I can never sleep on planes. I am convinced it is due to the increasingly inadequate accommodations on today’s average airline; however, it also likely has something to do with the anticipation of where I am going, and what I will get to experience when I arrive.

In a matter of hours I will be in la Citta Eterna, the Eternal City, Rome, home of the Collisseum, the Pantheon and A.S. Roma’s Commando Ultra Curva Sud. The Curva Sud are the traditional ultras group of the soccer club, having formed over the years by the merger of many smaller fan groups, and they are a big reason for my journey to Rome.

Franklin Foer argues in How Soccer Explains the World that soccer can be a lens through which global phenomena can be viewed. “Of course, soccer isn’t the same as Bach or Buddhism,” he states. “But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community’s fabric, a repository of traditions.”

And the fan groups are where the reflection of culture phenomena in soccer can often best be viewed (though it is not the only place), which brings us back to the Curva Sud.

Italian fan groups have often been racially abusive towards other clubs, fans and players, and the Curva Sud are no exception. My research project, which I will be conducting over the next four weeks, will be to explore the phenomenon of racism in European soccer.

To do this I will be talking with fans, anti-racism groups and members of European soccer’s governing bodies. I will also be attending Euro 2008 (a tournament that occurs every four years to crown the best international soccer team in Europe, second in importance only to the World Cup) where I will attend soccer matches, visit fan zones and watch games in bars and biergartens to observe fan interaction between each other as the games unfold.

Soon I will be in Rome, home of the Curva Sud, where I will begin my project and watch Foer’s contention in action. In a day I will conduct my first interview, and shortly after that the Euro 2008 tournament will begin. There is so much to be excited about. How could anyone sleep?