Anxiety is Freedom

The Opacity of Football
Share |

At first it was to have been different

luminous circles choirs and degrees of abstraction

but they were not able to separate exactly

the soul from the flesh and so it would come here

with a drop of fat a thread of muscle

it was necessary to face the consequences

to mix a grain of the absolute with a grain of clay

one more departure from doctrine the last departure

only John foresaw it: you will be resurrected in the flesh

Zbigniew Herbert, from Report from Paradise (translated by Czesław Miłosz and Peter Dale Scott)

The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play got torn out by its very roots. In this fin de siècle world, professional football condemns all that is useless, and useless means not profitable. Nobody earns a thing from that crazy feeling that for a moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with a ball of yarn; a ballet dancer who romps with a ball as light as a balloon or a ball of yarn, playing without even knowing he's playing, with no purpose or clock or referee.

Eduardo Galeano, Football in Sun and Shadow (translated by Mark Fried)

Deprivation was for Larkin what daffodils were for Wordsworth what freedom—in this book, at any rate—is for Galeano. I think want to go along with Galeano. Further on in the same passage, he celebrates the player who supposedly goes against the structures imposed on the game, the "insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom." Reading that, the cells in your brain in which are stored the immortal memories of the great players you've seen light up like rows of LEDs. I was going to avoid mentioning Lionel Messi here, fearing the cliché klaxon, but he's precisely the type of player Galeano means. When Messi really gets going, it's the vanquishing of the destructive scheming of coaches and the pre-emptive revenge fantasies of his opponents. He's a kid again.

(I would say that Chelsea fans have permission to laugh out loud at this stage, but they've been laughing non-stop since the Champions League semi-final anyway, so let's leave them to it.)

 Not Pictured

I think I want to go along with Galeano in the way that a part of me wants to believe in heaven. His vision is simple and clear. It is to side with the Messis of this world (if they are of this world) against the lead-weighted props he turns his opponents into. Whose heart ever beat faster at the thought of the lamppost Gene Kelly danced around, anyway?

For Galeano, football may be either be in sun or shadow, but the weather's more changeable round our way. Football (sport in general, I suppose, but let's stick to the particular) is opaque, and it gets that way pretty early in life. Sure, when you start playing sport, it's simple: when as a baby you make the progression from grasping objects to throwing them; when you're old enough to stand unaided, and you figure out (with a bit of encouragement from a grown-up with a dream, very often) that instead of bending down to pick up a ball, you can swing a leg at it and propel it and not fall on your arse; when you get good enough to send the ball cutting through the air instead of scuttling along the ground.

But there already you're starting to realise that there's more to this than you could have imagined. It feels good to be able to control the ball, but it feels better to be able to control it better. At some point, you are confronted with your own fallibility. You want to improve, but the ball resists your commands, and it becomes a struggle: a pleasant struggle, probably, and maybe a worthwhile one too, but a struggle nonetheless. Soon, you start playing against other people, informally and perhaps formally, and they too want their freedom, which is your freedom; there's only so much of it to go around. You find yourself inexorably pushed forwards—by the demands of your employer, if you find yourself being paid to play. But there are also those opponents to contend with, shrinking the space around you and making the clock speed up. And there is your sense of responsibility to your colleagues and to your team's fans (if applicable). It's no longer so simple as you playing a game; it's grown beyond what you can contain all by yourself.

Yet you keep doing it. You do it because your mind now vibrates in a variety of frequencies at once. You do it because that freedom is all the freer when you sneak up on it—or when it sneaks up on you.

In Galeano's vision of football, the architecture of the professional game checks the free run of play; it's an adulteration. But although that architecture gets at once more ornate and rigid the higher up you go, it goes all the way down. The difference is one of degree, not type. If it is an adulteration, it's one that happens so early in life that to think of it as such is pointless. Tactics, training, discipline, organisation: these are all ways of trying to make sense of a world in which childlike freedom isn't something just lying around in clumps.

If modern football exaggerates the negativity, it's only because it exaggerates everything. It heightens the beauty because it heightens the anxiety, and vice versa. (And the beauty is still there. By Christ, is it ever still there, as messy and tangled as ever.) The urge for freedom and the urge for order merge and conflict; they dart into and out of each other's paths. Think of Barney Ronay's description of Barcelona's as a "managed, frictionless excellence". And then scratch the surface and see the neurosis behind it: the pitiless pressing; the urge to become the possessingest team in history; Xavi's hawk eyes surveying all; the way they fling themselves headfirst against a wall of blue bricks; that great Guardiola quote, "There's nothing more dangerous than not taking risks", bespeaking the team's sense of safety on the edge. There's friction there, alright, even if it is shown most explicitly in the facial contortions and frantic gestures of Guardiola on the touchline.

The play of the greats who Galeano eulogises is the result of the spirit of play being mediated by the desire to marshal that spirit. It is the spirit of play channelled through a contest with the player's own ambition and frailties, and with the caprice of the football; Galeano quotes Didi on the "affection" the Brazilian had for the ball, but the talk is really of control and domination: "When she'd come, I'd take charge and she'd obey." The beauty takes on greater depth because it emerges from the anxieties; the anxieties cannot be discarded, because they are the manifestation of our attempts to reconcile ourselves to the tension between our default rootedness and our desire (and occasional ability) to fly.

Without the anxiety, the grand mythology that football has become, and which Galeano delights in (especially when it comes to talking about the players who pre-date him), wouldn't be there. Were the anxiety to be expunged, the game would be desiccated, infinitely smaller, its mythologies individual and evanescent. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing; there would still surely be some fine poetry to be written about it, like there is about thatching. It would become a fine, perfumed mist, instead of the shuddering, frightening, irresistible behemoth it is. Galeano is on the side of the angels, and they are up there in heaven, basking in each other's mercy and boring each other witless. Down here, we have to make-do with sport.

Share |


I'd like to take the power of thanking you for that specialized guidance I've constantly enjoyed viewing your blog.million dollar business secrets bonus

I was pinning away for such type of blogs, thanks for posting this for us. hardwood installation raleigh

Outstanding blog, in my opinion site owners should acquire a great deal out of this blog its very user welcoming. body armor

This is one of the most important blogs that I have seen, keep it up! termite treatment port st lucie

I didn’t ever think that I will get such an awesome blog that will clear my all concept about this issue, you guys are really wonderful!
Virtual CEO lifestyle reviews

Awesome work! That is quite appreciated. I hope you’ll get more success. memory care stuart fl

Great! We will be connecting to this enormous post on our site. Continue the good writing. stuart fl personal injury

Thankfulness to my dad who informed me relating to this blog, this website is really amazing.

does nationwide insurance give a discount for paying for a full year

Thankfulness to my dad who informed me relating to this blog, this website is really amazing.
does nationwide insurance give a discount for paying for a full year

The blog is good enough I again n again read this.
cash advance with savings account

Awesome work out guys which you are sharing with us, great efforts you have shown there.
push button influence coupon

These are truly amongst the wonderful informative blogs.Virtual CEO lifestyle bonuses

If somebody wants expert take on the main topic of blogging next I advise him/her to go to this site, continue the fussy job.

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.hypothyroidism weight loss diet

This text can assist the internet folks for creating new web site or even a weblog from start to finish.
cash loan for car title soledad canyon santa clarita

The stuff in the blogs blows out my mind.Inbox blueprint review

Quickly this site will indisputably be famous among all blogging people, because of its fastidious articles or

I havent any word to value this post.....Really i am inspired from this post....the individual who make this post it was an extraordinary human..thanks for imparted this to us scarpe casual uomo

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.The Best strategy for binary option trading 

I needed to thank you for this awesome read!! I unquestionably getting a charge out of each and every piece of it I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post.

The quality of your blogs and conjointly the articles and price appreciating.
Inbox blueprint 2.0 bonus

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.forskolin

Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place.same day business cards nyc

Amiable articles and the blogs really helped me a lot, thanks for the valuable information.
Tim Rubalcaba

I envisage feeling to have the increase that your knowledge.
Jason Mueller

Your writers are extremely fantastic that have made easy to understand everything for us.poster printing nyc

That’s really amazing and extraordinary blogs & can help those who get issues in searching this type of information.
My Favourite Voucher Codes

Keep the balls rolling!! Nice posts you have given for us.

The superb highly informative blog I’m about to share this with all my contacts.
saint armor group payday loans

Damn near everyone I know who started dating in their third year of law school ended up getting married.
happy wheels demo
cubefield 2
temple run online
super smash flash
scary games
fireboy and watergirl 5

Thanks for compiling such nicest information in your blogs. Articles are very informative and hope again I’ll find more like that.
Canada Furnace

Your blog is extremely brilliant especially the quality content is really appreciable.cooling systems

Still to choose an excellent lap tops because excellent for small businesses, should be pass out a handful of screens. Ashy Bines Exposed

It’s really such nice information to get advantage here

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.compass tattoos

This is exceptionally instructive substance and composed well for a change. It"s pleasant to see that a few individuals still see how to compose a quality post! how to get followers
| likes para instagram

Whether somebody pursuit of his vital thing, hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here.
compare auto insurance rates

It’s really such nice information to get advantage from.

Unbelievable work man!! Keep your heads high you probably did it.
intelimax iq funciona

Your content is such like that nobody will stop to come back that’s really rewarding.
SMAR7 Review

I am definitely coming back again for additional contents of yours.

Your writers are extremely fantastic that have made easy to understand everything for us.
rent dumpsters

I even have been getting a lot of helpful and informative material in your web site. club flyers prints

It’s my first time to commenting anyplace, when I got this post I thought I might also make comment due to the present wise post. The Lost Ways Book

Woww!!! I totally got it in a well manner. Thanks keep on.

Hurrah, that’s what I was trying to get for, just what a stuff Presented at this blog!! Thanks admin of the site.

homeowners and car insurance bundles

I was getting bore since morning but as soon as I got this link & reached at this blog, I turned into fresh and also joyful too.

profit list

The thing that you just offer is value our case and the force.
fiscal cost

You guys present there are performing an excellent job.sales bootcamp