Dr Peter Watson


I joined the University of Leeds in September 2019, having completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield. My thesis title was #UnPaísEnUnaCancha: Football and nation-building in Colombia during the Presidency of Juan Manuel Santos (2010–2018). The book arising from this work was published by Liverpool University Press in August 2022 and can be accessed for free.

I gained my BA in Iberian and Latin American Studies from the University of Southampton (1995–1999), and then did a PGCE in Spanish, French and Games at the University of Bristol (1999–2000).

I was a Spanish teacher and Head of Spanish at Gresham’s School, Holt, and Malvern College, before returning to academia to do my MA in Latin American Studies at the University of Sheffield (2014–2015). During my teaching career I published a number of Spanish AS/A level and IB resources, including a study guide for Diarios de Motocicleta, and was architect and lead author of the Spanish IB website Exclusiva for Pearson Education.

I have also worked as a resource developer and researcher for the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP, based at the Universty of York). I am also a Level 3 cricket coach, and have coached the University of Sheffield men’s cricket teams since 2014.

Research interests

My research interests currently focus on sport for nation-building in Latin America, and particularly in Colombia. This interest stems from living in Colombia from 1989–1993, a time when a successful national football team served as an escape valve from national trauma and tragedy during the worst violence associated with the drug cartels. My thesis examined the political use of football in Colombia by President Juan Manuel Santos, as a tool for national unification and peace, focusing on rhetoric, Twitter use, legislation and public policies, and Sport for Development and Peace programmes. A key focus was on how football became part of the peace process, on a rhetorical level, but also as a strategy for reconciliation, re-encounter and reintegration in the FARC demobilization camps following the signing of the Peace Agreement.My book arising from the thesis is called ‘Football and Nation Building in Colombia: The Only Thing That Unites Us’ and was pusblished in August 2022 by Liverpool University. It can be downloaded Open Access as it was the first book of the Opening the Future Project.

Several articles and chapters have emerged and been published from this work, including in the Bulletin of Latin American Research, the Journal of War & Culture Studies, Movimento and an edited volume on football in Latin America published by Vervuert-Iberoamericana in January 2021. Articles have focused on the historical relationship between the FARC and football in Colombia, women’s football and presidential discourse, and Twitter for sporting nationalism. Forthcoming work will examine how sport and nationalism converged in the Colombian press during La Violencia era, a study of the state Sport for Development and Peace project in the FARC demobilization camps, and an analysis of Colombia’s failed hosting of the 2021 Copa América given the backdrop of Covid 19 and national protests. In the future, I hope to research the use of global sports in indigenous communities in Latin America, and also the representation of sport in Latin American cinema.

Talks and presentations 

Guest Lectures

  • November 2021: Seminario de Deporte para el Desarrollo y la Paz, Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira, Colombia
  • February 2021: Embrace Dialogue Academia Seminar 5: Football and the Colombian Peace Process
  • November 2020: Workshop ‘Fortalecimiento del liderazgo participativo y comunitario de la barra Los del Sur’; talk entitled: ‘Fútbol e hinchadas en Inglaterra’. Invited by the Alcaldía de Medellín.
  • September 2020: Cátedra Universidad Nacional UNAL Colombia, on Deporte, Identidad y Paz, session #6 Reconfiguración del deporte a través del deporte 
  • September 2020: ‘La historia de cricket en Inglaterra y su dispersión global’, at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Peru
  • November 2017: presentation on the policing of football violence in England, for a special meeting of the Comisión técnica  para la seguridad, comodidad y convivencia en el fútbol at the Colombian Interior Ministry
  • October 2017: Deporte y Posconflicto en Colombia conference, organized by the Comité Olímpico Colombiano: ‘¿#UnPaísEnUnaCancha? Santos, el fútbol y la construcción de nación’

Selected Conference Papers

  • October 2021: ‘La relación histórica entre las FARC y fútbol en Colombia’, for the El fútbol pasa al tablero: Fútbol en todas direcciones event, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.
  • September 2020: ‘The world was shown that a country called Colombia exists: Press narratives of nation around Colombia’s first World Cup appearance in the 1962 World Cup in Chile’, Telling the Story of Sport Conference, University of Bristol 
  • November 2019:  ‘Superpoderosas pero Superolvidadas: el fútbol femenino colombiano en los discursos del Presidente Juan Manuel Santos’ at the Campo Nivelado: Fútbol Femenino en América Latina event in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • October 2019: ‘Bullets and Balls: The Colombian National Football team and the FARC’, at the annual Football Collective conference in Sheffield.
  • April 2019: ‘Talking a good game: President Santos building nation through football-related speeches and Twitter use’, at the annual SLAS conference, University of Leicester
  • April 2018: ‘El fútbol es convivencia: Analysis of the Plan Decenal de Seguridad, Comodidad y Convivencia en el Fútbol and its implementation in Colombia, at the SLAS conference, University of Winchester
  • April 2017: ‘Competing for the Shirt: The Kit of the Colombian selección and the Construction of colombianidad under President Juan Manuel Santos’, SLAS conference, University of Glasgow

Radio and podcast appearances

I have been interviewed on my research and as a Latin American football expert on LoveSport and Capital FM radio stations during the World Cup 2018 and Copa América 2019. I was also interviewed on NearFM during the Copa América 2021. In Spanish, I have been interviewed in an episode of the Extra Cancha series for Radio Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico, and on four occasions for Radio Universidad Nacional de Colombia, discussing football and peace (episode 1, episode 2), sport and the press in Colombia in the Twentieth Century, and sport in the UK.

I am the resident expert for the These Football Times podcast series ‘The South American Files’. Series one episodes explore the history, culture, issues, successes and failures of each of the South American nations, namely Colombia, Brazil, ChileVenezuela, UruguayEcuadorBoliviaParaguayArgentina, and Peru. Series two will focus on football in specific South American cities, with episodes already recorded on Asunción, Avellaneda, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Cali, Guayaquil and La Plata. I have also recorded specific episodes for These Football Times on the legacy and cultural importance of Diego Armando Maradona, and the 1978 World Cup held in Argentina.

Other podcast appearances in English include an interview on the Outside Write show discussing Latin American military dictatorships and football, discussions on Colombian football and my research on Round HistoryBorn Again Football  and on three occasions on Colombia Calling, episodes 185217 and 436. In Spanish, I have appeared on the Poslaverdá podcast and on the Hablemos de Gestión Deportiva podcast.

Research Groups

  • Network for Hispanic and Lusophone Cultural Studies
  • Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Sheffield (2016-2019)
  • MA in Latin American Studies, University of Sheffield (2014-2015)
  • PGCE in Spanish, French and Games, University of Bristol (1999-2000)
  • BA in Iberian and Latin American Studies, University of Southampton (1995-1999)

Professional memberships

  • Society of Latin American Studies
  • Rodeemos el Di├ílogo (Embrace Dialogue ReD UK)
  • The Football Collective

Student education

I teach in the areas of Latin American history and popular culture, Spanish American literature, Spanish and Latin American cinema and Spanish-English translation. I also supervise final year projects on a range of topics related to Spain and Latin America.