Bulletin of Contemporary Hispanic Studies

The Twelfth Man? Some Unlikely Connections Between Manchester City and Revolutionary Cuba

Bulletin of Contemporary Hispanic Studies (2020), 2, (2), 103–116.


This essay takes two cultural phenomena that are not normally compared, UK football culture and Cuban literary culture, as the foundation for a reflection on the crucial role that mass participation plays in each. ‘The twelfth man’ - a term that usually refers to the home fans that impel a team to victory - is employed here as a metaphor to describe the cognitive, corporeal, affective and moral force of mass physical participation and its impact on the individual, the collective and the institution, be that a global football club or contemporary Cuban society. The essay advocates that paying attention to the dialogic and mutually constitutive relationship between individual, collective and institution, a relationship based simultaneously on identification and differentiation, is key to the harmonization of interests that can underpin the continued effectiveness of any cultural phenomenon, especially in times of rapid change.

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