Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

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by Eduardo Galeano

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In a sequence of elegiac and deliciously droll observations, the distinguished Latin American writer, Eduardo Galeano here reflects on mortality and immortality in the world's greatest game. Tragedy spins a continuous thread through these pages. We learn of Abdon Porte of the Uruguayan club Nacional who, after a disastrous run of bad form, was found dead in the center… See more details below


In a sequence of elegiac and deliciously droll observations, the distinguished Latin American writer, Eduardo Galeano here reflects on mortality and immortality in the world's greatest game. Tragedy spins a continuous thread through these pages. We learn of Abdon Porte of the Uruguayan club Nacional who, after a disastrous run of bad form, was found dead in the center circle of the club stadium, revolver in hand; of Andres Escobar, the Colombian defender, whose own goal lost his country a game in the 1994 World Cup and who was subsequently gunned down in Medellin; of the 1942 Dynamo Kiev team who were warned not to win a game against the occupying Nazis but who could not resist the urge to glory, trounced the German side, and were all eleven shot, still wearing their shirts, at the end of the game. But where there is shadow there is also the bright sunlight of joy and beauty. Here are stories of the Italian striker Guiseppe Meazza whose shorts, in the run up to a penalty kick during the 1938 World Cup, fell down around this knees - he pulled them back up and, with the stadium and goalkeeper in pleats of laughter, scored the goal that saw Italy into the final; of the ice-cool legend Lev Yashin who calmed his nerves before extraordinary performances in the Soviet goal with a smoke and a strong drink; of Ferenc Puskas who, having seen his goal from a beautifully executed free kick disallowed because the referee had not blown his whistle, picked up the ball, took it back to the same spot, and produced an identical shot which landed again in the upper left corner of the net.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
“This effervescent book, illustrated by the author's spry silhouettes, is a lyrical celebration of the Latin character.”
The New Yorker
“Stands out like Pelé on a field of second-stringers.”
Los Angeles Times
“It's all here. Everything you should know about soccer, the world's game.”
Time Out New York
“As only a radical Latin American writer can, Galeano conjures up images of legendary heroes and earth-shaking goals, with heavy-handed swipes at commercialism and class-politics, real-life racism and fascism.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Galeano delivers a loving tribute to the game and its culture, and a celebration not only of soccer but also of life.”
Village Voice Literary Supplement
“Brilliant, lyrical flights of language that, like a player racing down the field in a mad, beautifully executed breakaway, are piercingly and unexpectedly insightful.”
The New York Times Book Review - Jay Jennings
[Galeano's] elegiac tone…does not prevent his lifelong love for the sport from bursting through as he recreates and relives many of the game's signature moments, mostly from World Cup matches…Between poetic descriptions of scores by famous players, Galeano provides political context and commentary…but over all, the book is a winning celebration of the beautiful game.
Publishers Weekly
A history of the sport of soccer, the poetic title of this volume, originally published in 1995 as El fútbol a sol y sombra and now in its fourth edition, is a dead giveaway that this is not a purely historical accounting of the world’s most popular game. While Galeano covers the sport’s origins in China five thousand years ago to the 2010 World Cup in chronological order, it’s how he tells the story in this rather poetic history that sets the book apart from others. Galeano, a renowned Uruguayan author and journalist, brings a personal passion to fútbol’s most memorable moments that can only come from a true aficionado. Whether describing great games, momentous goals or extraordinary players, each story has that distinct magical realism so prevalent in Latin American literature that it doesn’t matter that from one sentence to the next the writing moves from clichéd to poetic, as when he describes the great Pelé: “he cut right through his opponents like a hot knife through butter. When he stopped, his opponents got lost in the labyrinths his legs embroidered.” Focusing mostly on the international aspects of the game, Galeano’s Catholic upbringing, socialist politics, and the injustice he’s seen as a journalist seeps into his commentary, and gives his narrative a refreshing perspective that captures soccer’s spiritual roots, corruption by greed, and role as a global equalizer that puts royals and dictators at the mercy of minorities and slum kids. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

Named one of the “Top 100 Sports Books of All Time” by Sports Illustrated

"Soccer in Sun and Shadow is the most lyrical sports book ever written... In soccer, Galeano finds both a reflection and extension of everything he loves and finds maddening about the part of the world that has been the central focus of his writing for decades."
Dave Zirin

"Between poetic descriptions of scores by famous players, Galeano provides political context and commentary... over all, the book is a winning celebration of the beautiful game."
New York Times Book Review

“A poetic history [of soccer] that sets the book apart from others…Galeano’s Catholic upbringing, socialist politics, and the injustice he’s seen as a journalist seeps into his commentary, and gives his narrative a refreshing perspective that captures soccer’s spiritual roots, corruption by greed, and role as a global equalizer that puts royals and dictators at the mercy of minorities and slum kids.”
Publishers Weekly

“This updated edition serves as a reminder that this is not just a classic sports book… On virtually every page, Galeano uses a phrase or sentence that will leave readers in awe of his gifts…. A welcome update of a classic—Galeano’s gift to the game he loves.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Since its first publication in 1995 (as Football in Sun and Shadow), this book has been relentlessly quoted, and for good reason. The author who pleads, "A pretty move, for the love of God," has an eye for beauty, a feel for the game, a sense of proportion-and a gift for putting it all into words. Those seeking a history of soccer or a fan's memoir won't find it here... Above all, he reminds us of 'a simple truth that tends to escape the scientists of the ball: soccer is a game, and those who really play it feel happy and make us happy too.' An indispensible addition to soccer collections."
Booklist, (starred review)

“It’s all here. Everything you should know about soccer, the world’s game.” Los Angeles Times

“Stands out like Pelé on a field of second-stringers.” New Yorker

“[A] beautiful ode to the beautiful game” –Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated

"The Pelé of [soccer] writing....a marvelous book." –Richard Williams, The Guardian

"A handful of [soccer] books defy categorization, none more so than Soccer in Sun and Shadow... Like many Latin American soccer writers, Mr. Galeano traces the game's mist-shrouded origins to bloody Aztec ballgames (tlatchti), cosmic rituals that concluded by sacrificing the winning warriors to the gods. (Nowadays the victors instead become ESPN commentators.)" -Reed Johnson, Wall Street Journal

Kirkus Reviews
A revised and updated version of the Uruguayan author's lyrical exploration of the beautiful game. Like so many children born in Latin America, Galeano (Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, 2013, etc.) grew up wanting to play soccer. In his dreams, he was a star. During the day, however, he "was the worst wooden leg ever to set foot on the little soccer fields of my country." Nonetheless, his love affair with the sport continued. After its 1995 publication, El fútbol a sol y sombra was instantly hailed as one of the finest works of sportswriting ever written; Sports Illustrated hailed it as one of the 100 best sports books of all time. This updated edition serves as a reminder that this is not just a classic sports book. In more than 150 chapters, sketches, really, most of not more than a page or two, the author explores soccer from a wide variety of angles and looks at some of the major touchstones, including the World Cup games and dozens of significant goals. Galeano does not endeavor to provide a complete history of the game but rather, set pieces exploring great players, moments and themes in the development of the game he deeply loves but does not spare from criticism. The author's longtime translator Fried ably conveys the lyricism and poetry of Galeano's prose. On virtually every page, Galeano uses a phrase or sentence that will leave readers in awe of his gifts. This updated edition scarcely touches the original book but adds four new chapters, longer than those preceding them, of "Extra Time," covering the last four World Cups and developments in the game in the time since 1995. A welcome update of a classic--Galeano's gift to the game he loves.
Vanity Fair
“Is there any book more evocative of ‘the beautiful game’ than Eduardo Galeano’s slim but buoyant paean to the players, goals, joys, and heartbreaks of a lifetime of soccer fandom?”
The New York Times
“[Galeano is] the poet laureate of world soccer.”

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Soccer in Sun and Shadow

By Eduardo Galeano, Mark Fried


Copyright © 2013 Eduardo Galeano
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-3904-1



The history of soccer 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 soccer 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.

Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, soccer for watching. And that spectacle has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to impede it. The technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose a soccer of lightning speed and brute strength, a soccer that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring.

Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some 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.


The Player

Panting, he runs up the wing. On one side awaits heaven's glory; on the other, ruin's abyss.

He is the envy of the neighborhood: the professional athlete who escaped the factory or the office and gets paid to have fun. He won the lottery. And even if he has to sweat buckets, with no right to failure or fatigue, he gets into the papers and on TV. His name is on the radio, women swoon over him and children yearn to be like him. But he started out playing for pleasure in the dirt streets of the slums, and now plays out of duty in stadiums where he has no choice but to win or to win.

Businessmen buy him, sell him, lend him, and he lets it all happen in return for the promise of more fame and more money. The more successful he is and the more money he makes, the more of a prisoner he becomes. Forced to live by military discipline, he suffers the punishing daily round of training and the bombardments of painkillers and cortisone that hide his aches and fool his body. And on the eve of big matches, they lock him up in a concentration camp where he does forced labor, eats tasteless food, gets drunk on water, and sleeps alone.

In other human trades, decline comes with old age, but a soccer player can be old at thirty. Muscles tire early: "That guy couldn't score if the field were on a slope."

"Him? Not even if they tied the keeper's hands."

Or before thirty if the ball knocks him out, or bad luck tears a muscle, or a kick breaks a bone and it can't be fixed. And one rotten day the player discovers he has bet his life on a single card and his money is gone and so is his fame. Fame, that fleeting lady, did not even leave him a Dear John letter.


The Goalkeeper

They also call him doorman, keeper, goalie, bouncer, or net-minder, but he could just as well be called martyr, pay-all, penitent, or punching bag. They say where he walks the grass never grows.

He is alone, condemned to watch the match from afar. Never leaving the goal, his only company the two posts and the crossbar, he awaits his own execution by firing squad. He used to dress in black, like the referee. Now the referee doesn't have to dress like a crow and the goalkeeper can console himself in his solitude with colorful gear.

He does not score goals; he is there to keep them from being scored. The goal is soccer's fiesta: the striker sparks delight and the goalkeeper, a wet blanket, snuffs it out.

He wears the number one on his back. The first to be paid? No, the first to pay. It is always the keeper's fault. And when it isn't, he still gets blamed. Whenever a player commits a foul, the keeper is the one who gets punished: they abandon him there in the immensity of the empty net to face his executioner alone. And when the team has a bad afternoon, he is the one who pays the bill, expiating the sins of others under a rain of flying balls.

The rest of the players can blow it once in a while, or often, and then redeem themselves with a spectacular dribble, a masterful pass, a well-placed volley. Not him. The crowd never forgives the goalkeeper. Was he drawn out by a fake? Left looking ridiculous? Did the ball skid? Did his fingers of steel turn to putty? With a single slip-up the goalie can ruin a match or lose a championship, and the fans suddenly forget all his feats and condemn him to eternal disgrace. Damnation will follow him to the end of his days.


The Idol

One fine day the goddess of the wind kisses the foot of man, that mistreated, scorned foot, and from that kiss the soccer idol is born. He is born in a straw crib in a tin-roofed shack and he enters the world clinging to a ball.

From the moment he learns to walk, he knows how to play. In his early years he brings joy to the sandlots, plays like crazy in the back alleys of the slums until night falls and you can't see the ball. In his early manhood he takes flight and the stadiums fly with him. His acrobatic art draws multitudes, Sunday after Sunday, from victory to victory, ovation to ovation.

The ball seeks him out, knows him, needs him. She rests and rocks on the top of his foot. He caresses her and makes her speak, and in that tête-à-tête millions of mutes converse. The nobodies, those condemned to always be nobodies, feel they are somebodies for a moment by virtue of those one-two passes, those dribbles that draw Z's on the grass, those incredible backheel goals or overhead volleys. When he plays, the team has twelve players: "Twelve? It has fifteen! Twenty!"

The ball laughs, radiant, in the air. He brings her down, puts her to sleep, showers her with compliments, dances with her, and seeing such things never before seen his admirers pity their unborn grandchildren who will never see them.

But the idol is an idol for only a moment, a human eternity, all of nothing. And when the time comes for the golden foot to become a lame duck, the star will have completed his journey from burst of light to black hole. His body has more patches than a clown's costume, and by now the acrobat is a cripple, the artist a beast of burden: "Not with your clodhoppers!"

The fountain of public adulation becomes the lightning rod of public rancor: "You mummy!"

Sometimes the idol does not fall all at once. And sometimes when he breaks, people devour the pieces.


The Fan

Once a week, the fan flees his house for the stadium.

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.

Here the fan shakes his handkerchief, gulps his saliva, swallows his bile, eats his cap, whispers prayers and curses and suddenly lets loose a full-throated scream, leaping like a flea to hug the stranger at his side cheering the goal. While the pagan mass lasts, the fan is many. Along with thousands of other devotees he shares the certainty that we are the best, that all referees are crooked, that all our adversaries cheat.

Rarely does the fan say, "My club plays today." He says, "We play today." He knows it is "player number twelve" who stirs up the winds of fervor that propel the ball when she falls asleep, just as the other eleven players know that playing without their fans is like dancing without music.

When the match is over, the fan, who has not moved from the stands, celebrates his victory: "What a goal we scored!" "What a beating we gave them!" Or he cries over his defeat: "They swindled us again." "Thief of a referee." And then the sun goes down and so does the fan. Shadows fall over the emptying stadium. On the concrete terracing, a few fleeting bonfires burn, while the lights and voices fade. The stadium is left alone and the fan, too, returns to his solitude: to the I who had been we. The fan goes off, the crowd breaks up and melts away, and Sunday becomes as melancholy as Ash Wednesday after the death of Carnival.


The Fanatic

The fanatic is a fan in a madhouse. His mania for denying all evidence finally upended whatever once passed for his mind, and the remains of the shipwreck spin about aimlessly in waters whipped by a fury that gives no quarter.

The fanatic shows up at the stadium prickling with strident and aggressive paraphernalia, wrapped in the team flag, his face painted the colors of his beloved team's shirts; on the way he makes a lot of noise and a lot of fuss. He never comes alone. In the midst of the rowdy crowd, dangerous centipede, this cowed man will cow others, this frightened man becomes frightening. Omnipotence on Sunday exorcises the obedient life he leads the rest of the week: the bed with no desire, the job with no calling, or no job at all. Liberated for a day, the fanatic has much to avenge.

In an epileptic fit he watches the match but does not see it. His arena is the stands. They are his battleground. The mere presence of a fan of the other side constitutes an inexcusable provocation. Good is not violent by nature, but Evil leaves it no choice. The enemy, always in the wrong, deserves a thrashing. The fanatic cannot let his mind wander because the enemy is everywhere, even in that quiet spectator who at any moment might offer the opinion that the rival team is playing fairly. Then he'll get what he deserves.


The Goal

The goal is soccer's orgasm. And like orgasms, goals have become an ever less frequent occurrence in modern life.

Half a century ago, it was a rare thing for a match to end scoreless: 0—0, two open mouths, two yawns. Now the eleven players spend the entire match hanging from the crossbar, trying to stop goals, and they have no time to score them.

The excitement unleashed whenever the white bullet makes the net ripple might appear mysterious or crazy, but remember, the miracle does not happen often. The goal, even if it be a little one, is always a goooooooooooooooooooooal in the throat of the commentators, a "do" sung from the chest that would leave Caruso forever mute and the crowd goes nuts and the stadium forgets that it is made of concrete and breaks free of the earth and flies through the air.


The Referee

In Spanish he is the árbitro and he is arbitrary by definition. An abominable tyrant who runs his dictatorship without opposition, a pompous executioner who exercises his absolute power with an operatic flourish. Whistle between his lips, he blows the winds of inexorable fate 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 repent, and red to force him into exile.

The linesmen, who assist but do not rule, look on from the side. Only the referee steps onto the playing field, and he is certainly right to cross himself when he first appears before the roaring crowd. His job is to make himself hated. The only universal sentiment in soccer: everybody hates him. He gets only catcalls, never applause.

Nobody runs more. This interloper, whose panting fills the ears of all twenty-two players, is obliged to run the entire match without pause. He 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 chasing the white ball that skips back and forth between the feet of everyone else. Of course he would love to play, but never has he been offered that privilege. When the ball hits him by accident, the entire stadium curses his mother. But even so, he is willing to suffer insults, jeers, stones, and damnation just to be there in that sacred green space where the ball floats and glides.

Sometimes, though rarely, his judgment coincides with the inclinations of the fans, but not even then does he emerge unscathed. The losers owe their loss to him and the winners triumph in spite of him. Scapegoat for every error, cause of every misfortune, the fans would have to invent him if he did not already exist. The more they hate him, the more they need him.

For over a century the referee dressed in mourning. For whom? For himself. Now he wears bright colors to disguise his distress.


Excerpted from Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano, Mark Fried. Copyright © 2013 Eduardo Galeano. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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