status to all other speech, even as it advocates for the reversal of hard-fought social gains by historically oppressed groups.

Due to the complicit silence of most academic and non-academic institutions—within the US  and beyond—we recognize a need to express our discontent/discomfort with recent developments and voice our solidarity with those silenced and marginalized by it. In such an environment, the university can hardly be considered a safe space anymore. We acknowledge that this assault appears shocking and outrageous to us in part because of our privilege as white academics in West European and North American institutions. University colleagues and activists around the world that challenge oppressive domestic regimes, western neo-liberal reform packages, and neo-colonialism have often faced terrible persecution. But it is also true that such oppressive conditions have long existed within our own academic and social circles for People of Color, people living with disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups. In other words, the recent attack on radical and alternative voices within our institutions brings to light what has long been true for many.

We want a university to be a space where all students, staff, and professors feel safe. This environment should promote thought that challenges inequality in the societies we live in, the conditions and power regimes that create them. Therefore we state unequivocally that we stand with those being targeted by online trolls, and right-wing groups and organizations of all kinds, and demand our institutions stop accommodating hate groups while silencing progressive voices.

In Solidarity!

Knowledge Cultures

We are super pleased to have our first collaborative, academic publication out this week. It features in the journal Knowledge Cultures, in a special edition from the 2016 Audio Visual Pedagogies Conference in Zagreb. Here is the abstract and a link:

This paper proposes a framework for understanding the visual cultures of protest beyond representative images. Through a performative reading the visual takes on a dynamic role, ultimately producing a variation of the reality that protesters are demanding. Through three examples from Slovenia, Greece and Serbia, the paper examines different dimensions of visual culture of protest. In Ljubljana the how and why of a protest of fans against their own club is examined. In Athens, we look at why activists insist on traditional poster making methods in the digital era, and how these posters then function in the city neighbourhood of Exarcheia. In Belgrade, we look at the uses of video production and distribution by feminist activists Women in Black (Žene u Crnom). Atmosphere, political posters and video activism from the three examples, through which we argue visuals connect the locally specific struggles to a global context, and creating a socially oriented, richer picture of the region without getting entangled in nationalist narratives. Each case also elaborates how and why protest was visualized adapting cultural signifiers and established protest forms to produce the performative reality they are seeking.

Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall, but if you are interested in reading it, get in touch.

Soccer GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


We are re-blogging a short overview of the protest of football fans in Columbus fighting to keep their club in the city, written by DOC-team member David Brown.

In the last week, fans of Columbus Crew started a protest to save their club. There is nothing actually wrong with the team, in fact they had a great season so far. They are in the play-offs after a winning run. The problem is that the owner, Anthony Precourt, wants a new stadium in the […]

via #SaveTheCrew — Bread and Circuses

A Brief Conference Review

On the 18 and 19 of May, 2017, the University of Manchester hosted the interdisciplinary conference Everyday Revolutions in Southern and Eastern Europe. We took the opportunity to organize a panel on visual protest repertoires and present our research project, the first occasion in two years to present together. Due to a general strike in Greece, responding to a fresh round of austerity, not all of us were ultimately able to attend, however. Here we’ll say a few words about the conference and quickly summarize our main contributions. While there is also a lot to reflect on in regards to the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena on the night of the 21st shortly after the conference ended, we will not do so here. Needless to say, the death of concert attendees is a terrible loss for the families affected, and to the vibrant and diverse community of Manchester.

The conference brought together many PhD, post-Doc, and academics at other stages in their careers to present and debate research around the concept of Everyday Revolutions. The organizers write: “Moving beyond questions of radical transformation and irreversible political change, the concept of ‘everyday revolutions’ problematizes the overlooked revolutionary potential of small-scale resistance, grassroots mobilisation, counter-culture, liberation movements, and alternative provisioning, among others.” The Keynote was delivered by Prof. Davina Cooper. With the title ‘What good is playing at being a state?’, she explored the various meanings, manifestations and critiques of the state, and its impact on daily life.

With this frame, we chose to each present our individual work within the wider project of “Contentious Images, Unruly Practices.” We did not spend any of our limited time on the general framework, save a brief introduction given by Julia at the top of the panel. While the picture was incomplete due to Angelos’ absence, and the “work in progress” point we are at, the panel was ideal also for our own reflection upon the interconnections in our works.

In her contribution, Julia traced the evolution of her research project on street art in Athens Aesthetics of Crisis from a rather static social movement studies framework towards one more attuned to the contingencies of everyday life. Following Lauren Berlant’s understanding of the crisis as “an emergency in the reproduction of life, a transition that has not found its genres for moving on,”[1] she offered a critical feminist framework for understanding the current proliferation of street art in Athens as a meaningful intervention into the current political configuration. She described how the walls of the city have come to function as a living archive of the current historical conjuncture and a site for imagining new political potentials and encounters. Considering street art not merely as visual artifacts but also as performative practice, Julia argued that street art is not a static representation of its given socio-cultural context but also has the potential to actively transform urban space and reimagine everyday life by inscribing alternative histories and possibilities into the very surface of the city.

The focus of her analysis was with figurative artworks, expressive portrayals of the corporeal and affective impact of crisis and austerity of everyday life. By making visible the shared affective condition of the crisis, one marked by precaritization and uncertainty, street artists claim the walls of the city as a space for emotionally processing the continuous state of exception. The task of dealing with this deeply felt precarity is typically relegated to the privacy of the domestic sphere, as demanded by what anthropologist Athena Athanasiou calls the truth regime of crisis and austerity: “not only do people have to engage in a daily struggle against economic hardship and humiliation, but they are also called upon to bear all this without any sign of outrage or dissent.”[2] By visualizing this collective vulnerability of the everyday in public space, works of street art may eventually become meaningful as a basis and resource for political solidarity and community formation.

Next, Marija explored the multifaceted phenomena of video activism and how it is adopted and used by the feminist antimilitarist women´s organisation Women in Black (Žene u crnom) in Serbia. More than ever the vast amount of circulating digital videos and the influence they have today, both on our everyday life but also in protest settings, calls for examining conceptualisation, production, and use of digital videos in their local context. She proposed exploring video activism of WiB through a peformative lens as an act of visual writing of women´s history and their struggles and video as a visual artefact for documentation, representation and research of this history.

Special focus was on videos that were produced to promote a feminist model of transitional justice. This model is presented through the concept of Women´s Court, a unique model in the region of Ex-Yugoslavia, developed to offer a different safe space for all women (witnesses, activist and academics) for their voices to be heard. The aim of the first videos made by WiB´s video activist group in 2010 was to make visible the effects of various models of transitional justice, especially of the feminist approach to justice to the broader public, and to facilitate a change of values, ideas of peace, justice and solidarity (Women in Black, 2011). Today there are 17 videos produced around the topic of Women´s Court for internal and external audiences, which were made to document and represent the project: it´s development, implementation and discussions around it. The effectiveness of these videos is directly linked to their performative character. They should not be seen only as representation; rather, they can also have their own life, potential and power to create possible worlds.[3] Under certain circumstances they can produce countervisuality[4], new political subjectivities[5], articulate opposition or resistance and thus renegotiate or even reverse power relations. Moving images produced by WiB are not just presenting a new model of justice but are also showing internal (activists) gazes and powerful political images of women: attendant in the past and present historical political events, diverse, united, active, images which are challenging dominant patriarchal and nationalistic public discourses and have a great potential for the production of new political subjectivites.

David took the occasion to work out the central concept of “general atmosphere”[6] in his work. The atmosphere is composed of various elements, from bodies and sounds, to movement, clothing, and materials such as banners, stickers, and flares. But it is also context. The atmosphere is thus not just an aesthetic concept, but should be regarded as inviting also the analysis of the temporal and special moment in which it is being created. Deeply visual, atmosphere communicates the subject of the protest, along with its object and demand. When fans create atmosphere in a stadium, they are doing something similar, and when they protest, as in the case of Olimpija Ljubljana fans over the course of 2013-2014, they deploy the same visual repertoires.

In football, this atmosphere is a key dimension of the game. Matches are radically transformed without active supporters in the stadium. This in turn informs fan protest strategies, such as using the boycott, but it also is the core of free labor for the industry of football. Where fans generate exciting and colorful atmosphere, they are subject to a double exploitation: paying entrance fees and delivering a performance that the industry is able to use for promotion of its product (of which the fan is part – and this is in addition to their operating costs). In the field of fan labor this is an established part of the analysis. [7] But it has rarely been considered in the context of sport fans.[8] While the fan protest is generally not a radical rupture, and in the case of the Green Dragons is reformist in nature, looking at fan labor, the use of boycott as a tool, in conjuncture with notions of how capitalism is able to financialize affect, it becomes an opportunity to better understand forms of everyday exploitation. As a result, we are also better able to identify the dynamic between these forms of appropriation and those who resist and seek alternative social and economic relations.



[1] Lauren Berlant, “Austerity, Precarity, Awkwardness,” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Montreal, 2011,

[2] Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou, Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (Cambridge: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 149.

[3] Lazzarato, M (2003) Struggle, Event, Media. Republicart 5.

[4] Mirzoeff, N (2011) The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. Durham: Duke University Press.

[5] Razsa, M J (2014) Beyond ‘Riot Porn’: Protest Video and the Production of Unruly Subjects. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 79 (4): 496–524.

[6] van Leeuwen, A, van Stekelenburg, J, and Klandermans, B. (2016). The phenomenology of protest atmosphere: A demonstrator Perspective. In European Journal of Social Psychology. 46(1), 44–62.

[7] Stanfill, Mel and Megan Condis, eds. 2014. Fandom and/as Labor in Transformative Works and Cultures 15.

[8] Tarver, Erin. 2017. The I in Team: Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity. Chicago:University of Chicago Press.

Knowledge – Cultures

We were thrilled to get confirmation a day ago that our team will have its first common and scientific publication in the journal Knowledge – Cultures. Slated to be included in the journal later this year, the article is based on our presentation at last year’s AVPC 2016:  Visual Pedagogies and Digital Cultures conference in Zagreb, Croatia. See this post for more on the conference. The article was collaboratively written by Marija, Angelos, and David.

The article takes the title “Visual Dimension of Protest: three examples from the Balkans” and sketches out a framework that we are all working within. Our central focus here was to operationalize the term Visual Protest Repertoires (VPR), building on social movement theory (specifically Tilly’s repertoires of contention), visual culture, and performativity.

The article then presents the three cases that are the core of our individual research within the Contentious Images project: Women in Black, political posters, and football fan protests. We felt it was important to bring as much “practical” examples to the paper as we are still defining our theoretical frames, exploring the edges of VPR, and conducting our research. In this way, the paper very much represents a mid-way point in the research, and an initial articulation of our concept and fields.

Focusing on the practice, on the tangiable dimensions that we have thus far recorded and considered makes a “work in progress” paper useful and accessible to readers. Reflecting on our data, field notes and work thus far begins (we hope) a process of discussion with a scientific community about/around our work. Finally, it was also useful as a way for us to take advantage of our support structure through comments from various mentors, particularly Marion Hamm – who also worked out the term VPR together with us.

A Protest in Brooklyn

I ran into a protest in Brooklyn in November. On my way somewhere else, I heard a commotion down a small neighborhood street. I could see police and a sectioned off area, people holding signs. Fortunately, I had my camera; unfortunately I had an almost empty battery and no back up (lesson learned).

The protest was on the issue of homeless housing in area. The protest demanded a stop to “warehousing” homeless people in hotels, which is not a long term solution, nor a cost-effective one. They argued that hotels were being built in their neighborhoods that had no tourism, but were going to look to take advantage of City money for housing the homeless, effectively becoming for-profit homeless shelters. But there was also a very conservative vein to this protest, when the protest demanded the abolition of the New York City law that mandates the City house any homeless person seeking assistance. The fear was that this encouraged the homeless to take advantage of local tax-payers, something explicitly mentioned in the video. A discourse that echoes what we often hear in discussions on immigration.

These seem to offer contradictory positions, with wanting to help the homeless with long term solutions, using available and vacant houses, and wanting to end the City’s commitment to help for fear of outsiders taking advantage of this. The question of gentrification is also present. On the one side people are fearful of getting priced out homes through particular forms of development. On the other side the (conflicted) attitude towards the homeless and the resources they require suggests that people also want to preserve their neighborhood’s appearance, protecting it from potential “degradation” by accommodating welfare cases and institutions. They appear to want to keep the neighborhood as it is, for the middle (or working) class.

The protest also offered a series of creative visuals both expounding on what people thought was the issue, and in some cases with a degree of humor. These signs also connected to wider social concerns in the US. The “stop the war on the middle-class”, for example, was widely used in recent elections by almost all candidates, and reflects the importance of the middle class in liberal capitalism, where it is seen as source of stability, while also undermining broader worker solidarity. As such, it is a conservative discourse, and suggests that some protesters saw this protest as being (also) about their standard of living. Another sign, however, suggested this was an attack on the working class.

Others expressed resentment by attacking the politicians themselves (“the dope of Parkslope” was sung repetitively and also on some signs). The diversity of opinions and at times contradictory messages was however secondary to the appearance of unity, with a clear, vocal presence focused on the single question of opposing the “warehousing” of the homeless.

“Lovren: My Life as a Refugee”

The documentary film about Liverpool FC’s defender Dejan Lovren was announced over twitter by the official Liverpool FC (LFC) account. The majority of comments people added were frankly awful, mostly centering on terrible jokes about sending him home in exchange with someone who could defend. But the film itself offers a welcome pro-refugee message. The type of comments found on the twitter announcement, while not exactly representative, still indicate that voices such as Lovren’s need to be amplified, and this is what the film does. In the documentary he describes his family’s experience of fleeing from the Yugoslav war in 1992. Born in Kraljeva Sutjeska (in Bosnia and Herzegovina) his family was compelled to leave behind a small business and, by his account, an idyllic life in the Bosnian Republic. They fled to Munich, Germany, where Lovren’s Grandfather had a just enough room for the family. He spent his early years in Germany, developing a sense of home, but like many Yugoslav refugee families, they were sent back once it was deemed safe enough to return people.

But Dejan returned to a place he had never known. Germany, as he recounts in the film, was the home he knew. His family settled in the Croatian town of Karlovac, where 10 year old Dejan struggled with being “different” from local kids in Croatia. He found himself in football, and it became his means of communicating and negotiating his identity with others, a common engagement of sport for displaced youth. Sport in such a context becomes a language without words, though it can also easily divide with the same logic.[1]

As such, the story is compelling. The film oscillates between pleasing studio shots of a hansom Dejan, drone shots of Munich, Karlovac, and his birth place, and historical footage of the war. Aesthetically, this emphasizes a very black and white remembering process, and also where the limitations of the film start to become clear. There is a sense from the images of the tragic versus the idyllic. Germany and Munich are represented as a place without problems, masking a restrictive asylum policy and the everyday hostility towards Yugoslavs that was common at the time. Perhaps this should not be surprising: today we see something similar happening. Germany and Merkle in particular, again appear to be the last bastion of liberalism, welcoming more refugees than other countries. Yet it is also sending many people back, restricting border access, and giving concessions to voices on the far right with respect to immigrants.

In all this, Yugoslavia remains an unexplainable mess. It is represented strictly in nostalgic terms or as a warzone. This is a familiar refrain. Lovren’s feelings about his past, the struggles of his family and of being a refugee, and the current refugee crisis are sympathetic. Moreover, as Alexander Holiga points out, the fact that Lovren doesn’t point any fingers or assign blame for the war, is commendable.[2] Despite this, the film nevertheless falls into a trap of reproducing historical images without any explanations, often reducing all the various experiences of flight to people walking with bags in terrible conditions, and images of intense violence without any distinctions.

Individual stories of hope and success will always mask the realities of being a refugee. As charming and inspiring as they can be, such stories also reproduce notions of entrepreneurship and “hard work” as being enough to overcome hardship, and a distinction between good (read successful) and problematic (read unsuccessful) refuges or foreigners. A theme that is common among sport documentaries. As Ian McDonald writes, “… sport documentaries have tended to capitalize on the market that has opened up for documentaries by emphasizing the human drama decontextualized from issues of power, and therefore complicit in reinforcing dominant ideologies: here, the ideology of sport as the route to success and the exemplar of character.”[3]

Clearly it is always challenging to tell a story about an individual when the backdrop is war. But precisely that is the problem: war is not a backdrop for individual success stories; at least it should not be. At one point we encounter the image of Četnik solders as Lovren talks about the arduous and fearful 17 hour drive up to Germany, while borders were not clear, the checkpoints frequent, and everyone a suspect. Are we meant to understand that his Croatian family made it through Serb lines? Does the film want us to think of the Serbs as the enemy, the bad guys of the war, preventing innocent families from getting out of harms way? Lovren didn’t feel the need to make such claims, yet are the filmmakers? Or is this just a random and poorly chosen image from the Yugoslav war that fits our West European/North American conception of the war?

Dejan Lovren talks about being “returned” after the war was over; something that should force the film to ask why, after almost 10 years in Germany, where Lovren was in school and growing up, was the family not able to stay? Also absent is any sense that we in Europe and North America also bear responsibility beyond creating a positive “Wilkomenskultur”. Is “giving them a chance” really enough? Or is it perhaps also about changing the way we see citizenship, the way borders work, and the way our expectation of a certain living standard creates instability in other parts of the world? By relegating the war and the refugee experience to a platform for this individual story, the film avoids the difficult and necessary questions. As is so often the case when we represent the Yugoslav wars, and the current refugee crisis, on film or in text, these types of questions simply go unanswered.

You can watch the film for free here

[1] For examples, see Roy Hay’s article Croatia: Community, Conflict and Culture: the role of soccer clubs in Migrant identity (1998), and Ramon Spaaij’s Refugee youth, belonging, and community sport (2013)


[3] McDonald, Situating the Sport Documentary (2007)