What does the work of a historian employed by a professional football club look like?
There are many different professionals involved in the making of resources for Football Makes History. Most of our team work as educators, either in schools or in non-formal settings. One of them is a historian at a professional football club: Sevilla FC. This made us curious. What does the work of a historian employed by a professional football club look like? Fernando Gallego shares his views in this first interview in a series we will develop over the coming months.
In this post:
Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium
Why is a historian working at a football club?
I have to admit that telling people that I am a football club historian provokes strange reactions. Everyone finds it strange, but the reality is that it is becoming more and more normal for major clubs to have a department dedicated to the care of their historical heritage.
For me, as a historian, a history lover and a Sevilla FC fan, it’s the highest possible pride, because it is partially in my hands to protect the legacy of the club and to transmit to the next generations the values that Sevilla FC has defended for more than a century.
In recent years the History Department has been involved in numerous projects, among which I would highlight the opening of the Sevilla FC History Experience, the club’s museum. It was only fair that there should be a space to exhibit the most precious objects and the most important titles from the entire existence of the Club.
As for our department, we are a multidisciplinary group (employees and volunteers) in which, in addition to historians, there are teachers, lawyers, philologists, etc. This allows us to approach research issues from multiple angles, enriching the vision of the facts we study, since not everything is conserved, but also understood.
What are you making for Football Makes History?
In my case, the work I’ve done is focused on tackling the nationalisms present in football. I am developing two units: the first one, deals with football and nationalism in Spain during the 20th century, as my country represents a curious case of the use of nationalism as a tool of mass control, having lived in less than 100 years three different systems of government; the second unit, on the other hand, focuses on the Anglo-Argentinean conflict over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, as football was another way of confronting two countries that were at odds with each other because of their expansionist policies, but in a theatrical way, as the battlefield was replaced by the football field.
I understand that there may be young people who don’t find these subjects attractive, but I have tried – and I think that in general so have the rest of my colleagues in the project – to prepare a pleasant material, with dynamic, innovative pedagogical approaches and activities that engage the children, so that throughout the history of football the surfacing competences sustain an inclusive and critical attitude.
These units should find good usage across Europe, because the Spanish situation, to a certain extent, occurred in other European countries as well, so many will be able to find parallels with which to adapt the material. In the case of the Falklands/Malvinas War I understand that there was an international conflict, which involved two continents and many countries, being also a typology of war similar to many others that even occur today.
Is there a bigger role for football clubs?
The treatment of history by the clubs is still at an early stage, with much still to be done. The first thing is that all clubs have to take better care of their history. They need to prepare better the access and quality of their archives and develop new educational programs in their museums. Here they can especially make use of positive sports values which they instill in children already from young ages.Finally, when more of us engage, we can build a stronger network of exchange of experiences with history among clubs.
The history of football can be a very valuable tool for working on multiple social aspects, because as Enric González, journalist and writer, says:
football is collective memory.
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