Imagine2050 contributor Tom Dunmore, along with writers John Turnbull, David Keys and designer Joseph Liam Murtaugh, recently created a new quarterly magazine about soccer in North America titled XI. XI aims to discuss in-depth the game’s diversity and cultural reach through issues themed to topics such as immigration, women’s soccer, playing space, supporter culture, business and media. Dunmore is the author of a Historical Dictionary of Soccer and runs the soccer culture website, Pitch Invasion. He is former chair of Section 8 Chicago, Chicago Fire’s Independent Supporters’ Association. I asked Tom a few questions about XI whose first issue will address the subject of soccer and immigration.
1. What was the key reason for choosing immigration as the main topic for issue #1?
The history of soccer in North America is entwined with that of immigration. The sport was brought here by immigrants, and its development has been shaped by how soccer has interacted within ethnic communities and how its reputation as a “foreign” sport has at times led to approbation of the game along with attempts to “Americanize” it. In the twenty-first century, soccer in America has survived all of that and is flourishing based on its diverse roots. These include the sport becoming a mainstay of youth sports – and thus a game millions of American-born athletes have grown up playing – and also one that is enormously popular as a spectator sport amongst ethnic minorities in the U.S., particularly the growing Hispanic population. Soccer is a truly global game, and that is reflected here. All of this means that there are so many different ways to explore soccer’s past, present and future on this continent and its connection to immigration in issue #1 of XI.
2. As an immigrant, do you feel that you bring a unique perspective to this topic?
On a personal level, it is a topic that’s important to me. I moved to the United States eleven years ago, and a large part of my engagement in American society has come through the sport, both as a player and as a spectator. In fact, I met my wife – an American citizen but born in Poland – through being a fan of the Chicago Fire. It is fascinating to see the myriad perspectives and relationships that come from soccer bringing together diverse communities, especially in a city like Chicago.
3. Why should people within the immigrant and civil rights communities back this project?
Soccer is a critical part of how so many immigrants have engaged with their communities in this country. For many historically, soccer clubs have formed critical ways for immigrants to come together in their communities; usually these ethnic clubs forming has been positive, though at times, ethnic divisions have been transposed to the soccer field too. All of this is a key part of the story of immigrant culture that generally has not been well told and explored. Looking forward, how soccer illustrates the rich tapestry of American culture is something very pertinent to immigrant communities today.
With two weeks to go, XI is over halfway towards its goal of raising $11,000 to start the project. To learn more and to donate to make the project happen go to XI’s Kickstarter page here.