The Valley Public History Initiative at Fresno State officially launched “The Other Football: Tracing the Game’s Roots and Routes in the San Joaquin Valley,” a project that focuses on the migrant contributions and stories made by amateur and professional soccer players in the San Joaquin Valley.
The launch brought dozens of students, faculty, and staff to the Social Science Quad where they participated in a juggling contest, goal contest and learned about the history of soccer.
The international sport interconnected with a mixture of cultural dynamics captured the attention of Dr. Romeo Guzman, assistant professor of U.S. and Public History and director of the Valley Public History Initiative at Fresno State.
Having grown up in a household immersed with a love for soccer, Guzman wanted to learn more about the history of soccer and the migrant experience.
“This project really brings together my own family history and interest in the game, my student’s research interest, and local developments. Like all my public history project[s], I hope that we are able to work with the community to document and tell unique stories and to find creative ways to share this knowledge,” said Guzman.
As the most inclusive sport not sectioned off or dominated by one particular country, uncovering the migrant history of soccer in the San Joaquin Valley is part of Guzman’s efforts.
He hopes communities gain a better understanding of how the world’s most esteemed game was built on migrant players from all corners of the globe. Since the beginning, soccer has been impacted by broader cultural dynamics all bonded through their passion for soccer.
“The game, however, is tied to migration in much more intimate ways. A history of the sport can tell us as much about the game as it can about the migrant experience. Whether in the 1940s Chicago or today’s Sunday Leagues, the game was/is vital to migrants’ arrival, settlement, and adaptation,” said Guzman.
Since the beginning of the spring semester, Fresno State faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students have dedicated their efforts to gathering research and records for this project.
Guzman hopes this initiative inspires communities to explore, preserve and discover efforts of former and current players throughout the San Joaquin Valley and to be able to tell a unique and global history of the San Joaquin Valley: to connect its fields and teams to towns in far-off places like England, Iraq, post-Soviet state, Mexico and Central America.
Fresno Football Club, Fresno’s American professional soccer team, also joined the launch event and gave away tickets to their games.
The launch is part of the Valley Public History Initiative: Preserving Our Stories, a project of Fresno State’s history department and the College of Social Sciences. All oral histories and photographs collected during this project will be housed online at the Henry Madden Library.