In February 2021, dr. Jacco van Sterkenburg was appointed as Endowed Professor of ‘Race, Inclusion and Communication, specifically in relation to Football and Media’. This Chair is established in cooperation with anti-discrimination organisation Fare, world football players’ union FIFPRO and European football association UEFA. The partners have committed themselves to the theme of anti-racism and inclusion in football. Key themes are for example, racism experienced by players and coaches, media and communication, and the football industry.
As of April 1st, PhD candidate Palesa Mashigo joined the team. In this interview, Palesa explains a bit more about the project and her role within the team.
“I grew up in a football culture where a love for football, which we know as soccer back at home, is so fervent it is almost a religious practice.”
Why did you apply for this PhD spot?
It is very rare to be given opportunities in one’s career where a private passion and a professional purpose intersect and this PhD project, was one such opportunity. I grew up in a football culture where a love for football, which we know as soccer back at home, is so fervent it is almost a religious practice. This PhD project provided an opportunity where my love for football and my work as a media and critical race scholar intersected. It seemed too good to be true that, I would be afforded a chance to study race and racism through the lens of the cultural phenomenon, that is football. It was for this reason and the encouragement that I received from colleagues and friends that I applied for this position.
What is the added value of the research you will be doing in your view?
Recent events involving racial abuse faced by football players of colour and the lack of diversity in football leadership has, once again, raised concerns around race, racism and inclusion in European football. This was the impetus for a project like ours, to conduct empirical research into the ways in which racial discrimination manifests in the football context. In addition to better understanding the role of race in the popular sport, the research project is interested in critically identifying mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.
In my view, this research builds upon existing literature and is unique in its focus on race and inclusion through the exploration of diverse themes which broadly ranges from the lived experiences of football players to anti-racism media campaigns. Another important component of this project are the partners involved. I think the collaboration between Erasmus, FARE, FIFPRO and UEFA will contribute significantly to the overall research process and its outcomes.
“I hope that this project can produce knowledge that will help make football spaces and even spaces beyond football, safer and more inclusive.”
What is your role within the team?
With dr. Jacco van Sterkenburg’s supervision and the co-supervision of dr. João Gonçalves and dr. Teresa De La Hera, I will develop, conduct and publish research for the project as well as translate findings into reports or policy analysis for the partners. I will also be helping with the coordination of project events as well as the creation of knowledge resources.
What are your plans for the coming years?
My main goal, like most PhD candidates, is to successfully produce an impactful dissertation at the end of four years. More than that I plan to immerse myself in the research process and enjoy putting together conceptual puzzles pieces. Ultimately, I hope that this project can produce knowledge that will help make football spaces and even spaces beyond football, safer and more inclusive.