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The Assistant Professor of Football: Soccer, Culture, History.
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The Assistant Professor of Football: Soccer, Culture, History.

Author: Philipp Gollner

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The academic treatment for English-speakers who get that soccer is more than gamedays, stars and goals. Who wonder about the histories, subcultures and politics that make the game so different from many American sports cultures; and who care about a critical take on soccer as a global capitalist machine. A European-guided journey, with one expert "visiting professor" each episode. 

40 Episodes
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Goshen, Indiana is home to a private college without an American Football team - and, most recently, a semi-professional soccer club that serves as an - albeit unusual - case study for how grassroots soccer in the U.S. can thrive and build a community. The overarching theme of The Assistant Professor is that football is not merely about goals and stars. It is, done properly, a participatory culture, an identity-forging community and even a political space. And to experience any of these aspec...
Today's episode is a mix between soccer detective story and true crime podcasting. British investigative journalist Paul Brown is our Visiting Professor for the day. He and his colleague Philippe Auclair have piled up pathbreaking research on the backstory, money trail and flat out baffling activities of a group called 777 partners. Their activities in the insurance and airplanes business would be a story well worth telling in and of itself, but they feature here today because they own stakes...
We begin with the Eurovision Songcontest and end with Sturm Graz's cup win, but consider, most of all, FC St. Gallen. Saint who? True, if I would ask you who invented club football in Europe in continental Europe, would you guess that the answer is the same as to the Ricola cough drop question? The Swiss did! Well, technically English students living in Switzerland, but nevermind - the year was 1879 and the place was right near St. Gallen, Saint Gallen, and the continent’s oldest soccer club ...
The excesses of global soccer capitalism are well documented on this podcast. Perhaps no footballing country is more affected than England, the birthplace of the modern game and home to arguably the wealthiest clubs and league. To take it up one notch, six of its big clubs attempted to join the breakaway Super League while, around the same time, historic club Bury FC collapse and fell under administration. The fan protests surrounding both, the striking inequality growing in English football,...
Kay Bernstein was elected the president of Hertha BSC, then in the 1st Bundesliga, in June 2022. He died at his home near Berlin on January 16th of this year, with Hertha being in the 2nd Bundesliga. What sounds like a short and - on the pitch - unsuccessful presidency is in fact the most significant shift and opening up of possibilities in club leadership in German and, possibly, European club leadership over the last years. In his memory, are dedicating an hour today to his club, to his lif...
"The era is brought to life by the accounts of Albanians who lived through it, which capture the importance of football to a populace starved of any other source of communal enjoyment. The otherworldliness and innate cruelty of the Stalinist regime provide a terrifying backdrop to their tales," reads the blurb for Phil Harrison's book The Hermit Kingdom: Football Stories from Stalinist Albania. Albania, on the far eastern edge of Europe, followed a rather unique path through the Cold Wa...
... of all people! Raphael is a German political scientist, whose book "Peace to the Terraces, War to the Federations and Leagues" is a pathbreaking materialist critique of "modern soccer" - the game as purely an entertainment market commodity. The book is only published in German so far, and we were in the process of rolling out his thoughts with the ongoing conflict between German fans and the German Bundesliga as a case in point (you know, the one with tennis balls and remote-controlled ca...
Indie, Hip Hop, Punk, Reggae, Ska and Choruses- from Leeds to Istanbul, from Vienna to Mexico City, from Darmstadt to Buenos Aires. Your second soccer playlist is here - with some background info, and plenty of quirky football lyrics.PLAYLIST FOR THIS EPISODE - links to videos:Puma Hardchorus - England, France, Germany and ItalyAlberto Colucci - Die Sonne Scheint (SV Darmstadt 98)Manu Chao (with Diego Maradona) - La Vida TombolaSultans of Ping - I'm in Love with a Football HooliganLuke Haines...
If you are thinking of dreaming of going to England, seeing a Premier League game, dive into the atmosphere that you see on TV, or even have concrete travel plans already to finally see one game of the club you otherwise follow on TV, then this episode is for you. If you are listening from England, and have followed your club for years and decades, it's for you as well.Felipe Tobar, originally from Brazil, is a scholar at Clemson University in South Carolina and has written about soccer touri...
I thought today’s episode needed a long rationalization. But as I was writing it, I thought f*** it, I don’t need to be doing verbal gymnastics. I know human beings, there, and our guest does too. So we’ll just let these stories speak. About soccer, about trauma, about peace and coexistence, and about youth cultures both left and right of center in what is a diverse and divided country. This was a hard episode for me to prepare and process. But I am deeply grateful it came togethe...
Just a few weeks ago, Poland elected a new parliament. The result was a change in power, from the national conservative camp to the centrist, pro-European one. And the campaign, yet again, highlighted, to use an overused term, the culture wars over defining the future of one of the European Union’s largest but also newest member states. Historically occupied by its neighbors over and over again, risen from the Eastern bloc, riven between a historically national Catholic identity and the fast ...
A mini audiobook - for the time to think in the evenings after the presents have all been unwrapped, or for a listen with the children:As the story goes, on Christmas 1914, during world war 1, in the trenches of Belgium, German and English soldiers laid down their weapons, shook hands, and played a game of football in the no man’s land between the lines. Historians are unsure if an actual match was played, you can find more on that debate in the shownotes. But for today, that is neither here ...
An arranged marriage of a Greek and a Celt began the settlement of Massalia, today: Marseille. Europe’s bellwether of multiculturalism, 2nd city of France, one of Europe’s biggest ports, migrant destination for centuries, cauldron of socioeconomic conflict, cradle of French rap music - and home of Olympique, still France’s only Champions League winner ever. A few days after that win, the club went under in a bribery scandal and forced relegation. A few more headlines on Olympique Marseil...
FC St. Pauli is a 2nd Bundesliga team from Hamburg. That’s one thing. It is also "Germany’s original cult club," an "antifascist pioneer," the "club of punk and techno, or a "swashbuckling left wing club." The history behind these labels begin in the late 1980s, when punks occupied houses around St. Pauli’s stadium and antiracists found out that football grounds didn't just belong to Neonazis. It continues today, in a club that has spoken out against the overcommercialization of footbal...
On Thursday, November 2nd, the second largest city of Austria, Graz, will see its second soccer derby in the last 16 years, in the Austrian cup tournament. Sturm Graz, currently leaders of the Austrian Bundesliga and Europa League starters, face GAK (Graz Athletic Sports Club), the city's oldest club, its first one to win a national title, and currently on the verge of returning to the 1st tier. This episode hits close to home: 20 years ago, in elementary school, I attended my firs...
Matthias Sindelar was, and is, the most famous Austrian footballer between World Wars 1 and 2. Known for his elegant style of play during a period when Austrian soccer was admired as an innovative model, he defined Austria’s national team, known as the "miracle team," and his club, Austria Vienna. Austria joined Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945. And when it arose as an independent nation again, Sindelar's legacy was more than that of a footballer: he became a myth - the elegant Austri...
Soccer jerseys, kits, football shirts - whatever the name, there is no shortage of opinions about them. Pretty or ugly, traditional or not, brands, costs, sponsors; whether to own only those we have connections to, or buy them for style, or collect them... We’ll cut through all that today, with the help of Alex Ireland, author of the very recently published book Pretty Poly: The History of the Football Shirt. This episode is a short material history of the beautiful game - through the l...
When I was High School, Sturm Graz, one of the two teams of my hometown in Austria and the club I was born into, had its most successful phase. We made it to the CL group phase twice - and eventually went bankrupt from it. One of the protagonists was a young, serious-looking player from our own youth system who was known to be not your stereotypical soccer player. We were aware that he had a love for languages and philosophy. During the same period, in 2003, also in Graz, the first Homeless W...
FC Bayern is the club of Franz Beckenbauer, Harry Kane, and countless fans across the world. However, Bayern is also the club of Kurt Landauer. A Jew from a businesspeople’s family, he served for Germany in World War I and got to know football from English and Swiss students. As a club president, he led his FC Bayern to its first championship 1932, a year before the Nazi rise to power. As a Jew, Landauer promptly landed in a concentration camp only to flee to exile in Switzerland. And just tw...
Between the late 1970s and the late 1980s, Dynamo Berlin, a club closely associated with the Communist East German Republic’s secret police, won the country’s title ten consecutive times. The hatred of the team across the country united its fans, but also provided the perhaps most prominent kind of complaint and grumbling that the GDR’s citizens had against the regime that ruled them. In 1989, that regime crumbled and fell. And so did Dynamo. Alan McDougall is a historian at the University of...
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