Kicking Off: my recent jjheritage keynote presentation at the Linzi Football Museum, Zibo, China October 2016
In October 2016 I was invited by Kevin Moore, the Director of the National Football Museum in Manchester England, to the inaugural World Summit on Football Culture hosted by the Linzi Football Museum in Zibo, China. This followed a 2015 official State visit to Manchester by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping which signaled the important place that the football industry has in diplomacy between both countries. Travelling to Zibo in 2016 was my first trip to the country although I have written about China in a range of publications, including the way that they have built a range of expertise in hosting mega events, such as the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. My presentation focused on two hidden aspects of modern football, often known as ‘The People’s Game’ since it was codified in 1863. First I covered the relatively unknown story of international women’s football from 1869 to 1969 summarized from my book A Beautiful Game (2007)
Secondly, I looked at more recent female elite player migration and professionalization covered in Globalising Women’s Football (2013)
Finally, I looked at the history of World Cup posters from 1930 to 2000 to explore how football had touched upon aspects of aesthetic ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture. This work will be published as a chapter in an edited book later in 2017, of which more news in a later post.
The History of Cuju
More than a conference on the history of ancient Cuju (pronounced shoe-joo, in English) and modern football, a range of papers explored the wider cultural impact of each form of football on society. Having written about women’s participation in folk forms of football like Cuju since my first book, A Game For Rough Girls in 2003 it was not until I was able to see around the extensive museum in Zibo that I could begin to appreciate the variety and complexity of the history. While some performances of Cuju took the form of musical and courtly games, others included hoops, targets and architecture through which the ball had to pass in order to register a ‘score’. As might be expected of a sporting activity that lasted for thousands of years the origins, development, influence and popularization of Cuju were documented extensively. We also enjoyed a magnificent display at the Linzi football museum.
Linzi Museum Review
Linzi football museum is a key cultural project in Zibo and part of Qi Cultural Park, where many other museums and visitor attractions have been established, or are planned. Linzi was an important historical site in its own right, as the capital in the state of Qi in the significant Warring states period in China’s hsitory. As might be expected, there were many opportunities to take in street art, which combined the region’s ancient heritage, with modern technologies, such as the screens giving a live broadcast of the conference outside the Linzi museum at the entrance to Qi Cultural Park. Covering an area of almost 12,000 square metres, the exhibitions are divided into two areas. The story of Chinese cuju is told in regular and special exhibitions, with temporary installations providing scope for touring parts of the collections, for entertainment, historical study and production development. The second half of the museum is dedicated to modern football around the world and this is told through an engaging range of objects including statues of great players; a collection of World Cup mascots; posters, images and clothing. The institutional history of FIFA, the world football governing body, is also extensively covered.
The second World Football Culture Summit will be held in Manchester 2017, potentially September or October. In the meantime a number of topics for further research have emerged from the inaugural event. These include further research on World Cup posters, mascots and branding, as well as work on women’s football as part of the Home Front during World War One, see my work in The Greater Game 2014 and also the wider role that sport played in the campaigns for women’s right to vote.