Category: Language

Books | Alan Sillitoe, channeling the angry young football man

Alan Sillitoe‘s work was on the syllabus in my short-story class as a college freshman. Naturally, the story considered most representative was “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner,” consisting of a teenage cross-country runner’s interior dialogues upon liberation each day from the Borstal fetters (“I’m a human being and I’ve got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me …”).

But a fresh assessment on Sillitoe’s 80th birthday today suggests that the short story “The Match,” which takes its tone from the terrace gloaming at Notts County’s Meadow Lane, might be the best introduction. (Mar 4)

Books | Murakami runs from soccer, to the distance

As a sidebar to the Feb 29 entry (“A multihued archipelago, tuned to soccer’s harmonics”), part-time Hawai‘i resident Haruki Murakami reflects in a recent Spiegel Online interview on his sporting interests and their relationship to his writing (“When I Run I Am in a Peaceful Place,” Feb 20). (Mar 1)

Trinidad & Tobago | Watching the match by not watching it

Global Voices profiles writer and blogger Nicholas Laughlin of Port of Spain, whose innovations include watching a football match by not watching it. (Feb 25)

Music | ‘Kwass Meda,’ a soccer field ‘where we will be joyous’

At the conclusion of the 2008 African Cup of Nations, we offer a new translation of Ejigayehu Shibabaw‘s, or Gigi‘s, song “Kwass Meda” (Soccer Field). The song features on the 2000 release One Ethiopia, with the translation from Amharic by Solomon Abebe and his nephew, Befekadu. (Feb 11)

Poetry | Slippery white pitch / Tricky footing for linesmen (w/ video)

The confluence of Arctic cold with Gulf of Mexico–spawned low pressure seemed to bode great things for the seven-year-old Metropolitan Atlanta Casual Soccer League. But there was no snow-viewing party, and no football.

Books | A majestic history built around games (w/ podcast)

The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt, appears at booksellers in North America this week, and we wonder how many will read the title’s four words as a direct challenge to the myth of American centrality in all things.

Books | Drumsagart Thistle, Nick Hornby and the literary imagination

Jeffrey Hill‘s book Sport and the Literary Imagination: Essays in History, Literature and Sport (Peter Lang, 2006)—recently reviewed online by the Sport Literature Association—includes chapters on the foundational works by Robin Jenkins (1912–2005) and Nick Hornby.

Germa(i)ne words on Italians

As an Australian-born feminist and possessor of an educated Continental palate, author Germaine Greer does not often find an opening for digressions into sport (see also 16 Dec 03). But with the fastiduous Fabio Capello having been hired to graft Italian flair onto a stylistically maladroit England side, Greer spots the opportunity to write about the man from San Canzian d’Isonzo, Gorizia, whose name translates as “Mr. Hair.” (Dec 17)

Umberto Eco, deconstructor of football

Umberto Eco, 75, hung over from jet lag and downing Macallan whisky on doctor’s orders, parries with Financial Times writer Jan Dalley (Dec 15). But even in the gamut of conversation, from potential fiction projects to beauty to the yoke of slavery accepted when cracking open a lobster claw, Eco flirts just twice with football-related chatter. (Dec 16)

Literature | ‘The planet is a ball’ … certainly in Suriname

Paramaribo, Suriname, Dec 12 | An itinerant search for football in the sweltering nether-zone of Suriname—hard to reach, its own authenticity as a country diminished by the locals—carries the reader through Daniel Titinger‘s 6,100-word narrative, “Kicking the Ball to Holland,” in the Virginia Quarterly Review (fall 07).

Simon Kuper in Turkey

Turkey already has shown a European orientation through its football, writer Simon Kuper said Nov 29 at the “100th Year Sports and Science Congress,” organized by Fenerbahçe. (Dec 11)

Books | Barzun’s signature tome

“[O]fficial history ignores soccer,” Eduardo Galeano has written, but Jacques Barzun does not respond completely, judging by the sports snippets in his cultural tome, From Dawn to Decadence: Five Hundred Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present.

Brazil | ‘Invisible chain of solidarity’ (w/ podcast)

Football-generated passions, says Coelho, will propel Brazil toward 2014

Paris, Nov 8 | Within 24 hours of writing about Brazil’s successful presentation to host the 2014 World Cup and the role of writer Paulo Coelho in the bid effort, we received a message from one of Coelho’s assistants, taking note of our comments. We speak with Coelho about his role in the bid and the place of football in Brazilian life.

Brazil | ‘Garbage will be collected selectively’

Banal wordplay leads to inevitable end … Brazil in 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Nov 1 | Should a nation’s literary talent be enlisted as part of a state’s quest for sporting laurels? One might ask the question following novelist Paulo Coelho‘s appearance on behalf of the Brazilian football federation Oct 30 in Zurich, backing the country’s successful quest for the 2014 World Cup finals.

Media | The stoning of Steven (w/ podcast)

Unable by temperament and conviction to create a “conventional” sports report, Steven Wells has built a Web 2.0 following by trusting his punk-poet instincts and inducing an irony-challenged foamy slaver among his American and UK readership. With 40-minute podcast.

‘Do other Martas exist?’ | In ‘machista’ Brazilian culture, one cannot be sure

Rio de Janeiro, Sept 12 | Argentine journalist Diego Graciano since 2004 has been assembling the story of Marta Vieira da Silva, Brazil’s greatest female player and a potentially galvanizing figure in lifting women’s status in her country.

With her exploits in the cathedral of Brazilian futebol in July, leading the team to a Pan American Games gold medal with 12 goals and having her footprints calcified in the Maracana’s Walk of Fame, she pushed herself into Brazil’s male-dominated sporting consciousness.

Cinema | Top-5 films do not feature soccer on the Sly

In choosing our five favorite football films we have limited ourselves to those available via DVD and to those we have actually seen, resisting the urge to include Le Ballon d’Or (The Golden Ball; France/Guinea, 1994) based on reputation alone.

File under ‘aesthetics’ | 5 epiphanic goals from Marta Vieira da Silva

Normally we do not post goal videos, but that these are goals by a woman—albeit one of the world’s best-known players, Marta Vieira da Silva of Brazil—and that they were scored at a “lesser” football competition, the 15th Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, means that otherwise they will rapidly fade into obscurity, as if they had never happened.

Cross of distinction | Cruz Azul’s visit to Atlanta offers another cultural intersection

Atlanta, Jul 25 | Much of soccer culture in the United States remains hidden, but matches such as the Jul 28 Copa Amistad between the Atlanta Silverbacks and Cruz Azul cast light on the place of the sport in everyday lives of Latinos.

Will Ramí­rez, publisher of Estadio, a Spanish-language sports weekly based in Tucker, Georgia, describes in our Jul 24 podcast how he and many of the 425,000 Hispanics in the Atlanta area remain linked to soccer despite, or because of, displacement. Also joining us are Silverbacks owner Boris Jerkunica and Los Angeles Times writer Sam Quinones.

We brake for commercials | Soccer spectacle fits seamlessly in America’s land of make-believe

Multibillionaire Philip Anschutz, owner of three Major League Soccer teams, has seized on football as a consumable, offering it to the American public in packaged, market-tested form devoid of any native countercultural quality.

Such practice is in keeping with what Umberto Eco and isolated voices from the past, such as Britain’s suffragettes, have noticed about male spectator sport: that it is a cultural neurosis “for which there is neither a reasonable explanation nor an effective cure.”

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