Luis Escobedo is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ) of the University of the Free State (UFS), in Bloemfontein, South Africa. His research focuses primarily on the application of discourse theory, postcolonial and feminist approaches, and race theory in the study of racism, elite discourse, ideological practices, and objective violence, particularly in Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and South America. Luis has actively participated in presentations, panels, and roundtables; organised and conducted workshops and seminars; founded, coordinated and advised non-profit and student organisations, clubs and projects; collaborated with the press; engaged in voluntary teaching; and designed courses, syllabi, source texts, stimulus materials, and learning activities for the fields of Political Science, Humanities, and IR.
Africa and the Democratic Struggle in the FIFA Political Space
In the last decades, FIFA has increasingly embraced a more democratic, internationalist, humanitarian, educational, developmental, and environmentalist rhetoric, which has in different ways and degrees materialized in a number of organizational arrangements, regulations, committees, international competitions, movements, social programs, and campaigns. However, parallel accusations, debates, and protests targeting persisting issues as varied as inequality, corruption, authoritarianism, repression, forced labor, racism, homophobia, sex trafficking, or modern slavery, especially concerning the host states of the FIFA (Men’s) World Cups, as well as ideologies ingrained in FIFA’s organizational structure such as gender inequality, andro-centrism, or Euro-centrism/Western-centrism, have exposed inconsistencies among FIFA’s discursive practices.
The objective of this presentation is to explain, through the lens of Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory, how collective action has historically emerged within FIFA in and through the articulation of language and meaning in order to deal with these issues and ideologies. By observing Africa’s presence in the democratic struggle within the institution, I argue that before the election of the first non-European president of FIFA in 1974, collective action emerged from a popular subject position, dividing the FIFA political space into two antagonistic fields, e.g., Europe/former colonial powers/”First World” versus Africa/former colonies/“Third World,” while after 1974 collective action has emerged from a democratic subject position, which, considering the complexity of the new context, does not divide the political space into two antagonistic fields. Differentiating these periods through the lens of discourse theory helps us understand why it is that currently, unlike in times of European imperialism or African decolonization, the organization’s official and unofficial discursive practices and their eventual violent implications cannot be as easily challenged. Hence, under the present circumstances, the discursive practices within which Africa is constituted in the FIFA political space function as a last refuge for the organization’s neocolonialism on the African continent.