Football and peace in the Middle East

By Dr Joel Rookwood

How has football for peace worked in the Middle East?- Some observations:

The Middle East can be considered a transcontinental region comprising approximately 370 million people who speak more than sixty languages and live across seventeen countries. The Eurocentric term is of British origin and was coined and first applied as a prefix to ‘question’, as a mark of the strategic importance yet disputed understanding of the region. Its geopolitical, economic and cultural significance has been recognized for millennia. Numerous world religions trace their origins to the Middle East. The region, like others, has a long association with ethno-religious conflicts, ideological struggles and resource and territorial disputes.

Despite having fought wars with its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), civil conflict has perhaps proven the most consistent threat to peace and stability in Israel. Relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have frequently dominated international news. Few efforts to build peace across ethno-religious divides have proven successful, in Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

Some agencies have prioritized projects and campaigned for policies and provision which emphasize the identification of and focus on commonalities, mutual cooperation and equality. However, in a militaristic and splintered society, where ethnic divisions run deep and trust does not, encouraging Jews and Arabs to build meaningful, lasting and mutually beneficial relations has challenged those striving to contribute to peace building in the region.

Sports such as football has been employed in this context. The use of competitive invasion sports centred on binary oppositions has been contested. Israel’s capital city is home to Beitar Jerusalem, a football club whose supporter base includes dominant Jewish nationalist fractions strongly opposed to Muslims. Importantly, such racist attitudes and behaviours are certainly not held by all football fans in Israel.

As with most social and sporting activities, football is not a priori good or bad, but can produce a range of positive as well as negative outcomes. In relation to participation (both on and off the field), football’s potential as a vehicle to promote social construction or deconstruction is largely dependent on how related engagements are presented, perceived, experienced and remembered. The ‘pacifist potential of football’ to which the seminal work of Sugden is associated with has been crucial in a project that has been implemented in Israel since 2001.

For most of that period the ‘Football for Peace’ (F4P) initiative has been run by Professor Sugden and his colleagues from University of Brighton in collaboration with others from further afield. The project has been subject to valuable academic research, but Sugden’s editorial collection on the project perhaps best represents the diversity of disciplinary lenses through which the initiative has been scrutinized.

F4P has sought to make grass-roots interventions into Middle Eastern sporting culture, contributing towards peaceful integration in the often violent, mistrusting and detached Jewish and Arab communities in Israel. The initiative has employed a specifically designed value-based football coaching model, in which all aspects of the programme are underpinned by neutrality, inclusion, respect, trust and responsibility.

Working with mixed groups of Arab and Jewish boys or girls from a similar area, student coaches from Britain collaborate with local coaches and respected community leaders who also serve as translators. Each programme begins with trust building exercises and concludes with mixed-team tournaments on designated festival days. The project has also developed some year-round cross-cultural collaboration, whilst diversifying the locations (such as Northern Ireland) and sporting applications (including rugby).

Such initiatives present a number of inherent challenges, pertaining for instance to practical and linguistic issues, as well as monitoring and evaluation and risk management. I was among the group of fifty F4P students and staff who were checked in and waiting to board a flight to Tel Aviv in July 2006 when news broke of the Lebanon conflict that had begun hours earlier in northern Israel.

Engaging in complex and dangerous locations, it is difficult to demonstrate and prove that such initiatives work, and that they are worth the risks involved. Training volunteers is demanding and preparing personnel to work in potentially perilous environments is fraught with challenges – and the impact of a project will always depend in part on the effectiveness of its staff.

For the participants, some perceive and receive such initiatives as political engagements, others view them as programmes that ‘make a difference’ whilst some merely consider them an opportunity to play football. It is not possible to fully represent, reconcile or explain such diversity, but it is important to remember that even well-intentioned, effectively managed projects will not always have the desired impact on every recipient.

Setting such initiatives in context however, peace seems as elusive in Israel. There is a continual need for constructive, internationally mediated dialogue and collaboration, cross-cultural relationship building, mutually reliant and beneficial infrastructure, and meaningfully representative and constructive politics.

There is need for international pressure around a long list of issues which may include:

• Illegal Israeli Settlements in the West Bank;
• Sporadic Palestinian attacks on Jews living in Israel;
• Protection of the rights of Arabs living in both Palestinian and Israeli territories;
• An end to the forced reclamation of Palestinian homes;
• An increase in aid, support and peace building in Gaza;
• Reinstatement and then normalization of relations with Lebanon,
• Resettlement of Palestinian refugee communities currently residing in Lebanon and Jordan;
• A permanent ceasefire in Syria;
• The removal of land mines at the Golan Heights and other international borders;
• Increased security cooperation and diplomatic mediation with Egypt; an end to the construction (and eventual removal) of the West Bank Wall; and
• What improved economic ties with all neighbouring countries. Faced with such an array of challenges, micro-level projects might seem insignificant –

Other issues could be added to this list If they can be connected with other initiatives, a coalition for peace could grow in strength and increase in impact.

During the process of working on football-based peace building projects I have interviewed dozens of local and international advocates in Israel, and in nations such as Liberia, Azerbaijan, Rwanda, Bosnia and Russia. If intra- and inter-project analysis produces robust evidence that sporting programmes such as F4P are worth the risk and resources, that football can reach beyond the political rhetoric and actually contribute to peace building, then long may these programmes develop.

It is worth remembering however, that whatever vehicle is used to drive Israel in the direction of peace, however well intended ‘cultural engagements’ such as F4P might be, coverall responses rarely solve complicated problems, especially at the intersection of ingrained mutual distrust and fragile peace.

Sport, China and Diplomacy: Beware of your own reflection!

By Stuart Murray

Post Beijing 2008, sport in China has continued to gain considerable attention. The growth of football, the part that China has played in developing sporting infrastructure in Africa and the development of a national fitness programme are but three post 2008 examples of activity.

Sports News

Both theorists and practitioners have become quite animated about the potential of China’s burgeoning domestic sports economy, impending sporting hegemony, and its use of sport as a tool for projecting both hard and soft power abroad.

Popular assertions are common place:

• China is building 20,000 football academies;
• Its domestic sports economy is set to grow twenty percent every year for the next twenty years;
• 200 million people watched the Lakers/Heat game;
• Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Some of this is true – many Chinese do love basketball – but some of this is illusory, has still to happen and is typical of outsiders thinking and projections about China.

This researcher recently visited Beijing and, typically, imported the attitude alluded to above. It had been eight years since my last visit and this time I went there as part of the Alan Chan Fellowship Exchange, to fulfil commitment to invited lectures, liaise with old and new colleagues and, primarily, gauge the interest in the theory and practice of sports diplomacy, a growing area of soft power research that has been utterly dominated by western people, clubs and nations.

What I witnessed and learned, and wish to share in this Academy of Sport blog is simple: our outside view of sport in China is problematic. Should lovers, evangelists and profiteers of sport wish to truly unleash the potential of sport in China then an inside perspective is really important.

In this contribution three observations from recent fieldwork are offered.

Sporting habitus

Firstly, China has a long way to go in terms of sporting habitus. Unlike the UK, or my second home, Australia, there are few wide, open and green spaces sanctioned for sport. In the many peregrinations around the capital, I did not see people jogging, or cycling (road bikes, that is), any football or rugby pitches, or swimming pools or tennis courts. My hosts assured me ‘they were there’, then pointed me to Olympic Park, The Bird’s Nest, and the Water Cube.

  • The Olympic Park (see below) is awesome- 1200 hectares of sprawling, meticulously planned sporting architecture and facilities.

It is inspirational to meander around the wide, open spaces of Olympic Park, dreaming of sport. However, the 2008 Games, as was intended, creates the illusion of an advanced sporting nation. Outsiders often forget that China is still a developing country with far more important matters to attend to than sport. One such matter is the smog mainly caused by China’s heavy manufacturing industry. It’s difficult to run around and do sport if you can’t actually breath.

The amount of ‘blue sky days’ have dramatically increased over the years but the smog alludes to a key problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): balancing ongoing economic growth with social wellbeing, health and sport. China is reaching the end of a rapid and epic period of modernisation and industrialisation (between 2011 and 2013, for example, China “used more cement that the US used in the entire 20th century”).[1] Sport will come in China, but it will not happen overnight. The idea of a huge, new market for sport is just that: an idea. Such a market does not yet exist. It’s not that the playing fields are empty. There are no fields.

Has a bag of money ever scored a goal?

Secondly, when thinking of sport in China, much has been made of President Xi Jinping’s love of, investment in, and aspirations for Chinese football. The most powerful leader since Mao, Mr. Xi has repeatedly stated his desire to improve the Chinese Super League, conducive to turning China into a “soccer powerhouse…that will ultimately lead to China not only hosting the World Cup but winning it.”[2]

$850 billion is to be invested over the next decade, foreign companies and labour continue to be acquired, and the Party is set build the fabled 20,000 Soccer Academies over the next five to ten to twenty years (who knows?).

Again, some of this is true. Mr. Xi does adore football (the Core Leader is a Manchester United fan, apparently), the Ministry of Education has plans for 20,000 primary or middle schools specialising in football by 2017, many foreign players, coaches and clubs are pouring into China, and, after the Qatar debacle, China has a very good chance of, at least, hosting a World Cup either in 2026 or 2030. However, can a nation buy success in football? The vast amounts of money poured into the game by oil and gas rich Gulf states, or the failed MLS experiment in the 1970s suggests otherwise. (Remember the New York Cosmos and Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto?) It will take a least a generation to produce the Mr. Xi’s envisaged army of 50 million school-age players and, even then, there is no guarantee they will be any good. Once more, time will tell. What is certain, however, is that pouring money into football rarely works.

As Johan Cruyff once adroitly noted, “I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”

Sports diplomacy with Chinese characteristics

Thirdly amongst the people I spoke with, there was much interest in sports diplomacy, that is, the conscious, strategic and ongoing use of sport, sportspeople and sporting events by state and non-state actors to engage and inform foreign publics, conducive to maximising “people-to-people links, development, cultural, trade, investment, education and tourism opportunities.”[3]

A growing area of theory and practice for western nations such as America or Australia, many of the Chinese academics, practitioners and students I spoke with seemed genuinely enthusiastic of developing a similar strategy, with Chinese characteristics. The 2008 Olympic Games, where, in a matter of weeks, China dramatically altered billions of public perceptions around the world, remains a very proud moment for China.

2022, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, will prove another interesting sports diplomacy experiment. Watch this space! Many were also keen to remind me of China’s “stadium diplomacy”, where China has either built or donated stadiums or facilities in dozens of countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.[4]

If we ignore mass, western media, an inside view confirms that China is already a master of diplomacy, a paragon of civilisation, and an exemplar of Bull’s International Society. Of course, the Party and nation, like any other party or nation, has its issues, but China is very well placed to develop into a leading practitioner in the use of sports diplomacy.

A land of sporting oddity and mystery

 For the outsider, China remains a land of sporting oddity and mystery. Sitting in your hotel room, flicking through the channels while craving sport, it is odd to note the absence of any indigenous Chinese sport being broadcast. It’s easy to watch European football or American grid iron but virtually impossible to watch a bit of wu shu (kung gu, to us outsiders), taijiquan (shadow boxing), xiangqi (highly addictive Chinese chess) or, my favourite, the strangely addictive qigong (deep breathing exercises). One wonders then, is the flood of western sport trampling traditional Chinese sport, games and exercise?

If so, this is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Alisports – the sporting arm of Jack Ma’s massive Alibaba group – has recently agreed to broadcast the FIFA Club World Cup, American NFL matches, International Boxing and, most recently, Oceans Sports & Entertainment to promote match poker in China. This all seems quite odd, and could suggest that many Chinese prefer watching sport to playing it, or that indigenous Chinese sports aren’t widely enjoyed. Again, generally, the Chinese do not seem, unlike the Europeans or the Americans, with their rough, combative sports, to need to sublimate conflict on the metaphorical pitch or stadium battlegrounds.

At times, as many visitors to the Middle Kingdom experience, Chinese history, culture and society seem that much more civilised than ours, more harmonious. I dare anyone to wander the Forbidden City at dawn, or the Temple of Heaven and suggest otherwise! Harmony is everywhere, even in their attitudes toward sport. “It’s why we like ping-pong,” Professor Zhang Qingmin of Peking University, the country’s leading diplomatic scholar, told me. “There is a net and a table in between us and our opponent,” he added with a smile.

The future?

Looking ahead, two things are absolutely certain. First, the CCP and not outsiders will shape the country’s sporting future, however uncertain or odd it may appear. Second, we westerners still fail to understand China (and I include myself, here). Even when promoting something as benign and positive as using sport as a diplomatic tool to promote peace or development, I was constantly reminded that China will determine its own future, be that political, economic, and sporting. Indeed, uniqueness, mystery, and independence are China’s great strengths.

As such, even when in country, we outsiders remain ‘estranged.’ We do not know China; perhaps we never have. Not long after I arrived, when I was still jabbering on about how big sport in China was set to become, a young Chinese basketball player said to me, in gentle, harmonious tones,

“be careful when you look in the mirror, for all you see is your own reflection.”

How very true. Outsiders seeking to understand the role sport could play in Chinese society, international relations and diplomacy would do well to remember this.

Stuart Murray is Associate Professor at Bond University, Australia and a Global Fellow with the University of Edinburgh Academy of Sport.

Football, creating influence and shaping how others see us.

Scotland v Germany 1929-2015

By Grant Jarvie

It may have been a spirited 3-2 on the pitch but the morning after Scotland v Germany European Championship qualifier the National stadium hosted another event that examined not only Scotland and Germany ‘s footballing links but also how other countries are using sport to create influence on and of the pitch.

On September 8th the Centre for Cultural Relations and the Academy of Sport joined forces to hold a workshop entitled:

“Scotland and Germany: The Future for Sport, Cultural Relations and International Development “

The workshop was funded by the Scottish Government and kicked of a series of events that focused upon Scotland and Germany. The event was also supported by the National Football Museum at Hampden Park.Untitled

Richard McBrearty of the National Football Museum briefed those present on the history of Scotland V Germany. Scotland’s first tour of Europe involved a match against Germany in 1929; the teams have played 17 times between 1929-2015 with Germany winning 8, Scotland 4 and 5 being drawn.

Untitled3Between 1906 and 1933 Celtic, Aberdeen, His, Rangers and Cowdenbeath all toured Germany.

The hosting of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was supported by the Scottish Football Museum who helped to transport the world’s oldest football as part of the 2006 Hamburg FIFA World Cup exhibition.

Yet the 2006 World Cup won by Germany was significant for other reasons. It highlighted the significance of long term planning if cities and countries were going to use the hosting of major sporting events to improve their image.

The Arnholt-Gfk Roper Nations Brands index, which measures external views of countries, showed that Germany went from seventh place in 2004 to first place in 2007 and remained in second place in 2011. The 2014 results showed Germany back in first place and Scotland in 17th place. Sporting excellence was a factor widely cited as working in Germany’s favour.

Long term planning and a cost effective model of delivery were some of the factors, acknowledged by Bridget McConnell that contributed to a successful Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Having played for Frankfurt, Glasgow ladies, Scotland and Germany Katarina Lindner championed the positive contribution that women’s football was having not just in Glasgow but that different forms of football might be needed to attract different segments of the community into the game.

Having a football team in a city certainly helps to position a city and country. A fact that was evidenced by Professor Jon Oberlander from the University of Edinburgh who cited examples of Manchester, London, Liverpool, Oxford and Glasgow as cities whose social media profiles and volume of twitter traffic were all influenced by having football teams and or hosting major sporting events in the city.

In a month when Louise Martin was elected Chair of the Commonwealth Games Federation the audience at Hampden Park were reminded that Scots and those leading Scottish sporting institutions are creating influence within sport and through sport. Louise Martin, Stewart Regan and Sir Craig Reedie are but three sports administrators working in an extremely competitive international arena.

Having taken over from Lord Coe as, Chair of the International Inspiration Programme, Sir Martin Davidson, cited the fact that this programme reached 25 million children and young people in 19 countries. The significant role that Scottish sport had to play in international development was acknowledged by Humza Yousaf Minister for Europe and International Development who opened the event organized by the University of Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport and Centre for Cultural Relations.

An ever-increasing number of countries are using sport as a vehicle for cultural relations, diplomacy and international development. The Australian Government has a specific 2015-18 sports diplomacy strategy. It has suggested that 3% of GDP should be invested in 4 pillars of diplomatic activity through sport – Connecting people and institutions; enhancing sport for development; showcasing Australia and supporting innovation and integrity.

In 2018 Glasgow will co-host a multi-sports event with the city of Berlin. Football clubs from both Scotland and Germany have called for support to be given to refugees. Sporting events like the Scotland V Germany match provide opportunities for not just football but civil servants, ambassadors, governments, cultural agencies and foreign diplomats to meet and do business.

If football can make a broader contribution then why shouldn’t cities, countries and diplomats use it as tool not just to create influence but to make a contribution to the world being less tense and better place.

Sport for peace in a post- conflict Colombia

Sport for Development and Peace programme in Ciudad Bolivar in Bogota.

Sport for Development and Peace programme in Ciudad Bolivar in Bogota.

By Dr Alexander Cárdenas, PhD

If properly managed and articulated, sport could make a modest, yet tangible contribution to Colombia’s post-conflict era. 

Colombia has experienced the longest-running internal conflict in the Western hemisphere. Extending for fifty years, the confrontation between government forces, guerillas and paramilitaries has caused a profound fragmentation of society and a devastating loss of human life. In 2012 a series of exploratory talks between the government of president Santos and the FARC guerilla began in Cuba with the aim to find a political solution to the armed conflict. With Norway and Cuba as guarantors, and a number of governments supporting the talks, this has been the first serious attempt in a decade to bring the two major actors of the conflict to the negotiating table.

Key Facts at August 2015 

  • The National Center for Historical Memory indicates that between 1958 and 2010, 220,000 people have been killed in the Colombian conflict (with 81 percent being civilian casualties).
  • 5,7 million have been displaced.
  • 900,000 have been assassinated.
  • 147,000 have been victims of forced disappearance.
  • Because of the internal conflict and rural violence, Colombia is home to the second largest internally displaced population in the world.
  • A surveyed conducted during the 2014 Brazil World Cup and featured on the New York Times online edition set out to explore the perception of football fans in nineteen countries. In relation to Colombia, the study found that 94 percent of Colombians were interested in football, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed.
  • 94% percent of Colombians believe football is important or very important for the nation.
  • During 1949 and 1954, a period known as El Dorado, Colombia’s football league was the strongest and best-paid in the world.
  • Bogota, Colombia’s capital, is home to the largest bicycle network (ciclovía) in the world.
  • Colombia has a strong sport-for-development tradition which began more than two decades ago.

 

Columbia- national football stadium in Bogota

Columbia- national football stadium in Bogota

Peace-building and sport in Colombia

Efforts at fostering peace are not restricted to finding a political solution to the hostilities but a peace movement largely associated with civil society seeks the mobilisation of all sectors of Colombian society to act in favour of peace through a variety of efforts and initiatives.

Increasingly, cultural and artistic expressions and notably sport, have been acknowledged by political leaders, international organisations and civil society as powerful allies to advancing peace-building in this nation.

Interest in exploring the role of sport as a tool for peace within the particular conflict context of Colombia is gaining momentum. Evidence of this is provided by the increase in the number of sport-based programmes and interventions that use sport as a tool to promote peace in communities affected by violence and conflict, as well as by an upsurge in newspaper and magazine reports, TV and radio shows, seminars and forums informing the public on the sport for development and peace (SDP) phenomenon and showcasing the progress made by organisations operating in this field.

There are a variety of ways in which sport has made a contribution to building peace in this nation afflicted by five decades of violence and war. Sport-based initiatives promoted by NGOs (e.g. Colombianitos, Tiempo de Juego, Fútbol Con Corazón, Goles por la Paz), governmental programs (e.g. Golombiao, Gestores del Deporte) and the international community (notably UNDP, UNICEF, German International Cooperation Agency, Inter-American Development Bank, Peace and Sport) have all positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and youth across Colombia, while at the same time, raising awareness of the potential of sport as a vehicle to foster the values that are generally associated with peace such as non-violence, open dialogue, understanding and respect.

The enthusiasm and expectation that sport generates as a social cohesion tool must be coupled with a pragmatic understanding of the advantages and limitations of sport as a promoter of positive change within Colombia’s conflict dynamics, and even more so – since a peace deal can be reached as early as this year – within a potential post-conflict scenario.

Post-conflict and sport

There are critical issues that need to be addressed in order to take advantage of the opportunities that sport may offer in building a post-conflict nation.

Since sport is not a holistic peace-building and development tool, it is advised that SDP interventions and programmes should be embedded and operate within greater regional and national peace and development objectives and in conjunction with non-sport-based programmes.

The momentum that sport generates in Colombia as a peace tool needs to be sustained with substantive political reform. This may entail not only developing specific public policy on sport within the post-conflict context, but in addition, current programmes and interventions must be redesigned to meet the challenges that the post-conflict phase may pose.

Of particular interest is examining how sport can assist in reintegrating combatants back to civilian life and in providing psychosocial recovery and creating economic opportunities for victims of war.

A recent study conducted by the author found that SDP officials – including trainers and coaches – perceived themselves as peacemakers or peace facilitators.

Given this, officials and trainers operating with NGOs may enhance their peace-making skills by receiving formal instruction from academic institutions and practitioners whose work gravitate around areas such as peace-building and conflict resolution.

Collaboration between academic institutions (in training personnel and assisting foundations in designing, implementing and evaluating SDP programs) and NGOs operating in this field is yet to happen and is strongly recommended. Moreover, academic institutions can critically reflect on the possibilities and limitations offered by sport as a peace tool with the aim of improving sport-based interventions.

Finally, as the international community turns its eyes and resources on Colombia and its post-conflict era, material resources and technical assistance can be leveraged in order  to support post-conflict SDP initiatives via international cooperation schemes.

Conclusion

Sport will not put an end to Colombia’s five-decade war but it can make a modest and tangible contribution to building (and ideally, sustaining) peace in this nation.

A thorough analysis of the advantages and limitations of sport as a viable peace tool is necessary. It is also paramount to successfully mobilize the diverse stakeholders involved in the SDP sector and develop clear policy on the social role of sport with a focus on Colombia’s post-conflict phase.

 

Shinty and football bring the past into the present

Source: Shinty Archive

Source: Shinty Archive

By Hugh Dan MacLennan and Grant Jarvie

One of Scotland’s oldest and most valuable cultural assets is to be showcased from October 2015, for six months, in the award winning Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Glasgow.

Shinty – Irish missionaries probably introduced iomain or camanachd in Gaelic – to Scotland two thousand years ago, almost certainly along with the Gaelic language.

It is one of the few sports that can claim to be native to Scottish soil and has a significantly important cultural dimension through its Gaelic heritage.

It is also one of the cultural anchors that has offered the Scottish diaspora an historical link with their roots along with Gaelic and Highland Games.

The sport’s main trophy in the modern era is The Camanachd Cup – the national championship trophy, first played for in 1896.

Many of shinty’s great trophies will be on display on a planned rotation and clubs and Associations within the game are to be offered the opportunity to be part of the six-month exhibition.

KEY FACTS AT JULY 2015 

Shinty has been played throughout Scotland, including St Kilda, but never in Orkney or Shetland.

  • Shinty was traditionally played as a social pastime and particularly in association with New Year celebrations, prior to its organisation as a sport with rules and regulations in the latter part of the 19th
  • Before the leather, stitched balls were introduced at the end of the 1800s, balls were made from wood, woven wool, sheep vertebrae and even dried seaweed stalks.
  • Several football teams and stadia in England have a shinty connection such as Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.
  • Shinty has been played at Hampden Park in Glasgow and other stadia such as Parkhead and Ibrox on occasion.
  • On Sunday 2nd March 2014 the newly formed club, Krasnodar Camanachd, held what is believed to have been the first shinty match on Russian soil.
  • Shinty’s greatest ever goal-scorer was Kingussie’s Ronald Ross who amassed more than 1,000 goals in his playing career.
  • A number of top footballers were noted shinty players in their day, notably Duncan Shearer, ex Aberdeen and Chelsea, and Donald Park of Inverness Caledonian, Hearts, Hibs and Partick Thistle.
  • Shinty’s blue riband trophy and the Scottish championship is the SSE Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup, first played for in 1896.
  • A shinty stick is known by its Gaelic name, caman.
  • When Scottish emigrants left to the four corners of the globe in the 19th century in particular, they took their culture with them and traces of shinty are to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even in Montevideo.
  • During the two World Wars and the Boer War before that, Highland soldiers used shinty to help them maintain their links with home and keep their spirits up. Shinty is to be found at regimental camps, on the front line and in POW camps.
  • There currently is one player in Scotland’s Sporting Hall of Fame, Dr Johnnie Cattanach of Newtonmore. An all-round sportsman who distinguished himself at Edinburgh University, he holds the record of most goals scored in a Camanachd Cup Final (8) and was killed at Gallipoli in World War 1.

 Shinty Trophies

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

The Camanachd Cup, pictured on the centre spot at Mossfield Park, Oban.

Source: Shinty Archive

The rich heritage of shinty, with its spectacular range of silverware, is a national cultural asset. Many of the sport’s most historic trophies are still used in competition, the oldest being the Glasgow Celtic Society Cup, dating from 1879. Others include Aberdeen University’s Littlejohn Vase (1905), a solid silver reproduction of the 400 BC Roman original that is in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, accompanied by a lavishly illustrated album of dedication.

 Shinty Milestones

  • 1272 earliest written reference to shinty.
  • 1589 Shinty banned from Blackfriars Kirkyard in Glasgow.
  • 1698 Martin Martin refers to shinty play on St Kilda.
  • 1820 Robert Chambers recorded shinnie playing in the borders.
  • 1842 Shinty in Sydney, Australia.
  • 1843 Argyll-shire Roads Act banned shinty play on streets.
  • 1851 Aberdeen University shinty club, oldest shinty club with written constitution
  • 1893 Camanachd Association, shinty’s governing body, formed.
  • 1924 First Shinty/Hurling international – Scotland v Ireland at Tailteann Games, Dublin.
  • 1953 Lovat Shinty Club first to win all six senior Scottish shinty trophies, a feat never repeated and now impossible.
  • 2005 Shinty moved to include summer play.

Shinty/Hurling matches have been played at various levels between Scotland and Ireland since the 1880s and the international fixture remains a vibrant link between Celtic traditions.

Shinty is a sport that has been at the heart of communities stretching from the Western Isles and North West Ross-shire to Caithness and the Mull of Kintyre and beyond to London, Manchester, Cornwall and the Scottish diaspora world-wide.

At least three sports shinty, curling and golf are regarded widely as but three of national indigenous sports of Scotland. They have all, at one time or another been played throughout the country and are recognized worldwide as iconic symbols of the country’s sporting heritage.

Alzheimer Scotland and the Camanachd Association have set up a special project for people living with dementia and other memory problems. Called Shinty Memories, it uses images of old players, teams, badges, trophies, grounds and memorabilia to improve recall, stimulate conversation and share memories of Shinty.

WHY SPORTS HISTORY MATTERS

 The history of sport matters for a number of reasons:

It helps to avoid a parochial or insular understanding of sport.

It provides tools by which to evaluate change.

It helps to destroy myths.

It warns against an uncritical acceptance of heritage, tradition and identity.

It can add plausibility to not just sporting issues of the day but also broader problems and issues.

It can bring voices and records from the past to bear on contemporary challenges.

 Conclusion

 You cannot understand Gaelic culture fully without recognizing the place of shinty in Gaelic speaking communities and you cannot understand Scotland or the Scottish diaspora fully without acknowledging Scotland’s cultural assets.

 The partnership between The Camanachd Association and the Scottish Football Museum helps to evidence that the sports past has much to offer contemporary Scotland.

 Shinty is a sport that values its tradition and heritage greatly and also its contemporary social and economic role in Scotland’s well being.

Read more about Sport on the Academy of Sport’s website.

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Welcome to SPORT MATTERS

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Old College, The University of Edinburgh © http://www.nealesmith.com

Welcome to SPORT MATTERS

I am writing to introduce you to The Academy of Sport at the University of Edinburgh.

SPORT MATTERS is the blog that supports the work of the Academy of Sport.

The Academy of Sport is a network of collaborators both within and external to the University of Edinburgh that provides a gathering place for the worlds of sport.

Building upon a remarkable sporting heritage dating back to at least 1591, the Academy of Sport, established in 2014, was born from a desire to serve communities locally and globally.

Two premises guide our work. Firstly that sport has a part to play in addressing the challenges that face humanity in the 21st century and secondly to serve as an independent think tank that addresses these challenges through evidence, dialogue and advocacy.

As a gathering place for the exchange of ideas and sporting enlightenment we are neutral, inclusive and at the heart of an international sporting landscape.

The Academy builds upon three pillars of activity: impact, study and dialogue.

We aim to:

  • Engage a critical mass of knowledge, research, strategic collaboration, influence, access and opportunity through sport.
  • Provide an independent sports observatory to address problems and suggest solutions.
  • Advance an understanding of sport’s contribution in addressing global, local and international issues.
  • Influence future agendas policy making and its impact through advocacy and evidence based interventions.
  • Advocate the potential of sport and education to make a difference to people’s lives.
  • Provide access to the University of Edinburgh and sustain a commitment to exploring the potential of sport to reach disadvantaged communities.
  • Engage with governments, international sports organizations and those who seek to influence the world through sport.
  • Build a better understanding of the role of sport in diplomacy, cultural and international relations, and foreign policy.
  • Promote the links between research, evidence, education and advocacy.

Our work supports independent research about issues and problems within sport and where sport is part of a broader solution or intervention.

The SPORT MATTERS blog aims to provide an honest, open, evidenced, safe space for dialogue about the value and potential of sport.

I hope you will join us.

You can get in touch with us directly at academyofsport@ed.ac.uk

or by calling +44 (131) 651 6577.

Professor Grant Jarvie

Chair of Sport and Head of Academy of Sport
The University of Edinburgh