Traditionally, the worlds of sport and literature have not made comfortable bedfellows. With its popular appeal and primal instinct, sport, and to an even greater extent football, have long been dismissed or at best looked down upon by academia. Perhaps the literary world were forgetting the old maxim mens sana in corpore sano (Healthy body, healthy mind).
Over recent years, however, that tendency appears to be changing. Numerous authors have sought to capture the majesty of the beautiful game we call football and convey its passion in print. FIFA.com decided to take a closer look at a dimension of the sport where the physical becomes the inspiration for an author's creativity.
This month we recommend "Football in Sun and Shadow" by an author with an incredibly deep empathy for the game, Eduardo Galeano. "Writing this book allowed me to achieve with my hands what I never managed with my feet," the Uruguayan writer said of his work. If Galeano's ball skills did not quite measure up to his childhood dreams, his genius with the pen more than compensated.
Writing in clear and simple prose, with a personal approach that fuses journalistic precision with poetic harmony, Galeano penned a magnificent homage to football. In the early chapters we are introduced to the players, the rules and the magnificent settings, his unique style gradually drawing the reader into the unfolding story.
Readers will enjoy Galeano's insights into the key moments of every FIFA World Cup™ from Uruguay 1930 to Korea/Japan 2002, where tribute is paid to such legends of the game as Pele, Maradona, Garrincha, Di Stefano, Cruyff, Müller and Baggio.
The Uruguayan fervently defends the primal beauty of the sport as he goes in search of the sources of its passion. Yet he never shies away from criticism or reflection when he deems it appropriate. "Someone who is violent in football is also violent away from the game," insists the author at one point. When previously asked about his intentions for the book, Galeano replied, "to pay homage to football, to celebrate its bright side and unveil its shadows".
Football's sun and shadows
The majesty of football lies in its ultimate expression: the goal. Galeano beautifully brings to life anassortment that exist in the collective imagination of the football fan. They are there in black and white and Technicolor, in stills and moving frames, as seen first hand and told by others.
There is Scarone's goal, which won Uruguay the first Olympic Gold; Zarra's strike, which gave the Spanish victory over England in 1950; Franz Beckenbauer's first FIFA World Cup goal. These and many more are captured by the author along with the cries of exultation and despair that accompanied them.
The book also recounts the many comedies and tragedies that are part of the history of the game, like that of Barbosa, the finest goalkeeper of Brazil 1950, who was blamed for the host's shock defeat in the Final against Uruguay. This, and many other stories like it, bring home to the reader just what "the sin of losing" really means.
All in all, this book is a must for lovers of good football and good literature.
Born in Montevideo in 1940, Galeano was a writer and editor for the Uruguayan magazine Marcha and newspaper Época. In 1973, he was forced into exile in Argentina after his country's military coup, and it was there he founded and directed the literary magazine Crisis. Two years later he moved to Spain, where he spent most of the next decade. He returned to his native Uruguay in 1985.
Whether as journalist, essayist, poet, narrator or feature writer, Galeano brought his inimitable style to a body of work that regularly explored social issues and the type of world in which we live in. A staunch defender of socialism in its purest form, the writer has often affirmed that the driving force behind all human aspiration is utopian.
Best known for his essay Las venas abiertas de América Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) (1971), Galeano has produced, among other works, the trilogy Memoria del fuego (Memory of Fire) (1982-86), El libro de los abrazos (The Book of Embraces) (1989), Las palabras andantes (Walking Words) (1993), Patas arriba: La escuela del mundo al revés (Upside Down: A primer for the looking glass world) (1999) and Bocas del tiempo (2004).