Project Proposal

I plan on studying the Chinese college-age perspective of soccer.  While originally my topic was extremely broad and covered all of Chinese soccer culture, I pared it down to younger people and then further to collegiate views.  I think this community will be the most useful and allows for a more in depth study than the other more diffuse groups.   I will be studying this topic through, at least initially, going to pickup games at the Tsinghua fields.

The central question raised in my research is: how do Chinese college students view soccer?  This large question can be broken up into several subdivisions.  I’m interested in exploring the way that the lack of national success in soccer has colored the attitude towards playing.  Another question that was raised in my last blog post had to do with the popularity of watching versus playing.  One article I had read proposed that soccer has a fervent audience, but playing the sport remains unpopular.  This concept remains very important to my own fieldwork, because I plan on starting my research by going to a pickup game.  This means that the popularity of playing the sport might become immediately obvious, though because Beijing is an extremely big city with a several large colleges I doubt it will be difficult to find games.

tsinghuafield            Originally I had planned to do my fieldwork in a field near Wudaokou, but after consulting with Fang Laoshi I changed my mind.  Most, if not all, of the soccer fields in Beijing are outside and of the same general quality and popularity, and therefore it behooves me to pick the closest field.  For my topic I can perform fieldwork on the Tsinghua campus itself.  Fang Laoshi informed me that the fields at Tsinghua are as popular as any other field, and would be a convenient spot to start fieldwork.  I am relatively sure that the field he was referring to is the Sports Ground in front of Zijing, though I am sure I will be able to find the fields once I am there.  I plan on going to the field during my first fieldwork time period and jumping into a pickup game.  Obviously due to pollution and possible heat I need to be more sensitive to how long I play, but from what I have heard the environment should not be a huge impediment.  During my game I need to make friends with people who are willing to talk about soccer in general.  After that I plan to interview them at a later time, either at the field on another day/week or at a separate location.  One potential advantage I have is the concurrence of the 2013 Confederations Cup, which occurs from June 15th to the 30th.  This might help me make external connections, such as providing a location or time for a potential following interview.

As implied above, I plan on making my research primarily interview based.  That being said, my fieldnotes are still going to be very influential.  For my own experiences at the games, or even following interview, taking detailed notes will definitely be a valuable resource. My plan is to record fieldwork done during games in my notes, but for the following interviews I think recording in addition to notes would be preferable.  This is simply because it is important to get the entirety of the conversation, and it allows me to analyze what I said to the interviewee.  I have not decided whether video or audio recording is preferable for the project, though I assume video would probably be approximately as easy.  I do not have a detailed list of questions for interviews, mainly because that would be presupposing the type of environment I will find.  Instead I have several themes that I want to explore, with more general questions.  One major theme to my research is popularity, both of the sport and within the sport.  In that vein, I will ask what position the interviewee plays and why they chose that role.  Following from that it will be interesting to ask how they feel their peers, both on and off the field, view their role.  This is influenced by Fang Laoshi’s own experiences with the forward roles being more popular or intrinsically cooler.    In the same general theme of popularity, how is soccer perceived relative to other sports?  This question is mainly derived from my reading about the popularity of basketball versus soccer.  And if basketball is in fact more popular, does this have to do with the perceived success of basketball, i.e. Yao Ming?  While these two general ideas cover the roles of popularity within the sport and versus other sports, I also am interested in asking about how playing soccer is perceived by people outside the sport.  In other words, how do their peers and parents view their participation in this activity?  This might be the most crucial element of my research because it has extremely large-scale context.

My research topic appears very soccer-centric, with the majority of the information appearing inaccessible or uninteresting to people unfamiliar with the sport.  And while this is partially true, I hope my fieldwork can explore a much larger context.  I think this project can be more than just about soccer, but rather how people view sports.  This comes from how much emphasis people put on soccer and how college students’ parents and peers view their participation.  Do people view effort put into sports as a waste of time?  In my opinion, these types of questions are very interesting and really elucidate elements to Chinese culture that are currently unknown to me.

I have several backup plans if there are issues at different steps.  The easiest problem would be if no one is playing at the Tsinghua field.  Fang Laoshi has assured me that there are fields at each of the universities in Beijing, which means that I could bike to any of the campuses and play there.  There is always the field near Wudaokou, but there is a potential issue with that community being a little less contiguous or comprised of more foreigners.  If I get injured and can’t play soccer, there is a good chance I will have to change my topic.  This might be avoided if the injury occurs later and I have already made contacts.  Also, if the injury is brief and sooner I might be able to engage in fieldwork at some location where the Confederations Cup is watched.