I am currently a PhD student in cultural studies conducting a project that focuses on everyday sports in township South Africa. From a social anthropological perspective, I investigate grassroots football in Soweto in an effort to understand the significance and meaning of the most popular sport in the South African urban context. The research is analytically and empirically suspended in the midst of the local football grounds to answers questions of how sporting culture relate to questions of identity, community and society. From this point of departure, the study aims to advance the understanding of local leisure activity as well as contributing to perspectives on sporting culture that has a broader relevance, for both social sciences and society in general.
The Genesis of a Football Field: Urban Football in Soweto, South Africa.
The township of Soweto is formally a part of the Johannesburg Metropole and is home to an estimated population of 1.3 million. While this famous high-density suburb has served as subject for a broad spectrum of social scientific enquiries, anthropological perspectives on township grassroots football have been neglected. Yet, football holds an important position for boys and young men in Soweto that deserves to be addressed. This paper takes an analytical approach towards the football grounds of Soweto to advance our understanding of the essentials of a sporting facility as well as providing insight into identity, community and meaning in township society.
Using a grounded methodological approach, and drawing on extended ethnography in Soweto from 2009-2016, I argue that football grounds are dependent, not only on the materials they are made up of, but also on the social relations forming them. This article has its point of departure, empirically and analytically, on a football ground that both unfolds and disappears in the course of an afternoon. I argue that the forming and framing of the sport facility develops through boundaries of meaning that convey key messages about identity and community in the township.