Introduction to Football as a Transnational Element

Football is arguably one of the most popular sports today, uniting people from all over the world in a form of nonverbal competition. As a transnational element, it transcends language barriers and political tension between nations as competitors and supporters alike follow their favorite international players and teams. According to previous president of FIFA (Fédération internationale de football association- the international body regarding football), Joao Havelange, “football…is the only universal link there is…everyone is equal” (“Globalization”).


The term ‘glocalization’ has emerged part and parcel with globalization, and is highly pertinent to football today. As we read in Chapter 32 (“Popular Culture on a Global Scale”) of Internationalizing Cultural Studies, the notion entails a set of transnational viewers that come together to form a general audience. Internationally acclaimed football teams begin on a local level and work their way up to worldwide success. Alluding to Appadurai’s notion of the struggle between heterogenization and homogenization that exists within the realm of globalization, football exemplifies both in uniquely interconnected ways.


I use ‘football’ due to its non-transnational element; the term is defined differently in the United States as it is in Europe, for example, where it delineates a completely different sport (one played with hands versus feet!). Further, football (the sport on which I am focusing) has a multiplicity of rules depending on the location of play. On a local level, rules may differ in severity, or else may differ in number of players or game time. More importantly (and an element that makes football so intriguing and exciting to watch), players perceive and internalize the game in various ways, giving birth to a whole range of tactics, talents, and plays that makes football full of flavor.

Football also exemplifies the homogenization of cultures in a multitude of ways. FIFA governs international rules for the sport, such as sets of conduct and disciplinary procedures. For example, there are four referees conducting each game (a head referee, two sideline referees, and a fourth watching over the time and substituting players), and it is a social norm to shake hands before and after the match. Thus, football reflects both homogenization and heterogenization of cultural practices and symbolizes a sort of “duality of glocality” (“Globalization”).

It is thus both academically and personally intriguing to undertake scholarly research in football, as it increasingly unites (and can also separate) people from around the world for a common, social cause: cheering on the game.

Works Cited

“Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) –” Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) – Web. 13 Mar. 2013.

Giulianotti, Richard, and Roland Robertson. “Recovering the social: globalization, football and transnationalism.” Global Networks 7.2 (2007): 166-186.

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