Spring Break in Italy

March 15, 2011

Bradley’s one-of-a-kind sports communication concentration was designed to push academic boundaries. Now in its third year, the program is crossing borders, too, giving students field experience in the truest sense.

Instructor Octavian Gabor and nine students taking COM 391: Soccer, Communication, and Globalization are spending Spring Break in Italy where they are discovering that soccer isn’t just a game; it’s a cultural phenomenon. At the professional level, each team is a case study in cross-cultural communication.

“Soccer clubs in Italy have maybe three Italians on the team, but also people from the United States, all over Europe, Africa, Asia. You have communication among many cultures within a small club,” said Gabor. “Because of this vast diversity, each club connects with people all around the world.”

Incorporating an international dimension to the sports communication curriculum was a natural extension of the program according to Department of Communication chair Dr. Paul Gullifor.

“Our students need to understand that sports is not uniquely American, but a truly global language,” Gullifor said. “Our program fosters professionals versed in all aspects of sports communication – advertising, public relations, journalism – who appreciate how sports operate as social, economic, and communicative forces.”

Television images of passionate fans packing stadiums – sometimes erupting into violent fits of rage inspired by deeply rooted team loyalty – only tell part of soccer’s story. To truly grasp the emotion ingrained in the professional soccer culture, Gabor believes one has to experience a match in person. Bradley students had that opportunity this week, and even ventured into the teams’ locker rooms.

“The main objective of our Italy trip is to allow students to understand a cultural phenomenon within a different context, because you can’t experience soccer in the United States the same way you can in Europe,” Gabor said.

The group will also visit the headquarters of one of Europe’s premier sporting newspapers to speak with reporters about their experience covering the world’s most popular sport.

Back in the classroom, Gabor brings the global perspective to Bradley. Guest speakers include the coach of the Romanian national soccer team, a former captain of Futbol Club Barcelona, and international journalists.

A lifelong soccer fanatic who calls the sport his “first love,” Gabor said some of his fervor is rubbing off on his students.

“I know that about half of them were soccer fans when they enrolled in the class,” Gabor said. “And I’m confident that after our trip to Italy, the other half will be, too.”