In Football as in Life.

"Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football"
Albert Camus.

OK, so I'm not a particularly sporty person. Nor am I a particularly ardent football fan. But, I like to think that I do appreciate beautiful things, and could it not be said that football (when played as it should be played) can be aesthetically beautiful? Is it any mistake that it is sometimes referred to as "the beautiful game"?
I write this because Euro 2012 is upon us. Somewhat unfortunately it is taking place in between our recent Jubilee celebrations and, of course, the London Olympics. This seems to have had the effect that not too many of us appear to be that bothered about what happens in this particular championship. Unusually, it has been said that the expectations amongst fans for our own England team are at a low point, or perhaps we should say are, this time, after a woeful performance in the World Cup, more realistic. We do not, it seems, expect to win this time, simply because we're England. Add to that that there have been reports of right-wing racist thuggery within the host nation, and this doesn't make for any particularly innocent celebration of the game.
But, I stand by my argument above, that football can be beautiful. One only has to think of names like Pele, Cruyff, Best, Platini, Cantona, Zidane and Messi in order to conjure up images of football being played in a way that is not only effective, but aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, such names seem to have slipped into legend, not just because they were, or are, good at the game, but because of the beautiful way in which they played, or play, it. Could anything be more pleasing to the eye than a Platini free-kick, or a "Cruyff Turn"?
And not only this can be said for football. It also, it would appear, teaches us something about life. Albert Camus, the existentialist writer who, I believe, once played in goal for his country, Algeria, said, as I have quoted above, that "everything" he knew about "morality and the obligations of men" he owed to football. Indeed, not only playing, but being a fan of football, can teach you a few things. For a start, one has to get used to losing, particularly if you are an England or Port Vale fan. All the vicissitudes of life are played out in the game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and being a fan of a second division club like my local Port Vale can be a difficult, trying, but, on occasion, rewarding thing. A bit like life, it seems.
So, in football as in life, there are ups and there are downs, there are victories and defeats, and there are moral implications - it's the way you play the game that really counts.  


bazza said…
Hi David. So, football/soccer as a metaphor for life, eh? Yes I agree. Some modern social commentators claim that football allegiance is 'in place of war' and tribalism and it can be read that way.
There is beauty in the way it is played when at it's very best and, hopefully, the current tournament will provide some of that elegance.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Ah yes, football, "the beautiful game". "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." Bill Shankly, the once Liverpool manager.
I have seen the greats at the end of their careers during the heady days of the North American Soccer League. Pele was a marvel to watch but Best, rather sadly, was a shadow of his former self when he played in the NASL.
Euro 2012 has been tarnished by the racial slurs of inappropriate chants. We hope that this does not override the positive message of different cultures playing for the coveted trophy in the true ideals of sport and the better aspects of humanity.
Strange game, football, where players have been known to try and 'dink' the goalie.
With very best wishes, Gary
Dixie said…
Hi David, hope you're well. Of course it would be better if your team won the tournament... right?

I'm not a big sports fan yet watching football/soccer has been more exciting in recent years. The fans are upbeat and bold.

'aesthetically beautiful' - yes, I quite agree. I've even read that some players take ballet. Not for the dance, itself, but for the agility, discipline, and smooth carriage of the body.

Anything Albert Camus is fine by me. You picked a great quote to use. Kicking good wishes to you,
David said…
Dear bazza,
I have a friend who is very much a Marxist in his thinking, and he seems to see football in the way you describe, as being, if not exactly "in place of war", then certainly promoting nationalistic and tribal tendencies. As you say, I suppose such social commentators might have a point.
Personally, though, I prefer to see the beauty in it all,and hope, like you, that we get to see some of that in this competition.
Thanks, bazza.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Gary,
Ah, football indeed. I know of the quote you have printed, and, as always, am awed at the things you have seen and done, such as watching Pele play. And, of course, one hopes that the racism of some fans does not ruin the spirit of the tournament.
Best Regards, your way,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Of course, it would be great if England won, but many of us are not holding our breath, so to speak.
And ballet, and Camus. What could be better?
Many kicking good wishes, your way, too,

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