Idea for Field Project

China_PR_national_football_teamI have several ideas for research in Beijing, but for this post I’m focusing on exploring the Chinese view of soccer (足球).  I have spoken with several people about soccer in China and find the way it is treated very interesting.  From what I have heard it is an immensely popular sport, both played and watched often.

What spurred my interest in Chinese soccer came from the relatively unsuccessful attempts to create a good Chinese national soccer team.  Originally I assumed that Chinese people were not particularly interested in this sport, but after finding out this was not the case I was considerably perplexed.  Last semester I discussed this situation with Fang Laoshi. One explanation that he gave was that while soccer was popular in general, it simply was not perceived to be as cool as sports like basketball and therefore only the second tier athletes played soccer.  This insight made me want to explore the Chinese view on soccer, particularly the views of youth culture.

This topic is very broad, and there are many ways I could go about researching it.  For the sake of simplicity and generating quality ethnographic fieldwork I wanted to focus on a particular location.  To further this goal I talked to several of my friends who had previously studied abroad in Beijing, as well as someone currently pursuing a Master’s degree in China.  To my excitement, I was told about an area near Wudaokou which is usually packed with pickup games of soccer as well as weekend amateur league games.  Because of its proximity to major universities (Tsinghua, Peking etc.) as well as Wudaokou itself, the players are generally very welcoming and friendly to foreigners.  I feel like this is a possibility for exploring youth views on soccer; it will also generate information about how pickup games work in China, as well as differences in the way the sport is played.  Hopefully some of the players would be willing to help me by talking about their own view of soccer and how they feel it is perceived by their peers. I think this doubles as a good idea because it might help make friends and get used to speaking Chinese with others around my own age.

I hope to obtain results about how Chinese youth culture views soccer, but there are large contexts that can also be explored.  Hypothetically this research could reveal information about how young people in China perceive sports and athletics in general.  In a very broad scale it can even reflect values such as national pride, especially with the poor results from the Chinese national team.  It might also shed light on how Chinese view other cultures, specifically how the influence of English soccer has altered the perception of other nationalities.

There are several potential issues with this idea.  Most importantly, if people are not playing during my fieldwork hours then the location obviously will not work.  Another concern is that people might not consent to be filmed.  This especially applies if I wanted to film parts of the game or how players interact beforehand, seeing as how everyone would have to agree to it.