- Also check our best rated Football Book reviews
Football and Fascism: The National Game Under Mussolini Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
'This serious and very detailed analysis elevates football to an important consideration in pre-war politics, and reminds us that the sport does not sit in isolation from society's influences'Programme Monthly 'Simon Martin's interesting and original study...tries to unpack the complicated relationship between Italian fascism and football.'John Foot, The Guardian Review'An intriguing, diligent work'WSC (When Saturday Comes) Magazine
Institutionalized as a fascist game in Mussolinis Italy, football was exploited domestically in an attempt to develop a sense of Italian identity and internationally as a diplomatic tool to improve Italys standing in the global arena. The 1930s were the zenith of achievement for Italian football. Italy hosted and won the 1934 World Cup tournament and retained the trophy in 1938 in France. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Italy won the soccer tournament with a team of university students, affirming the nations international football supremacy. At club level, calcio was reorganized into a single, national league in 1929namely, Serie Aafter which the first Italian club teams emerged to dominate European competition and threaten previous British notions of supremacy. In this time, Italian Fascism fully exploited the opportunities football provided to shape public opinion, penetrate daily life, and reinforce conformity. By politicizing the game, Fascism also sought to enhance the regimes international prestige and inculcate nationalist values.The author argues that the regimes attempt to use sport to formulate identity actually forced it to recognize existing tensions within society, thereby paradoxically permitting the existence of diversity and individuality. The book serves as a cultural history of Fascism in Italy viewed through the lens of football. See all Product description
Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This work focuses on the reforms the Fascist regime effected to produce short and long term in the field of sport, and in particular in the most popular supported sporting activity: calcio, first, to give the masses pleasure with memorable sporting successes at the national and international level, in order that they might transfer their enthusiasm from passive to more active support and consent to the regime; second, to demonstrate the regime's different and greater commitment both to high and low culture, such as sport, compared to the previous liberal democratic system since unification with the Party's full involvement in all its sporting federations through the umbrella organization of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), the training, the design and construction of new Fascist communal stadia; third, to help develop and nurture the "New Man" through the Balilla Youth Movement (ONB) which both the regime and its subject population might identify; fourth, to present to the outside world a new vibrant image of Italy to counter the sinister tales of anti-Fascists abroad, and fifth and finally, hopefully to forge new diplomatic relations and national-cultural benefits through sport.
Unlike other notable tomes about Italian calcio, such as Ghirelli's history Storia del calcio in Italia., Martin spends more time on the topic of two stadia and the development of Fascist modernist urbanisation: the Littorale of Bologna, and the Giovanni Berta of Florence, designed by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi, in part to illustrate a lack of national Fascist vision to culture and art. In reality, as Paul Corner has since stressed Italian Fascism was never a national force; it grew from the localities each with its unique characteristics carried over not only from the previous administrations, but going further back many centuries in pre-unification history The Fascist Party and Popular Opinion in Mussolini's Italy.
The one difference was the ever presence of the local political chief, the ras: Leandro Arpinato in Bologna, who encouraged the setting up of the Higher Teaching Institute for Physical Education, and integrating it into the ancient University in order to give both bodies great vitality in the new age; with the young Alessandro Pavolini, together with the Marquis Ridolfi, operating in Florence. These two stadia certainly brought pride and unity first to the towns; they were also seen as something more lasting: they represented useful Fascist emblems of national sporting forums for the World Cup finals of 1934, and were used thereafter as venues rather than former Fascist architectural time-capsules during the next Italian finals in 1990 (renamed as the Renato Dall' Ara and the Artemio Franchi stadia), with Florence hosting games during the knock-out stages of the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The success for these local chiefs, however, was not a sign that they were infallible and could not be removed at a later date. They did not necessary face the violence of the NKGB, and subsequently shot at dawn, but success meant they irritated political rivals who were out for a stab in the back when the going was favourable to them.
At the end football everywhere is a game of people, and when FIFA decided to award the second tournament in 1934 to Italy promoted and organised the competition well, with the host country winning, then defending the accolade four years later in Paris, with a further victory in between in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics by a team of university students; it gave Mussolini great prestige - the President of FIFA Jules Rimet jokingly declaring that during the Italian tournament the Duce seemed to be the true President of the sport, and victory put the image of the ascendant regime firmly on the map.
Indeed, since the reforms in 1929 it became recognised that football played regularly in large stadia could do more to create harmonious unity from the lowest levels of society upwards than its attempt to educate the masses to higher culture with mass theatre performances of 2000 actors as the 18BL in Florence in 1934. The victories on the football field was what the doctor ordered in the 1930s with the country facing great social and economic hardships following the long economic depression. The author hinted that the games acted as a tonic, or a safety valve against the growing number of dissenters in working class areas of towns never properly won over by the regime, and averted the need for stronger acts of repression by the secret police and more hot heads being rounded up and banished to distant, isolated regions, the confino, like Carlo Levi, one of the founders of the Justice of Liberty movement, and author of the autobiographical story Christ stopped at Eboli.
There was, however, a darker side to sport with the banning of foreign coaches and overseas players in the late 1920s; by poaching skilled Latin American gifted ball players with dual nationality, or oriundi, to guarantee a continuous winning streak for the national Azzuri: in the 1934 World Cup the coach, Vittorio Pozzo, used four Argentine internationals, Cesarini, Guaita, Monti, Orsi, and one Brazilian, Guarisi; by effecting linguistic nationalism: eliminating English technical jargon and replacing them with Italian translations; attempting to rewrite soccer history and raising the place of the country by depicting the Florentine game of the Middle Ages rather the traditional English game as pioneers of the sport; starting all matches with the Fascist Roman salute and the Eja, Eja, Alala call; while some commentators began to speak of "Victory of the Race" by Nietzschean supermen as "soldiers of sport" - the biggest scalp never being achieved with the defeating of the Perfidious Albion or England, with the Italians described as battling with "greater intelligence and technical skills" against "brute force and ignorance".
The ball artists, often described as prima donnas, provided with the privileges of free first class rail comfort and luxury hotels, still were required to do their duty and serve the Motherland in grey-green, and those, such as the Argentine Guaita, Stagnaro and Scopelli, who finally realised that life in the land of their fathers was more than gracing the stadiums and scoring goals, but chose to flee rather than stand and fight in Abyssinia, in 1935-36, were branded as cowards, selfish, and unstable. Equally, if the national side of an Italian team faced unpopular reaction from the local crowd abroad the journalists knew either to ignore incidents or re-presenting them as acts of uncontrolled, drunkard louts meriting greater control, discipline by the police.
Football & Fascism, emerging from a doctoral thesis, could be criticized for many reasons. Why did the author stick exclusively to Italian documentation, especially the Fascist press, and not balance it with the views of the British press when reporting on the infamous "Battle of Highbury" in November 1934, the venue where the World champs took on the old champs? Luisito Monti was injured (he claimed it was done on purpose by Arsenal's Ted Drake - without providing supporting evidence) inside five minutes, but England left the field after 90, winning 3-2, with seven injuries.
He starts by describing England's cool stand to face European opponents as "chauvinism", something which Italian journalists remarked at the time, and which British writers have echoed since the big defeats against the Hungarians of Puskas in 1953 without really explaining his "chauvinist" accusation. Was it a synonym for "traditional", "insular"?
Martin virtually concludes his analysis following the victory in Paris. Non-Italian readers would be surprised to learn that when Mussolini declared war in June 1940, football was not suspended as in Britain in September 1939. The national team even competed against its Axis partners in 1942. The only year that any interruption was called was during 1943-44 when the country was overrun by Germany in the North, and the War was waged South of Rome; but the Italian FA (FIGC) still explored ways for some form of League to persist. Surely, a mention was required. Why did it go amiss?
Fascism has always been a hot potato in contemporary Italy. Any fact has been grabbed and re-interpreted by the political establishment as being either pro or anti-Fascist, and for this sport was rarely studied and analysed seriously by the academics. Martin's inclusion that Mussolini paid to go and watch the matches in 1934, rather than resort to receiving complementary tickets as was demanded by his contemporaries would have been viewed by some from the left in the 1950s and 60s as a sign that this historian had Fascist tendencies - which is far from the truth. He simply was reminding readers that Fascism had many contradictions, and the Duce was an example of those differences; that many leading fascists in the localities and in Rome, including Arpinati, and the national party secretary and head of the CONI Starace, were corrupt, and Fascism had been corrupted by the corrupt, whereas Mussolini remained at heart a man of the people and may not have been, something which certain politicians found unwilling to accept.
The poor performances in the post-War era by the national side, made worse by the failure to qualify in 1958, the humiliations in Chile in 1962 and the defeat against North Korea in 1966, was for long ignored at the time when the two leading Milanese sides, Internazionale and AC Milan, were winning the post-War European Cup. Some nostalgics, until 1982, started muttering (the unmentionable) that World Cups were and could only be won under Fascism. It was only when the post Fascist National Alliance (AN) under Fini entered Berlusconi's government after 1994 that certain features of life under Fascism came to be viewed in a more open mind.
Until then, the members of champion winning teams of 1934 and 1938 had the embarrassment of explaining if they were Fascists - which until the 1990s none would unless they wished to publicly tarred as lepers. They could avoid the answering well by admitting they had played and scored for Italy, and not for Mussolini and Fascism. Martin used two quotes from Pozzo and Inter's Peppino Meazza, the goal-scoring machine, and their responses in the 1930s sounded very fascistic, though without starting name calling the author felt this was a sign that certain ideas pronounced by the regime had over time dripped down into the unconsciousness of the people and became their own.
Corner, instead, noted that Italians were changing over time; in addition to the traditional anti-Fascists, even local Fascists started to doubt the continuation of the regime, and of the Duce, much before the first defeats in 1940-41. That is when the issue of consensus, first raised by Renzo De Felice in 1974 Mussolini il duce, should have been debated by Martin. As soccer was still played nationally in wartime the issue of the enjoyment of soccer, and support for the nation rather than for Mussolini, or the regime (now failing on every front), could then have been compared with the feelings of victories on the football field during the 1930s.
Martin's story provides a new vision about consensus, or lack of it during the Fascist period. It will be used, and refined by other historians in the future showing the goals scored, missed, and the own goals shot in Italy by those who played soccer at the professional level, who had adhered to or opposed Fascism.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I'll start with the positive. It's really well researched, the notes are great and thorough and it holds an extensive bibliography, which is always good for those who want to go deeper into the subject.
That's the good part - now for the bad and where to start?.
What the author set out to write about was how the fascist party after its seizure of power wanted to use sport in general and football in particular as a showpiece to the world of how orderly Italy had become. How the Party wanted to generate a national feeling - something that was lacking and didn't appear until after the end of WW2 by the use of football as a collective gathering force. During this drive the Party reorganized football in Italy by making a better tournament, organizing the game into leagues and divisions - something that had been missing up until then - all of this is told by the author with a cultural viewpoint.
HOWEVER - It seems like the author did so much research that he somewhere along the line lost his focus and falls so very far from the above. In the end one wonders - what is it he really wants to tell the readers?? I for one have a blurred idea after reading it. The book is or rather should have been about football and fascism or football under the reign of fascism but is sourly lacking in this part. In fact there is almost nothing about the game at all - no players are mentioned, no anecdotes, no coaches, no results etc. etc.
An example that illustrates the books BIG problems in general. Bologna is given a whole chapter. One would think this chapter would tell a lot of anecdotes about the club, its golden period from 1925 onwards, about its great players during this period, it's coaches, staff and the movers behind the scene etc. etc. etc. but it doesn't. In fact not ONE player is mentioned by name, not ONE result, anecdote or anything. One coach is named in one line but that's it. Instead the reader is treated (tortured) with an extremely lengthy and very boring step-by-step of how the local fascist orchestrated the building of the stadium, how he funded it, the ideas behind the building architecturally. How many different names was tried for the stadium and why they settled for the one they did, how the local fascist gets to control a local newspaper so he can write/control the direction of sport and sports education in the Bologna district in general - sway the public. During this marathon the author again and again deviates from the main subject and goes on lengthily explanations in themselves about general architecture, sociological ideas about the power of the masses vs. the individual etc. and what feelings the fascists wanted to make to the public. Reading all this you again and again wonder - where is he going and how on earth is this really relevant,(the relevant part about FC Bologna and its exploits in Seria A and in Europe is neatly left out.)the answer and the problem - its not relevant. 80% of the book is really irrelevant and therein lies the big problem.
Its crammed with a ton of names, titles of thesis and books that doesn't help with the readability of the book - which in itself is hard going, difficult and forced. Nothing flows easily and thus every page is a struggle.
Italy won 2 World Cups in 1934 and 1938 - the apogee of Fascist power and what they set out to achieve. Especially the one in 1938 was won more from the pressure that Mussolini and the Party applied to the opposition, judges etc. than anything else. It was a political won victory pure and simple. Again nothing about this very exiting tournament in hind sight just more of the same irrelevant dribble about issues that aren't even remotely connected or interesting.
Do yourself a service and stay away from this - it is not worth the time or EFFORT.