By Peter Maiden
The first project of the Valley Public History Initiative, headed by Dr. Romeo Guzmán, was “Straight Outta Fresno,” which culminated last December in a hip-hop event with art and dance at the Fres. Co gallery downtown. A constellation of factors is favoring the Initiative in its second project, “The Other Football,” which deals with soccer in the San Joaquin Valley. Dr. Guzmán’s History 188 class at Fresno State is researching soccer and archiving materials, at the same time the World Cup is coming up in Russia in June and Fresno has a brand-new soccer team, the Fresno Football Club.
“Both projects,” Guzmán said, “are similar in that they’re trying to tell unique stories about Fresno and they’re trying to do that by working with the community, doing oral history, scanning photographs—basically creating archives that don’t exist right now.”
At a kickoff rally for “The Other Football” March 15 at Fresno State, which included a ball juggling contest and a soccer trivia game, there was excitement and a strong sense of fun. Guzmán wrote on the Initiative’s Facebook page that soccer has been vital to the “arrival, settlement and adaptation” of migrants.
One fact the Initiative has uncovered is that soccer started in Visalia thanks to one Iraqi immigrant. The Initiative has also taken an interest in high school and college soccer in its early days. Also important to the story is the “soccer mom” running youngsters to their games.
“We’re essentially trying to tell a migrant narrative as well as a middle-class narrative,” Guzmán told the crowd at the rally. “We’re trying to tell this very complicated and nuanced history of how it is soccer arrived in the U.S., how it developed and at what point soccer started shedding, at least a little bit, its immigrant roots.”
“The Other Football” will be different than simply an academic exercise because it will strive to involve the community. Instead of publishing an essay, for example, Guzmán would like to see the creation of baseball cards for local soccer heroes. Also, he hopes that there can be a presentation at a Fresno Football Club game.
“Folks who want to contribute,” Guzmán said, “whether it’s telling us a story, sharing their story, or photographs, can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Peter Maiden is a staff photographer for the Community Alliance newspaper. He studied media at UC Berkeley. Contact him at email@example.com.