The Global Game: Writers on Soccer

The Global Game: Writers on Soccer

The Global Game: Writers on Soccer

The Global Game: Writers on Soccer

Synopsis

The world's most popular sport, soccer, is also one of the planet's prevalent cultural expressions, celebrated and debated as an art form, observed with ritual and passion. Thus it has inspired literary efforts of every sort, from every corner of the globe, by women and men. The writings gathered in this volume reflect the universal and infinitely varied ways in which soccer connects with human experience. Poetry and prose from Ted Hughes, Charles Simic, Eduardo Galeano, Günter Grass, Giovanna Pollarolo, 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and Elvis Costello-to name but a few-take us to a dizzying array of cultures and climes. From a patch of ground in Missoula, Montana, to a clearing in a Kosovo forest, from the stadiums of Burma and Iran to the northern lights over Greenland to remotest Sierra Leone, these writers show us soccer's stars and fans, politics and rituals, as well as the game's power to encourage resistance, inspire faith, and build community.

Excerpt

Compilers of previous English-language anthologies of soccer literature often apologize for the quality of writing from which they have had to choose. Ian Hamilton, editor of the most recent anthology of soccer writing to appear in the United States, The Faber Book of Soccer (1992), characterizes the game as “a sport without much literature.” “Unlike cricket or rugby,” he continues, “it has few links with higher education.” Although assembling a more comprehensive collection mainly for American readers, the late George Plimpton in The Norton Book of Sports (1992) takes the trouble to say:

Soccer has no important literature at all that I can find, though it
is such a universal activity that surely I am at fault here—I must
have missed a South American novel, or a Yugoslav's essay on
the bicycle kick, or an appreciation by a Frenchman on the ex
istential qualities of the game. Albert Camus once played goal
for the Oran Football Club of Algiers but did not seem moved
to write about it. The best I've come across is Pelé's My Life and
the Great Game
[sic]. The evident lack may have something to do
with the practitioners of the game, who tend to be more agile
with their feet than with articulation. A well-known definition
is that soccer is a gentleman's game played by thugs, whereas
rugby is a thug's game played by gentlemen.

Plimpton's interest lay in lifting up literary traditions related to the games more popular in the United States, especially baseball, boxing, golf, tennis, thoroughbred racing, and so on. Perhaps Plimpton was, to some degree, trying to make the task of selection easier. But it is curious that the worldly editor of the Paris Review would appear so dismissive of literature of non-American origins — “a South American . . .

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