Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Southeast European History

Martin Blasius

Football in Yugoslav self-management socialism


The project examines the historical relationship between football as a global sport and modern mass phenomenon and the specific model of self-management socialism in Yugoslavia as an idea and social order, framework of action and lived-in world in a global perspective, focusing on the 1960s as the decade of Yugoslavia's transition into a modern industrial, media and consumer society, as well as of key global transformations.

Key questions perspectives are

A), due to research's concentration on connections of football and nationalism and Yugoslavia's destruction, establishing a structural basis: how and by which actors football as spectator and mass sport was thought and organised in the various parts of Yugoslavia and on different levels of self-management, and which contradictions arose between ideas of socialist physical culture and sport, ideology and market economy, institutions, actors and football itself, especially considering the central role of a world federation (FIFA).

2), in terms of a multiperspectival social and cultural history of Yugoslav sport: how football was thought, designed, experienced and lived by people between frameworks oriented towards socialist transformation and modernisation of society and the individual, its characteristics as socially embedded, but autonomous cultural element, as a modern, globally governed sport with its structural principle of rule-based competition and medialised mass phenomenon, and the scopes of action people had in these contexts and which general tendencies of developments evolved during the 1960s. This is also linked to a question fundamental to the relationship of sport and society in modernity: if football was a catalyst or an object of change and modernisation, or in other words, how far  it put its imprints on the society surrounding it.

3), trying to establish South East Europe as an integral part of the history of world football, also against the still frequent dichotomy between Western and marginal Eastern Europe also in sport history: how "Yugoslav" and "socialist" football, its regional variants, its relations with other social spheres, its organisation, representations and everyday practices in self management socialism really were in the context of a sport globally governed by FIFA.

Therefore, thematic foci are

  • 1) ideas, institutions and actors of football in self management,
  • 2) top sport between market and socialism,
  • 3) media and spectator sport, fans and identificational meanings of football,
  • 4) the national team and Yugoslavia's place in world football and
  • 5) amateur,popular, youth and women's football between reproduction, socialist education and leisure.

The geographically broad and regionally comparing analysis is based on a variety of sources, such as archival sources, materials from media, museums and (private) collections, clubs' and federations' publications, biographies, popular literature, statistics and interviews.