This Sunday I will be sharing my experiences and reflections on soccer. Soccer is technically just a game, but those of us who play or follow soccer can rarely see it objectively. Soccer is necessary, and all of the writhing smoldering forces of the world are subject to its criteria.
I began playing much too old to ever be good, but here I am, stronger, faster, and healthier than before. Soccer is my connection to mass hysteria, a new found connection to my body, a way to commune with friends and strangers, a teacher of lessons, and a little stage for the great human drama. Soccer is a reason to laugh, cry, deride, denounce, high five, throw rocks, riot – literally -, drink beers, hug and kiss, or just stand back, slack jawed and in awe of ‘that play!’
I want to talk about soccer as it has played in my life, soccer as fitness, as it relates to USA solipsism, soccer as a counter to insane exercise practices, and soccer as a venue for all that was great about sports before social liberals, economic liberalism, and the onslaught of technology got in the way.
I’ll also leave time for a few anecdotes about wild, up lifting, or terrible moments in sports, as played or experienced by real people. Bring ’em if you got ’em.
John Nolan is a former Catholic Worker, former traveler, former radical, current social worker, casual soccer player, recreational drug user, and pissed off wonder-er, in the second year of Mike Brown.
He said “How do I become a poet?” I said, train eight years in bare knuckle boxing. When he came back he still couldn’t write, but his spatial awareness was excellent.
— inaccurate quotation; origin disremembered.
sport — from the middle english, disport, 1. v., to enjoy oneself unrestrainedly; frolic. 2) n., diversion from work or serious matters; recreation or amusement. Etym, from old french, desporter; des- away; porter – carry.
Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.
In soccer, as in everything else, consumers are far more numerous than producers. Asphalt covers the empty lots where people used to pick up a game, and work devours our leisure time. Most people don’t play, they just watch others play on television or from stands that lie ever farther from the field. Like carnival, soccer has become a mass spectator sport. But just like the carnival spectators who start dancing in the streets, in soccer there are always a few admiring fans who kick the ball every so often out of sheer joy. And not only children. For better or for worse, though the fields are as far away as could be, friends from the neighborhood or workmates from the factory, the office of the faculty still get together to play for fun until they collapse exhausted, and then the winners and losers go off together to drink and smoke and share a good meal, pleasures denied the professional athlete.
— Galeano describing how consumerism has transformed the game, and how it hasn’t.
The scorn of many conservative intellectuals comes from their belief that soccer-worship is exactly the religion people deserve. Possessed by soccer, the proles think with their feet, which is the only way they can think, and through such primitive ecstasy they fulfill their dreams. The animal instinct overtakes human reason, ignorance crushes culture, and the riff-raff get what they want. In contrast, many leftist intellectuals denigrate soccer because it castrates the masses and derails their revolutionary ardor. Bread and circus, circus without the bread: hypnotized by the ball, which exercises a perverse fascination, workers’ consciousness becomes atrophied and they let themselves be led about like sheep by their class enemies.”
— Galeano on soccer and politics.
Whoever believes physical size and tests of speed or strength have anything to do with a soccer player’s prowess is sorely mistaken. Just as mistaken as those who believe that IQ tests have anything to do with talent or that there is a relationship between penis size and sexual pleasure. Good soccer players need not to be titans sculpted by Michelangelo. In soccer, ability is much more important than shape, and in many cases skill is the art of turning limitations into virtues.”
― Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow
He, or the devil who got into him through the sole of his foot, broke all the rules in the English manuals: Friedenreich brought to the solemn stadium of the whites the irreverence of brown boys who entertained themselves fighting over a rag ball in the slums. Thus was born a style open to fantasy, one which prefers pleasure to results. From Friedenreich onward, there have been no right angles in Brazilian soccer, just as there are none in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro or the buildings of Oscar Niemeyer.
What makes Messi such a great success? Why is he so special? What does he have that no one has? Messi! The champion! The answer is this: MESSI IS A DOG! D-O-G!
A dog never complains, a dog does all for a bone, it does what it must do, works for it, loves the work. No complaints whatsoever. In an era of football where people dive intentionally, and cry foul just for a penalty or a free kick, a game where everyone reaches for undue advantage, where people vie for attention, here is a man who doesn’t raise a finger, even when he is legitimately fouled. People pull him down by his shirt, kick his legs, dive against him, give him violence, but Messi never budges, his focus is just the ball, his game the way he knows it and nothing else. And he loves it. That bright eyed look, like a child at play, the smirk. Focus like a soldier or an idiot savant. You can see him and his focus just the ball and nothing else, everyone around him dives, everyone cries foul but this man just keeps his eye on the ball and the goal and does what he does best, win the game and our hearts. Messi. The hero. The DOG!
— anonymous internet commentator on Messi, the greatest mens footballer of the past decade
USA woman dominate, 2015