Migration and Transnationality Discourses

Research on football and migration has been neglected in the past decades, although football fandom and migration interact in various visible ways in public life: as football teams with an ethnicised club directive (cf. Zifonun 2008; Metzger 2011), as players who are constructed as role models for ‘integration’ (David Alaba or Mesut Ozil, cf. Nuhrat 2015) or as football fans of local clubs or clubs from another country (cf. McManus 2013, 2016) like in the case of Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans in Vienna. In this book, I argue that migration and transnational practices have become regular and everyday phenomena in the world of football. Different authors have worked on this topic with different foci. In the following I will discuss the works that are relevant for the discussion in this book.

Together with Roland Robertson, Richard Giulianotti has dedicated a variety of articles to global aspects of football fandom. These include works on glocalisation, migration, transnationalisation and globalisation and their impact on football fandom (Giulianotti and Robertson 2004, 2007a, b, c). Richard Giulianotti and Roland Robertson (2007a) offer a rather sociological approach to football fandom and migration.[1] In their article ‘Forms of Glocalization’, they explore the strategies of football fans that migrated from Scotland to North America. By claiming that the local can be mobile, they argue that fans can take their local fan culture with them during or after migration and apply a rather one-dimensional definition of culture (Giulianotti and Robertson 2007a, p. 134). In their article, they offer four categories of analysis:

  • (a) Relativization: The strategy of relativization includes keeping ‘core cultural allegiances’. It means that an imagined community is kept alive by expressing national identity (via songs, team emblems, folklore from the home country) which can include the degradation of North American viewpoints (2007a, pp. 137-138).
  • (b) Accommodation: This strategy embraces the accommodation of cultural differences. It means that fans accommodate with the people in the host society, use local pubs et cetera for their fan practices and adapt to the local requirements and conditions (2007a, pp. 140-142).
  • (c) Hybridization: The most constructive strategy that Giulianotti and Robertson identify is hybridization. Thereby, they refer to practices where fans perform ‘hybrid supporter rituals’ such as hybrid club names or hybrid fan products (for example the New York Celtic Supporters Club) (2007a, pp. 143-144).

(d) Transformation: The strategy of transformation characterises the point of who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’ and how that is negotiated. In Giulianotti and Robertson’s study this does specifically refer to the fact that religion and politics are not that important anymore for the fan identity; as a result collective rituals change. Rather, their key question here is: will there be a next generation of football supporters? (2007a, pp. 144-147).

Giulianotti and Robertson evolved their categories around the question of ‘how migrant groups sustain significant elements of their “local” culture while critically engaging with particular aspects of their host society’ (2007a, p. 147). As helpful as such categorisations might be, they do cause various issues. As mentioned before, their definition of culture is rather one-dimensional. Moreover, it does seem as if culture is something one can ‘carry around’. If we rather refer to a term like ‘practices’ that are constructed, we can stress the temporal and especially contextual and situational notion of fandom. The overlapping and temporal discontinuity of these four strategies consequently would warrant more attention.

Anthony King (2000, 2003) and Cornel Sandvoss (2003, 2005, 2012) follow a transnational approach with the focus on Europeanisation processes rather than migration. King’s fieldwork on Manchester United fans revealed that for many fans the club identity has become more important than a possible identification with the national team. Furthermore, travelling through Europe to see Manchester United play on a European level results in getting familiar with the concept of Europe which indicates the Europeanising notion of football (2000, p. 425). In line with this, Sandvoss emphasises another important point regarding European identification. In his study on Chelsea FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen he concludes that while fans maybe do not ‘feel European’, because of the football experience they indeed do ‘act European’ (Sandvoss 2012, p. 97).

John McManus also deals with transnational phenomena in contemporary football. In this case, the research also focuses on a migrant perspective on fandom in Europe. McManus researches Be§ikta§ fan communities in England, Germany and in Europe more generally (McManus 2013, 2015, 2016). He focuses on the role of technology, new media and ‘polymedia’ (Madianou and Miller 2012) in this nexus with special regard to practices of place-making in a transnational online and offline context. His research, like the present book, is so far amongst the few studies that explicitly focus on football fan practices of supporters in a diasporic context, more specifically on fans that keep on supporting the team of their own home country or the parents’ home country.

European football has been characterised by its postmigrant and migrant players (cf. Liegl and Spitaler 2008) and fans from different parts of the world. Particularly, because football is a place where it is relatively easy to join a community (cf. Sulzle 2011, p. 239), it is thus a place that is attractive for migrants to a certain extent (cf. Schmidt-Lauber 2008, p. 52). Referring to Bromberger (1998), Brigitta Schmidt-Lauber argues that fandom offers a chance to connect to members of the host society via the shared cultural practice of football (2008, p. 52). This is in line with what the football researcher Max Gluckmann has experienced and reflected on when moving from South Africa to England (cf. Gordon and Grundlingh 2016).

Cornel Sandvoss’s work does not explicitly focus on migration but does include migrant perspectives on football fandom from a transnational perspective. He argues that the loyalty to the parents’ home team is most of the time a club affiliation and not a national one. The interest in the national team of the parents’ home is thus mostly rather small (2012, p. 87). Sandvoss calls these fans transnational migrants, comparing their loyalty and rivalry practices to those people who have a ‘subnational migratory background’ (2012, p. 88). Schmidt-Lauber argues that in the context of migration, nationalities are often questioned and need to be newly negotiated (2009, p. 446). She makes it clear that among migrants it is especially obvious that people have plural loyalties and affiliations (ibid.). However, there is considerable pressure on migrants who are often forced to choose one loyalty and whose plural loyalties are problematised. This does not only apply to a football context but also, for example, to citizenship. The problematisation of plural affiliations will be discussed throughout this book.

Victoria Schwenzer and Nicole Selmer (2010) have written a comprehensive overview about the lack of academic research on football fandom and migration. The authors underline the critique of the claim that football is a mirror of society. Migrant fans, they write, are still underrepresented in (German) stadia and have been of little interest to the clubs for a long time (Schwenzer and Selmer 2010, p. 388). With technology enhancing, it is easier to follow any league around the world. This is especially interesting for migrant football fans, as they can watch league matches on a regular basis in a pub, on a computer or elsewhere. Schwenzer and Selmer identify two perspectives for migrant fans that are linked to this development. When watching football in a (Turkish) pub generation-spanning can be considered a common practice among football fans. However, it is also a recent cultural practice of growing transnational fandom and transnational fan communities (Schwenzer and Selmer 2010).

Alongside Schwenzer and Selmer, Ayhan Kaya refers to how experiences of exclusion can be negotiated in popular culture. He writes about the role of the Turkish hip-hop youth in Berlin-Kreuzberg and also about the role of being a fan of a Turkish club, in which they ‘form [...] a kind of part-time communitarianism that provides them with a political response to their exclusion from the public space in Germany.’ (Kaya 2001, pp. 157-8) In their contribution on fans and migration, Schwenzer and Selmer emphasise the usefulness of Axel Honneth’s ‘Theory of Recognition’ for the analysis of processes related to migration because they are very often connected to a ‘struggle for recognition’ (Schwenzer and Selmer 2010, pp. 387, 394-5). Honneth’s theory of recognition (Honneth 1990, 1992, 1996) is on the one hand helpful to understand migration processes (cf. Becker 2001; Szogs 2010) but it entails the risk of victimising migrants and their actions via assuming that ‘failures of recognition’ are a regular part particularly of a migrant’s life.[2] I will use Honneth’s theory for this book as an analytical approach to experiences of disrespect that are partly specific to a migrant context, but emphasising that experiences of disrespect are part of everyone’s everyday life.

  • [1] One of Richard Giulianotti’s articles (2002) on football fandom pays special attention to the categorisation of supporters. By dividing them in ‘supporters’, ‘followers’, ‘fans’, and ‘flaneurs’, heoffers a framework for the understanding of different spectator types. His approach, however,neglects the situational and contextual notion of fan practices and is therefore not entirely helpfulto this anthropological study.
  • [2] A major argument of Honneth’s theory is that every single individual experiences ‘disrespect’; it isnot specific to migrant contexts (Honneth 1990, 1992, 1996).
 
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