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Football, cultural identities and the media: a research agenda

Hand, David (2002) Football, cultural identities and the media: a research agenda.

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Abstract

With the eyes of the world on the soccer World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea, a massive media event consumed in record numbers by television audiences and newspaper readers, analysis of the media coverage of football shows that it often goes beyond reporting the outcome of matches. Sports media discourse plays a role in representing cultural identities. For example, newspaper coverage of England at the World Cup, might take the form of sports reporting but its content is linked to wider cultural processes providing information about Englishness itself. This study's aims are to explore how the sports media, especially the 'quality' press, perpetuate a recognisably English cultural identity by examining how other cultures are depicted in England considering Spain and Africa as examples and to outline a possible research agenda for 'Japorea 2002'. Media representations of Englishness perpetuate notions of patriotism and heroism comprising the traditional English virtues of bravery, honesty and endeavour. The World Cup represents an opportunity to gauge how far newer cultural attributes of style and sophistication are accepted as necessary social and sporting values by the English-based media. Regarding sports media portrayals of Spain, it remains to be seen if football journalists can offer anything significantly different from the familiar stereotypical portrayals of tough but temperamental Spaniards outlined during previous international competitions. Finally, simplistic portraits of African players inherited from Colonial times focus on physical power, indiscipline and naivety with underlying lingering assumptions of European superiority over Africa. Will Japorea 2002 finally see the stereotype of the naturally agressive, unpredictable black African consigned to history?

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