3. Myth making, Heroes, Villains, and Fandom 


 andom is a funny thing. One person’s hero is another’s odious villain. Examples abound, whether it’s Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, Argentina’s Diego Maradona, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, managers like Jose Mourinho, or teams like the late 1960s Estudiantes de La Plata, some figures or teams are praised and hated to an intense degree. 

It’s no surprise that the “beautiful game” incites passions around the world—often at unhealthy levels. Club or national team identities are often intertwined with ethnic, racial, religious, and class identities, and rivalries bring out abusive behaviors. Sometimes contradictions occur, but worse violence ensues. In this unit, we will look at how myths are created, when soccer fandom goes too far, and the significance of particular players in upholding or challenging existing narratives. We will examine questions such as: “Are there true heroes and villains in world soccer?”, “When did violence in the game begin?”, and “How does a game consisting of one ball and twenty-two players take on socio-political-economic significance?” 


  • Foer, How Soccer Explains the World. Chps. 4 [Oct 10 12]
  • Galeano, Eduardo. Soccer in Sun and Shadow. New York: Bold Type Books, 2013. Pages 1-35. [Oct 10 12] 
  • Nadel, Joshua H. Fútbol!: Why Soccer Matters in Latin America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014. Chp 2 [Oct 12]

Choose TWO to read and lead a discussion on OCT 19

  • 1930 – Photography and the World Cup (Uruguay)
  • 1966 – Eusebio (Portugal)
  • 1982 – Italian National Team at the World Cup
  • Argentina, the World Cup, and Identity Politics
  • Women’s Football in Brazil (Marta & the National Team)
  • L.A. Soccer Teams, 1973-2018 (USA)
  • Female Coaches & World Champions (Germany)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s Last Dance in Manchester, from The New Yorker (Portugal, UK)