With the World Cup round the corner, one cannot but help think of Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer who wanted to be a football player and is the author of classic The Open Veins of South America and also, Soccer in Sun and Shadow.
At the beginning of Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano despairs the professionalization of soccer: what he calls the “voyage from beauty to duty” (2). In this “voyage” he sees the suppression of the beauty, creativity, and freedom of play in favour of winning and profit. Professional soccer “imposes a soccer of lightning speed and brute strength, a soccer that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring” (2). The same can be said of professional hockey, where playmakers become the targets of bruisers with cement hands, and are forced out of the game through injury. But getting back to soccer, as Galeano says:
Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom. (2)
It is this “adventure of freedom” that Galeano looks for in soccer, the aptly nicknamed ‘beautiful game.’
From: Shakespeare’s World Cup.
A recent interview at DemocracyNow.
AMY GOODMAN: How does soccer and politics intertwine?
EDUARDO GALEANO: Everywhere, every day, soccer is a source of power nowadays. Silvio Berlusconi is the result of the success of the Milan club in Italy. And almost all politicians in the Latin countries have close relationships to not only president or politicians, but even military dictators. One of the first acts of General Pinochet in Chile was to become president of a very popular soccer team, Colo-Colo, because he knew perfectly well that soccer is a source of prestige and power.
Excerpts from his book Soccer in Sun and Shadow.
A review of his book Upside Down.