Patrick Mignon

A Passion for Football (Soccer) Publication date : May 1, 1998

Football is a passion the world over. A social, cultural, economic, and political phenomenon, it translates a generalised trend consisting in interpreting the rules of social behaviour as a collective competition. By the same token, football can no longer be regarded as a world apart. Discussing football has become tantamount to talking about the power of money, the weight of the media, the overlap between sport and politics, or about drugs, corruption, and the violence of football hooligans. An examination of the world of football can help us to understand how societies have dealt with—and continue to deal with—the fundamental questions that arise in the course of history: How were working-class communities built up during the Industrial Revolution? How can the vast markets constituted by large urban centres be advantageously used? How can we interpret the ecstatic crowds of the football stadiums? How can they be managed and controlled? What will be the impact of globalisation, and what place, if any, will remain for local and national identities? Patrick Mignon examines Italian, Argentinian, and American examples and shows how, in those societies, football draws on the construction of individual and collective identities as well as on class, gender, and race relations. He offers a subtle analysis of hooliganism and of different types of supporters, as well as of the manner in which such violence is dealt with. Britain and France provide two key examples: each with its own type of violence and its own football culture reflecting two very different societies. Finally, the author looks at the manner in which the current World Cup is being approached and organised and asks what these factors reveal about French society.This is an X-ray of that living organism, ‘stadium society’. Several innovative novels have been written about football in Britain bringing the subject to the attention of the cultivated elite. Is football in the process of becoming a serious subject? A sociologist specialising in the worlds of football, rock, and techno, Patrick Mignon works as a researcher in the sociology laboratory of the Institut National des Sports et de l’Education Physique (INSEP). He teaches at the University of Paris IV and is a member of the editorial committee of Esprit magazine.