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Looking for an Idiom – The Future of Football Biography

In 1965, the football writer Brian Glanville wrote an article about the state of British sports journalism. At the outset of the piece, he distinguished between two forms of sports journalism within the British context: the ‘more sensitive popular writer’ who ‘knows that almost every piece he writes is a self-betrayal, a selling out to the cruel machine which has produced him’ and ‘the quality writer’ who is ‘writing for an informed minority when, given the wide reference of his subject, he should be speaking to the generality’. ‘What is wholly lacking’, he writes, ‘is an idiom which will throw a bridge across the two cultures, avoiding, on the one hand, bathos, which is the nemesis of ‘good’ sports writing, and on the other stylised vulgarity, the nemesis of the popular school.’ Fifty years later and that bridge remains for the most part undiscovered: the British sports writer still finds themselves looking for an idiom.

In the course of this podcast series, we are going to join in this search for an idiom. Bringing together specialists from around the world, we will take on the topics that are often ignored about the way the game is thought about, spoken about and played. Be it the epistemology of scouting, the creation and preservation of narrative, or the shadow world of capital that underpins the global game, each episode will seek to bring to light some aspect of the beautiful game and raise it to the level of scrutiny.

In this episode, we’re talking about the future of football biographies. Joining us on the show is Andrew Downie, author of Doctor Socrates, a biography about the footballer Socrates who went on to captain the famous Brazil side in 1982. Andrew was born in Scotland but has spent most of his life as a foreign correspondent in Mexico, Haiti and Brazil. He now writes about sport for Reuters news agency. We are also joined by Alex Stewart, a creative consultant for uMAXit football who produces tactics and stats pieces for them. He also writes regularly about Football Manager with Iain Macintosh, and has been published in The Guardian, The Blizzard, and on the BBC.

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