Saturday, August 20, 2005

Soccer in the Sun and Shadow

Well, I'm back from vacation. Here's the lesson I learned during vacation: if you are renting a place without seeing the interior first, be sure to ask if the walls go all the way up to the ceiling and if any of the rooms have doors.

We wound up renting a place that was basically a one-room house with about six foot high walls separating the space into three tiny bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and kitchen. It was pretty much a rustic cube farm.

The problem this caused is that when our 3-year-old son would talk in his sleep (as he does regularly), it would wake up our 1-year-old daughter who would then wake us and our son up. So, sleep sucked for the last week.

Plus, after we put the kids to sleep, we had to have all of the lights turned off. So, my wife and I spent our evenings huddling in the corner over a citronella candle whispering to each other. Not exactly what we had in mind.

But the vacation wasn't a complete washout. We had some nice times during the day and I got a chance to read Eduardo Galeano's "Soccer in the Sun and Shadow". I picked it up without knowing anything about it and was greatly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

The book is basically a series of short essays and stories about soccer. It's heavy on South American stories since the author is from Uruguay. This was a bonus since so many soccer books available in US bookstores tend to be Euro-focused. I love European soccer but this book was a nice bit of variety.

However, the best part of the book was the poetic writing style of Galeano's. American authors wax poetically about baseball but never about soccer. So, it was exciting to read such fresh descriptions of plays and players. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here is a bit from his essay on referees:

"In Spanish he's the arbitro and he's arbitrary by definition. An abominable tyrant who runs his dictatorship without opposition, a pompous executioner who exercises his absolute power with operatic flourish. Whistle between his lips, he blows the winds of inexorable fate either to allow a goal or to disallow one. Card in hand, he raises the colors of doom: yellow to punish the sinner and oblige him to reprent, and red to force him into exile.
No one runs more. The only one obliged to run the entire game without pause, this interloper who pants in the ears of every player breaks his back galloping like a horse. And in return for his pains, the crowd howls for his head. From beginning to end he sweats oceans, forced to chase the white ball that skips back and forth between the feet of everyone else. Of course he'd love to play, but never has he been offered that priviledge. When the ball hits him by accident, the entire stadium curses his mother. But even so, just to be there in that sacred green space where the ball floats and glides, he's willing to suffer the insults, catcalls, stones and damnation."
Here is a bit from his essay on the fan:
"Banners wave and the air resounds with noisemakers, firecrackers and drums, it rains streamers and confetti. The city disappears, its routine forgotten, all that exists is the temple. In this sacred place, the only religion without atheists puts its divinities on display. Although the fan can contemplate the miracle more comfortably on TV, he prefers to make the pilgrimage to this spot where he can see his angels in the flesh doing battle with the demons of the day."
The book has some lulls too but in general, if you enjoy books about soccer, this is a good read.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Best soccer book ever.