September 2016

Last modified: 29.09.2016


This week, world football governing body FIFA has announced the termination of its anti-racism task force. General secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura explained this decision with the task force’s success, saying that its mandate has been fulfilled.

Set up in 2013, the task force has made a number of recommendations, leading e.g. to the implementation of an Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System to asses those matches with a high risk for discriminatory and racist incidents in the course of the ongoing World Cup qualification.

From the beginning, the task force was set up on temporary basis and its work will be implemented in programs governed by the FIFA board according its officials. Whether or not the fight against racism will continue with the same strength in the depths of FIFA’s administrative units is yet to see. However, critique from the task force’s founding member and Manchester City player Yaya Touré or anti-racism groups like Kick It Out over FIFA’s decision raise doubts about it.

In any case, the mission of the fight against racism is far from being accomplished. While open racism may have declined over the years in some countries it still persists in many others. Particularly, the host nation of the upcoming World Cup in 2018, Russia, is challenged by an overflowing discriminatory atmosphere in its stadiums. On the other hand, forms of open racism form only part of the problem. Structural forms of racism such as racial Othering which downgrade black players in European football in particular still remain a problem. Perhaps, those rather implicit problems need more and closer attention than the monitoring of high-risk matches and implementation of penalties for teams whose supporters are involved in racist discrimination of opponent fans and players.
It can only be hoped that the task force’s work was not a fig-leaf in turbulent times for FIFA but that its new leadership is seriously willing to tackle problems of discrimination and racism in all its forms.

Christian Ungruhe, Aarhus University
Sources: and (accessed 28 September 2016)


Niko Besnier is professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. In 2011, he was awarded a 5-year Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for a project on “Globalization, Sports, and the Precarity of Masculinity” (GLOBALSPORT). The project involves four PhD students and four postdoctoral fellows, who work in various regions of the world and in different sporting disciplines. In this interview, Niko talks about the background, aims and preliminary results of GLOBALSPORT and how an anthropological lens contributes to an understanding of sport migration. For more information:

CU: As an anthropologist who has looked at various social phenomena like gender, sexuality and globalization why did sport migration grab your attention?

NB: One of the themes I have been interested in is how very tradition oriented societies manage modernity and manage being part of a globalized world. In Tonga, in the Pacific Islands, where I have conducted fieldwork, there exists a widespread anxiety to be part of the modern world and in particular to migrate. Many Tongans who have migrated to the United States, Australia or New Zealand live and work there under precarious conditions. But the miraculous story happened in the 1980s and 1990s with the discovery that the national passion, rugby, could in fact be turned from play into work. When I did fieldwork in Tonga in 2007, I began to realize how important these sport migrations had become. For all levels of life. First of all, from an economic perspective, with the possibility of sending remittances of a scale that had never been imagined before, but also on social, cultural and political levels. So at this stage, you have a situation in which all young men are oriented towards the possibility of pursuing a career in rugby abroad. And a reality in which several hundred men have managed to get contracts overseas. So it was during this fieldwork when I realized how sport migration is embedded in people’s attempts to find a sense of dignity in their lives in a place at the margin of this world. 

CU: Sport migration had been approached from various disciplines like geography or sociology, before anthropologists discovered this topic as well. What is the lens that anthropologists can offer and what is their contribution to the field?

NB: A great deal of the work on this topic takes a macro perspective. What anthropologists are interested in is a much more grass-root approach. One that is ethnographic and follows people’s lives over the long term. This also includes people who do not manage to migrate, who try to do so and do not succeed, who migrate and end up in places where they don’t want to be, or who are left out or benefit from migration without migrating themselves. Anthropology tries to understand life in its various facets. We try to understand how politics is intertwined with culture, with society, with economics. So it is a much broader scope than other disciplines have. On the other hand, my aim is not just to show what anthropology can contribute for an understanding of sport, but also to demonstrate that sport can be a very important way to illuminating fundamental questions in anthropology. I think that so far sociologists and geographers have done a better job in doing this for their disciplines.

CU: GLOBALSPORT projects encompass various sporting disciplines and geographical locations. In a nutshell, what are the similarities and differences between Tongan rugby players, West African footballers and wrestlers and Kenyan runners in the light of migration?

NB: We are in the last year of analysis and are just beginning to see what these comparisons might look like and how to theorize them. But there are some interesting patterns that have emerged, some which were anticipated while others were not. One very interesting question from the beginning is the way in which masculinity is transformed by migration, transformed by the shifting focus on sport from play to work and business which was not there 30 years ago in many of these places. When masculine power on the football field, the rugby field or the cricket field becomes a sight of interest, new ways of understanding gender in general – and masculinity in particular – have emerged and are in conflict with already present forms. One aspect that has come up that I did not fully anticipate is the role of religion. More and more, we find that there are struggles in sport over different kinds of Christianity like Catholicism and Methodism versus Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity. Similarly, different interpretations of Islam have different relationships to sport. Sport has become the focus of these tensions and conflicts because the sporting body becomes an individual and therefore one that has a particular relationship to God. We remain to investigate this in depth but this conflicting relationship between sport and religion is visible in places we study like Senegal, Cameroon, Argentina or Fiji, and seems to be a very interesting point of comparison and theorization.

CU: Next to precarity and masculinity, hope is one of the key concepts of your project. How are these concepts connected and how is the life of young men related to them?

NB: Their relationship to hope is particularly interesting because it operates on multiple levels. The hope of making plenty of money in order to support many relatives and neighbors, churches or mosques is one that relates hope to precarity. But then, hope is also a religious and cultural concept and one that is ideational. One of the tasks that we are having here is to try to find how these different levels of hope relate to one another. For example, how does the hope of getting out of poverty morphs into the hope that God will be with you in your trajectory?

CU: As you are now entering the final year of your project what can we expect in terms of outcomes and dissemination of results?

NB: Our four PhD students are working towards the completion of their individual dissertations and the postdoctoral fellows will mainly focus to publish articles in anthropology journals and perhaps sport studies. In addition, the entire team has cross-fertilized in very interesting ways. We have begun to join forces in ways that have been extremely productive and produced analyses which we would probably not be able to produce individually. Further away on the horizon is the closing conference of the project, which will be held in Prague in June 2017. This will not be an open conference though, but by invitation. One of the areas that I wish we could make greater effort is in disseminating our results to non-academics. For example, the Ambassador of Fiji to the European Union and the High Commissioner of Fiji to London are quite keen on communicating with us and trying to avert some of the problems that Fijian migrants in rugby encounter: from too much drinking, to underperformance, to homesickness and motorcar accidents. Not that we will be able to solve any of this but we can at least try to think through these problems with people who are dealing with them in the front lines and think of possible solutions or at least ways of managing the problems.


April 10-13, 2017
University of Free State
Bloemfontein, South Africa

In February 2004, the Ohio University hosted the first edition of ‘Sport in Africa’ Conference. Over the last 10 editions of this conference, between 2004 and 2014, a variety of themes were addressed, including Youth, Gender, Health, Communication, Development, Politics, Globalization and Global South, bringing together sports scholars and practitioners from African, American and European Universities.

Continuing this agenda to advance research and knowledge on “Sport in Africa”, the Institute of Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State, South Africa in collaboration with Ohio University will host the 11th edition of “Sports Africa” Conference.  The theme for this year’s conference is “Sporting Subalternities and Social Justice”.

NOTE: Deadline for submission of abstracts for presentations at the conference is November 15.

Further information can be found here.


This edited book will be a collection of well-researched essays that identify and examine the various interconnections of sports, Africa, and the African Diaspora. The editor seeks both theoretical and empirical submissions from scholars across the humanities and social sciences.

Read more here.


The Network is happy to welcome Dr. Daniel Burdsey as a new member. Dan's in-depth expertise connects the areas of race, ethnicity and popular culture. It is linked fundamentally by its central theme of qualitative observational research on ethnicities as lived in public cultures/spaces, and has focused on British Asian experiences in sport (especially football). More specifically, his projects and publications contributed fundamentally to the state of the art on British Asian identities and popular culture, racism in sport, and football communities.

Dan is Head of Research in the School of Sport and Service Management. During the late 1990s he was a member of the Leicester City FC Anti-Racist Task Force which initiated the Foxes Against Racism project and he has since carried out consultancy work on British Asian football fans (with the Asian Football Network) for the FA Premier League and Fulham FC. From 2007 up to the present day, he has realized seven research projects on active sports (cricket, football) and its supporters and infrastructures, with emphasis on notions of social justice, sociological intervention and academic activism.

During the past two years, Dan has published on race, nation and the London 2012 Olympic Games, critical race theory in sport management, British Asian male athletes and the question of race, legibility and the state, on conversations on racism, anti-racism and multiculturalism in the Australian Football League and English Premier League, racial neoliberalism in English men’s professional football, and Sport and South Asian diasporas.


The University of Brighton as part of a consortium with the University of Portsmouth and the University of Southampton: South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership has become a Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) doctoral training partnership, offering fully-funded PhD studentships over the next six years, commencing October 2017. At Brighton, these studentships must be linked to one of three areas of social science research excellence in the university one of which is sport, leisure and tourism.

Projects will be applicant-led, rather than responding to pre-determined topics. A formal announcement / application details will follow soon, but prospective applicants should get in touch with one of us to discuss their ideas straight away.

Please see the following link for more details on academic staff and research interests in the sociology of sport / physical culture:

For further information please contact:
Dr. Daniel Burdsey, Head of Research, School of Sport and Service Management
Dr. Thomas Carter, Head of the Centre of Sport, Tourism and Leisure Studies (CoSTaLS)




The sport and migration network invites all PhD students in the field of sport and migration to join the network and share information about their projects and ongoing work. To ensure that we are up to date with the latest research in sport and migration we have created a study group for PhD students. Contrary to becoming a full member of the sport and migration network, you do not need international publications to be a part of the PhD study group; all we ask for are that you have a project description and a willingness to contribute to the network.

Apply as a member of the PhD study group using the ‘apply for membership’-link on the bottom of the front page of or click here – remember to tick of the PhD study group box.

If you have any questions, feel free to address them to


For the coming newsletters it will be possible to present new studies and discuss interesting findings. We would also like to encourage members to inform us of job adverts, conferences and books that may be of interest to the network. We have deadlines for submission to our newsletter on a quarterly basis; December 1, March 1, June 1 and September 1. 

Please direct this information to