Some of Borges’ critiques are valid and relevant today. The nationalism generated by football does result in the fanaticism, hatred, racism, and xenophobia displayed by fans all over the world. Also, how the game is used by politicians and dictators for their own self-interest and to support their political objectives.
These are all undeniable realities that are still an ugly part of football.
But even a genius like Borges can be wrong.
The flow and artistry of the game is beautiful and timeless. It is not mind boggling that Borges was not able to understand and recognize the aesthetic wonder that is football.
His own prejudices brought out the blinders.
Soccer is popular,” Jorge Luis Borges observed, “because stupidity is popular.”
At first glance, the Argentine writer’s animus toward “the beautiful game” seems to reflect the attitude of today’s typical soccer hater, whose lazy gibes have almost become a refrain by now: Soccer is boring. There are too many tie scores. I can’t stand the fake injuries.
And it’s true: Borges did call soccer “aesthetically ugly.”
He did say, “Soccer is one of England’s biggest crimes.”
The start of the World Cup in Brazil is just 24 hours away. The next best thing to watching the games is reading about this great sport.
There are several books on this list that I recommend.
Football Against the Enemy – The first book to analyze the social and political aspects that are connected to football around the world. It paved the way for other books that have been written on the same subject.
Soccer in Sun and Shadow – Full of anecdotes about the players, games, goals, and moments of glory and infamy that are all a part of football’s history.
Fever Pitch – What it means to be a football fan. Brilliantly told in this book.
With the 2014 World Cup commencing this week, there’s never been a better time to delve into the complexities of the world’s game. For more insight into what is (and is not) football, and why so many people care so very much, here are some titles to guide you through the coming month of games:
Gerardo Martino is the new FC Barcelona manager.
Martino’s hiring did not occur in the best of circumstances as the previous manager, Tito Vilanova, had to step down due to his recurring illness.
It’s been interesting to observe the reaction to Martino’s hiring in Catalunya and all over Europe.
The Catalan media, in its majority, were not very excited about Martino.
Their overwhelming favorite to replace Vilanova was Luis Enrique even though Enrique’s managing experience is limited and despite the fact that Enrique is already under contract with another team in Spain for this upcoming season.
None of that mattered too much to the Catalan media because the difference maker to them was the many years that Enrique played with Barcelona. Having that Barca identity trumped just about everything else and all other manager candidates.
I certainly understand that sentiment but do not think it is the right point of view.
Luis Enrique’s experience as a Barca player is definitely a plus in the sense of him knowing the club, its fans, its history, its demands, and the club’s culture.
But that is not enough.
In football, good players don’t always make good managers and great players too don’t always make great managers. There are many examples. The flip side of that is average players or even worse have become good or even great managers. There are examples of that as well.
Gerardo Martino’s career as a manager has been an interesting one.
Martino started in Argentina, managing in Second Division and then several small clubs in First Division. He then moved on to Paraguay where he was Champion four times with two different teams. All that success brought him to the Paraguay national team where he led them through the very difficult South American World Cup Qualifiers and on to the 2010 World Cup in which Paraguay made it to the Quarterfinals and almost made it to the Semifinals if it wasn’t for losing a close game to Spain.
Martino also managed Paraguay in two Copa America’s, making it to the Final in 2011, and managed club teams from Paraguay and Argentina in the Copa Libertadores reaching the Semifinals twice.
Martino’s philosophy as manager has been consistent. He believes in attacking football with a foundation of short, accurate passing and constant play build up.
Before signing with Barca, Martino managed Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina and won the league title exhibiting a very attractive brand of football, the kind that Martino believes in. The kind that FC Barcelona also believes in.
I do not foresee any major changes to Barca with Martino as manager.
The team structure will remain mostly intact and its footballing philosophy will remain unchanged. Martino, though, will bring his considerable managing experience, his proven ability to handle locker rooms and players on a human level. Martino will surely add some of his own concepts to the team.
There have been alot of football observers in Europe questioning Martino’s signing as new Barca manager.
Most of the arguments have been along the lines that Martino never managed in Europe, a big disqualifier in their view.
As if a different game is played in Europe. As far as I know, in the old continent it is still eleven players against eleven players, the ball is still round, and every game lasts 90 minutes.
I’m not surprised by those arguments though as they are wrapped in euro-centric views and to a certain extent a South American bias.
That is nothing new.
So, how will things go for Martino and Barca as a new era begins in the Camp Nou?.
I am very optimistic and believe that there will be more success.
I believe that Martino is the right manager at the right time for Barcelona.
It will be very fascinating to watch as La Liga and the Champions League season’s unfold.
May the good times continue to roll in Catalunya.
According to Simon Kuper who has been writing about football, in particular European football, for many years.
Kuper’s first book “Football Against The Enemy”, an outstanding book that is still highly readable and relevant, was influential in paving the way for an increase in the popularity and publishing of football books.
An interview with…
Simon Kuper on Best Football Books in English
The author of Why England Lose tells us what it means to be a football fan (and why England lose).
This fantastic back heel goal was scored by Alexandre Coeff in the Toulon Tournament game between France and the United States.
Will it end up as the FIFA Goal of the Year?
Well, if it doesn’t win it will surely be in the conversation.
This year’s All German Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund has been fantastic.
There’s twenty minutes left in the game as I write this.
It’s been a well played exciting game.
Plenty of scoring chances for both teams.
Great plays, free flowing football, great goal keeping and great defending as well.
Personally, I’m rooting for Dortmund because they’re the underdogs, they’re a small town team with a working class fan base as opposed to the big city, big stars, very rich, Bayern team.
We’ll see how it all ends but this is a truly great, unforgettable, Champions League Final.
Games like this are what we football fans live for and it is a reminder why football is such a wonderful sport and why it is so passionately loved by people everywhere in the World.