Playing the identity card: Stereotypes in European football

Liz Crolley, David Hand, Ralf Jeutter
2000 Soccer and Society  
The amount of space 'quality' newspapers devote to football reflects its increasing importance in European culture. European print media discourse on football does more than cover the game's technicalities, though; it also shapes its readers' awareness of national identities. It is the aim of this study to analyse football match reports and articles from Britain, Spain, France and Germany with a view to understanding the mechanisms at work in the construction of national stereotypes. The
more » ... eotypes. The language used by these articles is varied, entertaining, highly inventive and often provocative, evoking references to warfare, politics, history, economics and popular culture. In many cases, the principal elements of the stereotypes represented by the European press are the same from country to country (English fighting spirit, Spanish toughness, French flair, German efficiency). European print media discourse on football may, therefore, be said to reinforce myths of national character and strengthen notions of collective identity associated with sport. Playing the Identity Card: Stereotypes in European Football Sport is an increasingly important socio-economic phenomenon in Europe. Football, in particular, is commanding ever more attention and this is, in part, reflected by the amount of space devoted to it by European 'quality' newspapers. When European newspapers report on football, however, they do more than merely give accounts of the game's technicalities. Indeed, European print media discourse on football may be said to shape, if not manipulate, its readers' awareness of, amongst other things, the perceived national characteristics of the countries of Europe. In what ways, then, do the vocabulary and images employed by European football writing contribute to the construction of national stereotypes? What are the principal elements of such stereotypes? Most importantly, are perceptions of national character as mediated by the press the same from country to country? The present article provides a snapshot of a much broader research project analysing the construction of national, regional and group identities in the sports media of Europe's most dominant football countries. It offers initial empirical findings that are related to a broader interpretative and conceptual framework which will be further developed in subsequent work. 1 It is the twin aim of this study, then, to examine newspaper articles and football match reports to gain a preliminary understanding of the mechanisms at work in sports media reflexions of national identity in England, Spain, France and Germany 2 and to stimulate further debate about them. To permit effective comparisons, the newspapers analysed are all 'quality' dailies. In England, we studied The Times, the right of centre daily tracing its ancestry to the eighteenth century. In Spain, the newspapers examined are ABC, a historically right-wing, tabloid size daily and El País, a left of centre publication generally considered to bias Spain's socialist government in office from 1982 to 1996. The French newspapers considered are Le Monde, a left of centre daily founded in 1944 appealing to the educated élite of French society and the slightly more popular Libération founded in 1973. Lastly, the Süddeutsche Zeitung is Germany's best known liberal daily. Admittedly, different political biases operate in these newspapers and our findings must be read with some caution in this light. A research opportunity
doi:10.1080/14660970008721267 fatcat:c5ihdvcqhbgqlomxx7k7sdpg6q