Bécquer Seguín at Public Books:
Baseball has Roger Angell. Boxing has A. J. Liebling. Yet soccer, puzzlingly, has no writer of such caliber, no one who has managed to find in the sport a comparably inexhaustible source of literary writing and intellectual inquiry. And it’s not for lack of suitors. Rafael Alberti, Günter Grass, Charles Simic, Nelson Rodrigues, and Ted Hughes all wrote about the beautiful game. In the oeuvres of these writers, however, their momentary musings on soccer—football to most of the world—are a curiosity more than anything else. Others have tried their hand, but few have managed more than the occasional essay or short opinion piece. The difference may have something to do with the sports themselves.
Baseball and boxing are tailor-made for narrative. They rely heavily on protagonists and concentrated moments of action. Any baseball or boxing narrative can be easily embodied, like Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, in the momentary struggle between two individuals. Soccer, on the other hand, isn’t wedded to the fate of individuals. Its beauty is most often in the battle between two ideas, two philosophies, two tactical approaches to how to play the game. Hence the difficulty in narrating soccer in a way that is at once compelling and steers clear of clichés. The Spanish-language world of literary soccer writing, the one I know best, has produced admittedly mixed results. The Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano is one of the more intellectually creative and emotionally insightful of literary soccer writers. In Soccer in Sun and Shadow, he dedicates one- and two-page-long chapters with titles like “Cruyff” or “The 1966 World Cup” to a single metaphorical moment.