Kicking the Ball to Holland

Daniel Titinger in the Virginia Quarterly Review:

5770_titingerI explain that few people are even aware that Suriname exists, yet, far away, kicking a ball about the firmament where the stars of European soccer shine, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard are famous names. They have Suriname in their past, but the jerseys they wear, or did wear, are Dutch. Suriname doesn’t have much, but the gods of today wear shorts, kick balls, and bask in the aura of the flat screen: Who in Europe hasn’t seen Davids, Kluivert, Seedorf, Gullit or Rijkaard on tv? There are countries twice the size of Suriname without half its number of celebrity names. Those who do know Suriname know it only because somewhere they heard its key legend: Suriname produces soccer players the way Venezuela produces oil.

The planet is a ball, I explain, and its movements are governed by strange laws. Why does Suriname produce brilliant soccer players? Why is there no professional soccer in Suriname? It’s hard to say. If the legend’s true, Suriname sires gods who are worshipped in the stadiums of Holland. However, the soccer back home is strictly amateur and no better known than Suriname itself. This could be the country’s greatest paradox: its prize exports kick soccer balls and carry Dutch passports. If these sons of Suriname were true ambassadors for their home country, the nation would shed its anonymity on the strength of what it no longer owns.

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