Todd Cleveland to Lecture on 'Soccer'

African boys enjoy a pickup game of soccer. Todd Cleveland notes that "virtually every great player from Africa started playing on a dirt pitch - the entry cost is negligible."
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African boys enjoy a pickup game of soccer. Todd Cleveland notes that "virtually every great player from Africa started playing on a dirt pitch - the entry cost is negligible."

Soccer started in the 19th century as a working-class game, played by sailors and soldiers and easily adapted to local athletic traditions. In 2018, more than 3 billion people — casual observers and passionate fans alike — will watch the World Cup, either in person, on television, or via streaming media. Meanwhile, FIFA, soccer's international governing body, estimates that more than 265 million people worldwide actively play "the beautiful game." 

"Soccer brings folks together in a way that is very unique," said Todd Cleveland, an assistant professor of history. "The game has the ability to unite fans but it can also deepen historic social divides, and continues to engender violence among fans." 

Cleveland will discuss the past, present and future of soccer in a public lecture, "Soccer," at 5:15 Wednesday, Sept. 13 in Gearhart Hall Auditorium. His lecture serves as a preview for the Honors College Signature Seminar, Soccer, that Cleveland will offer in Spring 2018. 
Some of the main questions to be explored in the course, which Cleveland will touch on in his lecture, include: 

  • How did soccer generate so many players and followers?
  • From its innocuous beginnings as a game enjoyed by the British working class, how did soccer spread throughout the world and come to dominate global sports?
  • Who were the agents of this diffusion?
  • How was the game received, adopted, altered or even resisted by various populations worldwide?

Students in the interdisciplinary seminar will analyze how geo-historical contexts have shaped the game and will examine the ways soccer has reflected the ongoing process of globalization. 

Todd Cleveland is an assistant professor of history whose research interests are broadly concentrated around the interactions between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans during the colonial period and, in particular, labor and social relations between the Portuguese and the indigenous populations in the former's assortment of African territories. The majority of Cleveland's research has focused on the history of diamond mining in Africa, and features in three books: Stones of Contention: A History of Africa's Diamonds (Ohio University, 2014); Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917-75 (Ohio University, 2015); and, co-authored with Jorge Varanda, A Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang): Fotos que escondem, imagens que mostram (Guerra e Paz, forthcoming).  

Cleveland's latest book, Following the Ball: The Migration of African Soccer Players across the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1949-1975 (Ohio University), will be published this fall. He is also engaged in two book projects that examine the histories of tourism in Africa.

Next spring, in addition to Cleveland's course, the Honors College will offer Signature Seminars on the Internet, taught by communication professor Stephanie Schulte, and Manuscript, taught by English professor Joshua Byron Smith. The Signature Seminars, designated HNRC 4013H in the university's Catalog of Studies, focus on a wide range of cutting-edge topics, including disease, water, aging, profit and resilient design. Honors students must apply to participate in these courses, and those selected will be designated Dean's Signature Scholars. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Oct. 15.


Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College


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