Today we are joined by Heather Dichter, Associate Professor of Sports History and Sports Management at DeMontfort University and fellow at the international Centre for Sports History and Culture. She is also an author in and the editor of Soccer Diplomacy: International Relations and Football since 1914 (University Press of Kentucky, 2020). In our conversation, we discussed the origins of soccer diplomacy, the diplomatic role of different actors (including large and small states, international sporting organizations, and individual athletes), and whether winning matters for sports diplomats.
In Soccer Diplomacy, Dichter joins ten other scholars in a critical examination of soccer diplomacy and soccer-as-diplomacy, tracing out the ways that soccer provided a space for international exchange and how states have proactively promoted soccer to achieve diplomatic aims. Dichter shot for a wide geographic spread and each article in the book details a different angle of sports diplomacy from around the world, including some of the usual powerhouses such as Brazil, or historiographically important ones including South Africa, but more commonly from unusual places such as Iceland, Chile, and Australia.
They uncover a range of successful and failed diplomatic projects, illustrating not only the way that sports contributed to the cultural brand of a country, but more importantly the way that soccer could be mobilized by states, organizations, and even individuals to achieve particular diplomatic goals. Surprisingly, many of the diplomatic ventures initially began as sporting ones; governments only joined in reluctantly once their diplomatic possibilities became evident. Others however were whole cloth inventions of states that saw sports diplomacy as one of the few ways they could achieve their geopolitical aims.
Each of the essays in this volume offers insights into soccer’s diplomatic potential and scholars interested in sport diplomacy should read it.
Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled Sport and physical culture in Occupied France: Authoritarianism, agency, and everyday life, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime. It will come out with Manchester University Press in 2021. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history.