Reading Galeano

By | January 19, 2019

Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow is one of the most lauded books written about soccer to this day. Rather than providing a standard ‘nuts and bolts’ account of the game, forcing the reader to sift through countless names, dates and statistics, Galeano instead provides his readers with 150 short sketches about the game. With topics as broad as “the Ball” and as specific as the “Goal by Atilio,” these sketches lay out a sweeping account of soccer’s history. But at as the “Author’s Confession” makes clear, these fragmentary sketches are also a biographical account of the history of the game seen through Galeano’s own eyes, focusing on the important events that shaped his understanding of the game.

Andi Thomas, a sportswriter for, provided an excellent reflection on the importance of Soccer in Sun and Shadow after Galeano passed away at the age of 74.

And this summer, Lenora Todaro reflected on the sadness of watching the World Cup in the wake of Galeano’s death.

As you read, you might want to see if you can find videos of some of the goals or incidents described; you can also check out these previous blog posts that include videos of some of the goals described by Galeano himself.

Students, as we read the first have of Galeano’s this week in “Soccer Politics,” pick your favorite sketch and analyze its style and structure here in the comments section. What makes this particular sketch insightful, funny, or moving? Can you find other information about the incident or player he is describing? How does the sketch teach you to think about or see soccer in a different way?

Please post your responses by Wednesday, January 23rd by 5 p.m.

Category: Galeano

About Laurent Dubois

I am Professor of Romance Studies and History and the Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in 2009 as part of a course on "World Cup and World Politics" taught at Duke University. I'm currently teaching the course under the title "Soccer Politics" here at Duke. My books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010) and The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer (Basic Books, 2018)

30 thoughts on “Reading Galeano

  1. Jeremy Yi

    After reading Galeano’s “Soccer in Sun and Shadow”, I realize how much I still have to learn about the rise of modern football and how the game has shaped itself into the way it is today. What I appreciated most about Galeano’s style had to have been the insight he gave into club legends that typically haven’t been in the spotlight before. I found it incredibly interesting to compare and contrast the heroes of the past with the heroes of today. For example, Moreno, “El Charro”, on River Plate was criticized for eating a “big bowl of chicken stew” and finishing “several bottles of red wine” before each match. The administration said it was “unbecoming of a professional athlete”. Even today, this still proves to be a common point of contention between a player and the coaching staff or administration. Jack Wilshere, a previous English center midfielder for Arsenal, has been caught smoking cigarettes, sparking criticism from his fans and forcing Arsene Wenger to speak out on the topic. Wenger quoted, “When you are a football player you are a role model and you don’t do what damages your health … You can damage your health at home, you can drink at home, you can smoke at home and nobody sees it. But when you go out socially, you can damage your reputation as an example”.*
    The idea of the model professional athlete has persisted since even the 1940s, as seen from Moreno. However, what I find most interesting about Moreno was his effort to change for the better, where he drank nothing but milk for a week, but then proceeded to play the worst match of his life. He then reverted back to his old ways and was suspended by River Plate. His team, however, went on strike supporting Moreno. Similarly, Moreno had gathered such a devoted fan base that they invaded the pitch and carried him off on their shoulders after scoring a hat-trick when he returned to River. When I think of controversial players of recent years, I immediately think of the Belgian Radja Nainggolan. His feisty, pitbull attitude both on the field and off the field, has garnered the attraction of fans and football managers alike. However, there is no doubting his prowess and dominance on the pitch and would be an incredible contribution to any of the top teams in all of Europe. When Belgian coach Roberto Martinez decided to drop him from the 2018 World Cup Squad, I was shocked. Radja adamantly defends his smoking habits, which has been known to cause problems with Roberto Martinez. **
    I think there’s an allure to the unapologetic player who challenges the traditional image of the professional athlete. Maybe each player-manager-club dynamic is unique, but I certainly think it will be interesting to see a future star embroiled in controversy over his lifestyle, but still receives the kinds of fan support and success despite it all as Moreno did.


  2. Crystal McCarthy

    Perhaps “favorite” is not the correct word to use with regards to my feelings about Galeano’s vignette entitled “Death on the Field” within his greater work of Soccer in Sun and Shadow. This short eleven sentence summary of the career of Uruguayan football star Abdón Porte describes his rapid rise to fame and success and equally as rapid fall from glory. In a span of four years with the Uruguayan national team, Porte played in over 200 games for the baby blue, but in a sudden twist of fate, everything changed. He was no longer scoring and no longer as fast, and the cheers of the crowd that used to ring in response to his brilliance were silenced. In only a few sentences, Galeano jumped right to the end of his story. A suicide in the middle of the empty stadium at midnight. He skipped over any backstory and wrote solely based on what likely appeared as newspaper headlines during that agonizing period of time in Porte’s life. Mixed in with stories of triumph, defeat, brilliance, and national pride, “Death on the Field” captured my attention, and in a brief and abrupt sort of way, reminded me of a very important characteristic of football.
    Football is art. And for art you need inspiration and a touch of genius. Of course there is a great amount of skill involved that can be trained and practiced and improved. Some people naturally having more than others. But when it comes time for a game, there are so many more uncontrollable factors than simply an individual player’s skill, and for those factors to fall into place and work in that player’s favor, perhaps, just perhaps, it takes a touch of luck or some greater power. The bump on the field made the ball slow down just so, the slight breeze carried the ball a touch farther than it would have traveled on a still humid day, the glint of the sun off the defender’s boots beamed into the keeper’s eyes for half a moment. And whoosh, the ball is in the back of the net. Now of course, it took the players skill and knowledge of the game to get himself into that position and to strike the ball cleanly, and some could argue that it was a defensive mistake that led to the goal. In fact, not everyone would agree with the concept that any sort of luck is involved at all because that would perhaps diminish the glory that the individual player himself should receive from his skill and preparation or provide an excuse for the mistakes of the opposing team. But maybe this point of view provides a mental release to the pressures of life as a footballer. One whose success is based purely on production in an unpredictable environment and whose goal scoring streak can just as quickly turn into a goal scoring slump. The mental pressures of the game only increased by the reactions of the fans and the managers and the rest of the team can turn into too much for any player who finds their purpose in the game and whose sport has become a job where their success dictates their joy. But if failures as well as successes can be viewed with the understanding of all the controllable and uncontrollable factors that go into each and every moment and an acceptance that brilliance might be bestowed upon or taken away at any moment , then perhaps Abdòn Porte might have picked himself up to try again another day.

    (I don’t mean to over simplify Porte as an individual or what he was going through in his life at that time, and I don’t claim to know his full story. This is based purely off of the reading in Galeano’s book)

    This idea comes from “Your Elusive Creative Genius” – Elizabeth Gilbert

  3. Lord Nicklas Bendtner

    The origins and progression of the commercial aspect of the game is discussed in “Walking Advertisements.” This chapter is different in style from most of the rest of the book, it becomes less playful and more formal as it parallels the trajectory of the game, from total freedom to increasingly restrictive mechanisms- the referee, manager, etc. The author describes a sudden takeover, a steep deviation with no end. The theater, the players, the ref now belonged to corporations with “only the referees whistle not belong(ing) to adidas.”

    With ever increasing cost of operation- salaries, transfer fees, etc- commercialization has become a central aspect of the sport. New ways of exposing fans to brands are in high demand, from the ridiculous – Manchester United’s extremely specific partnerships, Melitta (official coffee) and Deezer (official music partner)- to the infamous- Red Bull’s handling of RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg. Fans can feel it in the air, memes depicting certain events and trends, Ed Woodward (MU’s chief executive) ability to form partnerships contrasted with the perceived struggle getting transfers for new players accomplished, the somehow allowed but obvious violation of the 50+1 rule, the marketability of idols dictating transfer policy (Neymar to PSG for 200 million pounds). The landscape of the sport has changed in a seemingly permanent way.

  4. Tyler Wenger

    In the passage entitled “A Rolling Flag”, the government’s role and other real world events transcend the sidelines and impact the actual soccer match. Although during the match it might seem apparent that the outside world does not affect the outcome, this passage lists some moments in time where political situations have helped shape the game.
    As an example, World War II had many countries using soccer to help get support for the war. In particular, the Spanish Republic sent teams across Europe and America. On the other hand, Italy under control of Mussolini required that players saluted the crowd and show support for Italy before and after every match in both the World Cups of 1934 and 1938. No matter which political system, it always seems that soccer can help show a country’s power.
    Although past World War II in time, I find it very interesting that Algeria formed a soccer team just after declaring independence in 1958 to help show to the world that they were truly independent. Although seemingly harmless, if France had accepted the new Algerian national team and held a match, it would have proven that France saw Algeria as a country and not a colony. After full independence, allowing Algerian players back into French leagues was a moment where soccer follows the political powers. With Zidane having an Algerian lineage, I find it captivating that someone who originally deemed Algerian or “not French enough” could be remembered and celebrated as one of the best players in French history after winning the World Cup in 1998. History is fickle and remembers for achievements and not the battle to be ever present in situations.
    As this story ends, it highlighted how soccer was used not only on a war front but to show how countries have complex histories and overlapping stories. What happens in a political office is effects day to day life on the pitch as it does in the streets. There is no magical divide that blocks of the ninety minute match or stadium from the government.

  5. Henry Soule

    One of the more standout passages in Galeano’s book was “Juggernauts” simply because it elicits such strong imagery of the two players in this case who were able to strike the ball with remarkable velocity. Galeano takes time to describe not only the players’ abilities but also the reaction from fans which fed into these players’ legend. As soon as I read his description of these “cannonballs” that the players shot, I thought of the numerous clips I’ve seen on YouTube of modern day players scoring long range goals on well-struck shots and almost immediately dismissed the accounts of these players from the 1930’s as hyperbole or simply not true. And then I stepped back and thought more about how our unprecedented levels of accessibility to the game today through internet streaming completely changes our perspective on the game.

    At any moment I can search for a montage of the greatest long-range goals scored in-game and marvel at the technique and power required to accomplish such a feat, but fans back in 1931 had to rely on word of mouth to hear about these goals and live viewing to verify that the players were capable of pulling them off. Without risking romanticizing the past, I can imagine that the live reaction to experiencing one of these storied goals would be even more electric than the crowd reaction to a similar goal today, purely because of the novelty that it presented. Nowadays when we go to the stadium to watch a game, most of us go in having watched countless hours of game footage and highlights on our TV’s and computers so witnessing a pretty goal is very slightly less exhilarating. I would imagine that hearing ceaseless chatter about Bernabe “The Wild Animal” Ferreyra and his iron feet, then later actually getting to witness him bulge the net from 30 yards would be even more thrilling than watching a modern day recreation of the same feat.

    By making this comparison I do not mean to suggest that increased access to the game has worsened our live experience, rather that Galeano’s depiction of 1930’s Uruguayan and Argentinian marksmen forced me to consider a time when the live experience was the only fan access to the game. I am appreciative of the endless highlight videos to which I have devoted countless hours watching, but a part of me is jealous of someone who can witness a great goal in person and have nothing to compare it against, but rather can appreciate it for its greatness and revel in the moment.

  6. Cole Garda

    In my favorite sketch, “a Rolling Flag”, Galeano shows the impact that soccer can have on politics and vice versa. It is one of the longer sketches in the book and goes through examples of soccer’s relationship with various governments and regimes from around the world. The way it was written wasn’t as artistic or poetic as some of the other sketches, but the way it was constructed allowed him to drive home one of the most powerful messages I have come across so far in the book. It demonstrates how important a soccer can be to a government and how it can even transcend political disputes. He gives six examples from different eras and locations, but two really stuck out to me. Galeano tells the story of how in 1942 a Ukrainian team, Dynamo Kiev, went into Nazi territory and defeated Hitler’s squad after being warned that if they won, they would die. The way the story goes in the book is that after having too much dignity to lose, they were taken to a cliff and shot with their jerseys on. Galeano begins this passage by saying, “For the Nazis too, soccer was a matter of state”. The anecdote shocked me and put into perspective the power of soccer. However, this version of the story is not entirely true. The match did happen and has been deemed “The Death Match”, but the players were not taken to a cliff and shot dead immediately after the game. No one knows what really happened, but it is believed this story was created to serve as a source of Ukrainian pride and Soviet propaganda. In his next passage, Galeano shifts to a happier story, telling how the Paraguayan Red Cross formed a soccer team to raise money and attend to injured on both sides of the Chaco War fought between Bolivia and Paraguay. This is a less well-known conflict, but such a positive outcome could not have existed without soccer. This sketch is a brilliant depiction of the power of soccer outside of just competition and fandom.

  7. Jack Nichols

    In my opinion, the A Rolling Flag sketch was the most interesting sketch because as a lifelong follower of soccer, I have always been fascinated by external (off the pitch) factors that play a large role in the game. In this case, politics find a central role in soccer’s history.

    As Europe was plagued in wars, including World War I and World War II, the pitch saw its fair share of strong sentiments as well. I was shocked to read about the fate of the 1942 Ukrainian side Dynamo Kiev. Victors on the field, the Ukrainian giants fell victims to the evil of Adolf Hitler. After having been warned “If you win, you die,” Kiev could not withhold their thirst to maintain their own dignity and threw away their resigned attitudes to defeat Hitler’s side. The eleven players involved in the match were shot and killed at the edge of a cliff, with their Kiev shirts still on their bodies.

    This passage made me appreciate our gift of being able to freely enjoy soccer, playing or watching. I cannot imagine soccer being turned into a game of life and death. Furthermore, this incident is only one on a very long list of politically charged events on the pitch, although it might be the harshest. Soccer is scattered with these events, the most recent occurring on the biggest stage, the 2018 World Cup in Russia. During their intense 2-1 win over Serbia during the competition, two Swiss stars made gestures that resembled the eagle of the Albanian flag. Granit Xhaka, an Arsenal midfielder approaching the golden years of his career, was born to Albanian parents who were from Kosovo. Liverpool’s super-sub Xherdan Shaqiri was actually born in Kosovo. Serbia has long been against both Kosovo’s and Albania’s independence. It was incredibly risky by the two players to make such a blatant gesture on such a grand stage, and tensions were certainly heightened. This event, like the fate of the Kiev team, shows how the pitch can also be a stage for players to express their beliefs, and to spread it to those watching. Playing soccer is their job and way of life, so the controversial and powerful gestures made on the field are by no means a surprise.

  8. BJ James IV

    One of the most interesting passages in the first part of Galeano’s book Soccer in Sun and Shadow is entitled “The Man Who Turned Iron into Wind.” This passage drew me in initially due to the story of the player it was describing. This passage briefly discusses Eduardo Chillida and the unforeseen event that radically changed his life in 1943. Chillida played goalie for Real Sociedad at the time, but due to his evident ability was linked to a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid, with some claiming he could become the next “Zamora,” a highly decorated Spanish goalkeeper. A bright future awaited the talented keeper, but a devastating knee injury ended his football career before it had a change to truly begin. Chillida did not suffer for long, as he became a sculptor following his departure from the sport, and went on to become “one of the greatest artists of the century.”

    I appreciate Galeano’s blunt style in this passage, in which he quickly details who Chillida is, what he has the potential to do, and then quickly changes the narrative, revealing the injury that would cost the player his career. The structure of the piece was abrupt, emulating that of the game and demonstrating how things can change in a split second. Upon review of this section of the book, I enjoyed the dramatic changes in story that occurred in such a short period of time, and believe that this section in particular passage situates soccer within the larger context of life in which things happen that force people to adjust. His mention of destiny is also intriguing, as it alludes to the influence of destiny and chance in the game, but how destiny also controls life.

    As Galeano described, Chillida did go on to become a world-renowned sculptor and artist, with his pieces being prominently displayed across Europe and the world, highlighting public areas, government buildings, and other landmark locations. This passage can teach us that soccer is a momentary experience, it is inevitable fleeting and situated within a larger context. It also calls attention to the standing of soccer in the world, as it had the potential to deprive the world a generational artist. How many other talents are hidden in the stadiums of the world, waiting to be unlocked? Is the beauty and art of soccer worth sacrificing other forms, or will destiny ensure that the world is able to experience all forms equally?

    Some of Chillida’s works of art:

    1. Laurent Dubois Post author

      This is really fascinating — I really like the way you turn this passage into a question about what other lives those who devote themselves to soccer might have lived. And I had never seen Chillida’s sculptures, which are really remarkable (I particularly like the “Monument to Tolerance” in Sevilla, which you’ve inspired me to try and go see).

  9. Julia C

    One of my favorite sketches from the first half of Soccer in Sun and Shadow is “Goal by Meazza”. Galeano structures this sketch like a story, omnisciently narrating the event in close detail. The sketch is clearly included in the book because of the comedic nature of the goal; it highlights a unique moment in football history through the ridiculousness of Meazza’s antics. However, the moment possesses a more serious significance in that the goal knocked the Brazilian team out of the 1938 World Cup final. In my opinion, the antics of football are some of the most entertaining parts of the game, but they also make losses harder to swallow if the result does not fall in your favor. The heartbreak that comes with such a weighted loss is typically monumental, and for it to have been coupled with the mockery of giving up such a silly goal could have only added to the feeling of defeat. When reading the story of how this goal, it is hard to believe it actually happened. With the recent controversy over stutter steps and pauses in penalty kick run-ups, the approval of Meazza’s goal is unimaginable. The fact that the same penalty can probably never be recreated, especially not on a stage as grand as the World Cup, makes Meazza’s goal seem all the more impressive and all the more legendary.

  10. Kevin Winiarski

    A sketch I found particularly interesting from a personal standpoint is Galeano’s “The Referee,” in which he describes the plight of officiating the game and the various pressures from players and fans alike that come with the job. In the first stanza, Galeano describes the various actions of the referee and how he or she exercises their “absolute power” over the game by allowing/disallowing goals and “punish[ing] the sinners” with cards. Galeano’s tone throughout this stanza seems quite negative and drastic. As a currently licensed referee, I can say that I never quite found myself yearning for such power during the game. Though it is crucial to maintain the safety of the players, the referee should be more of a passive figure that does not insert themself into the game too much. I found Galeano’s description of the referee as a ‘tyrant’ to be comical, however. Images of the infamous referee Howard Webb, an official known for his authoritative nature, came to mind here.

    Galeano then progresses to discussing the role (or lack thereof) of the linesman in a game. He then claims that the job of the referee is “to make himself hated.” This I found quite dramatic as well. If anything, the referee should want to end a game without having felt ire from the fans and players and to gain respect. Galeano makes a salient observation when he notes that the referee only receives catcalls throughout a game. When I refereed more, I rarely remembered the nice things that spectators said on the sidelines and instead only remembered the negative words.

    In the third stanza, Galeano praises the referee by noting that even though no one runs more than the referee, all his receives is ‘howls’ from the crowd. This, as well as the last sentence in which he notes that the true desire of the referee is simply to be out there on the field enjoying the game, resonated with me greatly because it reminded me why I got into refereeing in the first place having been a player all my life.

    Lastly, Galeano points out that when the game ends, “the losers owe their loss to him and the winners triumph in spite of him.” Numerous personal instances of such a feeling came to mind when remembering my experiences as a referee, player, and fan. As a referee, I remember countless times when I blew the final whistle and I would have some players praising me while others would be yelling at me. I remember a time as a player when I got a red card after the final whistle because I was angry that a referee had blown a call that preventing us from winning a game. And most clearly I remember as a fan the anger I felt towards the referee of the U.S.-Slovenia game from the 2010 World Cup in which the U.S. had a goal disallowed in the final minutes of the game.

    Overall, Galeano paints an accurate (if dramatic) picture of the trials and tribulations of refereeing. He does an excellent job of describing the mixed feelings from both sides felt towards the referee when a call is made or the game is ended, and he makes clear the importance of the referee in the course of a game even though he or she are not playing in it.

    1. Laurent Dubois Post author

      Great to see you connecting Galeano’s reflections on the referee with your own experiences here. I do get the sense that Galeano was never himself a referee, but he does capture the many different sides of this critical and misunderstood role in a compelling way, as you suggest.

  11. Madeline Manning

    Galeano’s sketch “The Idol” struck me more than most of the following pieces from Soccer in Sun and Shadow, possibly because I’ve seen the rise and fall of many women’s players over the last few years.Though Galeano uses exclusively the masculine pronouns he/him/his in his writing, my thoughts immediately jumped to past and present US women’s national team players.

    He begins this sketch by giving a small glance into the makings of an idol, with an emphasis on their typical trajectory from “those condemned to always be nobodies” to stars drawing multitudes, week after week, moving from victory to victory. In women’s soccer, almost all players begin with a sentence to fall into obscurity- so, this first paragraph rings true. Even the self-proclaimed biggest soccer fans struggle to name more than 10 big-name female players, let alone concoct an all-time female starting lineup. However, moving past the uphill battle to becoming an “idol,” there’s the concept of 15 minutes of fame. Galeano goes so far as to say “the idol is an idol for only a moment, a human eternity, all of nothing.” In terms of our own national team this, again, is accurate. After winning the 2015 World Cup, members of the national team were showered with praise, with honors ranging from a ticker tape parade in New York City to magazine covers and Woman of the Year awards. But less than 4 years later, the team has fallen back into the shadows, similar to the plight of Brazilian players Galeano mentions in “From Mutilation to Splendor” falling back into poverty after rising into the light during the 1921 South American Cup.

    Of course, there are a handful of female players who will remain known for years to come. One of the most infamous being Hope Solo. The closing line “sometimes, when he breaks, people devour the pieces” couldn’t be more true of Solo’s colossal fall from her place as a national team hero. For those who don’t know what happened with Solo, I’ll spare the details of her battle with US Soccer for years over her “image” and the fight for equal pay, but simply summarize and attach a link below to an article with her career-ending, emotional quote. After an early exit from the Rio 2016 Olympics, in PKs no less, she criticized the tactics of the opposing team and called them “cowards” for playing a defensive game. Classless? Maybe. An offense punishable by 6 months of suspension and ultimately never being called up again? Very debatable. After 202 caps, 195 starts and 101 shutouts, she was unceremoniously fired. Soccer fans and non-fans alike pounced on the chance to criticize Solo and immediately dethrone her as an idol, which Galeano acknowledges as a semi-common practice.

    The second to last line of this sketch “sometimes the idol does not fall all at once,” can be applied to one of the most revered US players at this moment. Carli Lloyd is not exactly a household name, but she’s one of the most celebrated and well known active female players in the world. Sitting on 265 caps, with two Olympic gold medals, two FIFA Player of the Year awards, a World Cup medal and hat trick in the last World Cup final, she’s undeniably a star. However, she’s constantly bombarded with questions about retirement and met with criticism from the media about her declining skills. This World Cup will mark the second major tournament where there’s talk among fans and sports analysts about her place on the roster, in other words she’s following Galeano’s theory surrounding an idol’s path along a slow fall from relevance. It does beg the question, which is worse- to fall in the blink of an eye or slowly lose your place as an icon?

    A third player that comes to mind while reading this sketch is Abby Wambach. Wambach is known as the world’s all-time leading goalscorer in international play, man or woman, and is an idol that will likely outlast “just a moment, a human eternity, all of nothing.” However, her approach to retirement was unique in that she made a plea to be forgotten. Yes, a plea for the women’s soccer world to move on (YouTube link attached below). This counters the general belief that idols cling to their relevance and hope to become immortal for their contributions on the field. Wambach’s hope of furthering the sport beyond her own accomplishments, and even at the expense of her idol status, should be celebrated alongside her ability to play the beautiful game. I think the importance of this mindset is an aspect Galeano overlooks in this sketch that aims to trace the life and death of idols.

    1. Laurent Dubois Post author

      I really like that you’ve brought in the story of U.S. women’s player into dialogue with Galeano. One of things that really stands out about this book, like many about soccer, is that not once does he mention women as players, despite the fact that there is in fact a relatively deep and long tradition of women’s soccer in Latin America and Europe that he could have found had he looked for it. And I agree that in some ways the struggle for recognition is greater for women’s players, who struggle not only against other players to establish their place but more broadly against various kinds of marginalization and ideas that diminish their achievement. That is one reason why I particularly liked this 2015 advertisement for the Women’s World Cup, which for a moment at least reversed the roles of the men’s and women’s teams.

      The struggles you describe are something that Oxenham’s book, which we’ll read later in the term, takes up really compellingly.

  12. Joshua Landsberg

    “The 1966 World Cup” & “Greaves”

    I found this particular sketch to be particularly fascinating. I already knew that England took home its first and only World Cup win in 1966, but I still found Galeano’s writing to be captivating. I was pulled straight in by the way he began the sketch. By explaining the global context in which the World Cup was played, Galeano is able to better explain the significance of the World Cup, and he integrates the two narratives seamlessly. I found the sketch compelling, as the World Cup was not immune from the politics and pop culture of the day. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the Beatles were almost at the peak of their popularity in the England, and how that is relevant when discussing the World Cup. I was also unaware that this was the first World Cup in which the entire championship was broadcast live throughout the entire world. In today’s digital world it is easy to lose sight of how noteworthy that is, as it’s hard to imagine not being able to watch the World Cup…Because of the global nature of the sport, I am sure that it must’ve been quite special for fans all across the world who watched. I have learned about historical teams and players, but the I enjoyed experience of first understanding the global context before diving into the actual match results.

    As a passionate supporter of Tottenham Hotspur, I am often reminded of Jimmy Greaves’ greatness. Recently, striker Harry Kane surpassed Greaves’ total goals for the club, and Spurs paid tribute to Greaves and his legacy. For me, the succinct manner in which Galeano captures the essence of Greaves’ greatness was moving. I didn’t know however, that Greaves had to sit out of the 1966 World Cup Final due to jaundice though, and it was fascinating to think about that in the context of modern medicine and sports science that national teams have access to.

  13. Cameron Anderson

    Cameron Anderson

    The most compelling passage in Galeano’s book was “The Bicycle Kick” because the origin story of such a spectacular play came from such humble origins. What started in a small port town in Chile has come all the way to Champion’s League Finals on the foot of Gareth Bale. It also is a testament to the constant innovation that comes from the most athletic and talented footballers of any given generation. Ramón Unzaga was simply an incredibly talented and athletic player that decided to bend the rules of physics to gain a competitive advantage.

    What is incredible to me is that the best plays of nearly a century ago are still held in the highest standard today– there is hardly a better goal than a bicycle kick. What else is interesting about that particular passage was the legitimacy that it gained through the European media, which reinforces the idea that Europe is the center of the football universe. I appreciate that the Spanish media, however, kept the name of the chilena as a testament to its origins.

    Perhaps the most shocking inclusion was Arellano’s death on the pitch, something nearly unthinkable today. This passage includes the lasting legacy of athletic feats in football (the bicycle kick) while simultaneously highlighting the drastic changes (safety) over the last 90 years.

  14. Qusai Hussain

    One piece that I found incredibly interesting from Galeano’s book was “Amulets and Spells.” He describes the various taboos surrounding different aspects of the game and how it affects player performance. He opens by discussing small traditions and rituals that players complete before the start of the game, such as putting “their right foot first” or “touch the grass and bring their fingers to their lips.” While I initially assumed Galeano wrote from a more comedic, and sarcastic, angle, his explanation of actual games and how luck played a role emphasized the importance players and fans placed on luck, religion, rituals, and prayers. For example, he discusses how Amadeo Carrizo, a goalkeepers for Argentine club River Plate, played eight games with his net left untouched due to the “powers of a cap he wore day and night.” He recounted how fans threw salt on the enemy’s field to “invoke the evil spirits of defeat.”

    As an avid viewer of other sports, it is interesting how religiously all actors within soccer (including the fans) depend on the Soccer gods and karma. By choosing to act in this way, fans remove any indication that any teams or players lack skill, rather if they perform poorly, it is due to supernatural forces. It is possible that this is because religion and the church played an influential role in the regions where soccer was initially popular. For example, Galeano writes how Mexican coach Juan Luque de Serrallonga assured his players that the Virgin of Guadalupe was praying for their victory back home. However, I wonder whether this relationship was more deliberate—-whether the church tried to play a role in soccer to build a relationship with the people and persuade them to be more devout followers.

  15. Steve Hassey

    To me, Galeano’s writing in “Death on the Field” strikes at the fundamental importance of soccer in each player’s life. Juxtaposed on the previous sketch, “Samitier,” which delineates the rise of Josep Samitier, a Barcelona starlet who saw his star perpetually shine, the chapter draws a sharp contrast to show the darker hues of the game.

    In four short paragraphs, Galeano illustrates the career of Abdón Porte, who played for the Uruguayan club Nacional. He was a star for 4 years, drawing 200 caps. He was a star, that is, until his star faded. After his manager resigned him to the bench, he requested a return to the starting lineup, and, upon his return to the pitch, found his play abysmal. Ultimately, we can infer that his play and subsequent jeering of Nacional’s fans were contributing factors to a crippling depression that ultimately took Porte’s life. This story, while not as exciting as some of the stories that Galeano spins throughout the rest of the book, does an unbelievable job in displaying the true psychological consequences that the game can have. That, the things we shout as fans and our performances on the pitch do not exist in a vacuum. They have real, very human consequences, and these consequences can be accentuated for those with mental illnesses.

    In the end, he took his own life at the end of the summer of 1918 at centerfield of Nacional’s stadium. No one was there to take a touch past him or jeer his lack of skills, but the ghosts of those who did both never left.

  16. Ian Roughen

    The Story of Fla and Flu
    This very short story is interesting to me because it shows the origination of a heated derby. Derbies are some of the most beautiful occasions in the game of soccer, as they are completely different from other games. They create an environment that is unique and filled with passion, as it emphasizes a clear divide in a city. The people who support each of the teams in a derby may be from the same place but they are often from very different circumstances. As is the case with the Boca Juniors/River Plate rivalry, there are a variety of socio-economic that determine which team individual fans support. Despite potential disparities in the levels of the teams involved, the circumstances of the derbies often give the impression that the game is always up for grabs. Last year, with Man City ready to clinch the league, and Man United struggling though in 2nd, Man United upset Man City is a hectic game at the end of the season that delayed City’s league victory. Despite the level the teams had been playing at, the game was always up for grabs because of the nature of the game, and the intensity of the derby. Teams often play up to the occasion in these games. In the case in this passage, the author mentions “Each Fla-Flu classic is a new battle in a war without end.” This is one of the things that makes these games beautiful. Each game is likely to happen again and again throughout the years and every game gives the fans a chance to experience their division and the intensity of these moments. These derbies are more of an occasion than a game of soccer, and as the author writes, “…[the city] attends each duel dressed for a party.”

  17. Alex Goodman

    In reading Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow, we were exposed to a group of historic moments that help define the history of soccer. One sketch that I found particularly interesting was The Story of Fla and Flu. Galeano captures the reader’s attention through his use of imagery in describing the passion of the Brazilian fans. Galeano exclaims, “The match was active and violent, causing numerous fainting spells among the spectators… while the gentlemen celebrated each goal by throwing their straw hats onto the playing field, the ladies let their fans fall and collapsed from the excitement of the goal.” He alludes to the fact that Flamengo used to be a part of Fluminense, until the Fluminense club split. Flamengo was formerly an esteemed rowing club, but they decided they wanted to make a football team to compete with Fluminense. Nine disgruntled players from the Fluminense squad left to form Flamengo’s team in 1911, creating a tense environment as the Fluminense plotted their revenge. The heated 1912 Fla-Flu match that followed is the one that Galeano describes.

    Fluminense won the match 3-2, but the result is not the highlight of football history in isolation. That 1912 match was the inception of one of football’s greatest rivalries, and set the stage for hundreds of exciting matches in the years to come. The brave Flamengo players who helped start the club are revered by many, and the club now boasts one of largest fan bases in Brazil. The club is very in touch with their fans who are brought together by their hatred of Fluminense, and their love for Rio de Janeiro. Today, Fluminense supporters are less abundant and are usually characterized as Brazil’s elite. Galeano’s Fla-Flu sketch reiterates that soccer is not just a sport, but rather a means for people to display their strongest emotions that they would otherwise hold back. This energy has invigorated Rio for a century, and will continue to do so in the years to come.

  18. Jared Cordover

    In Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow, one of the most impressionable sketches was the one titled “the bicycle kick.”

    I found this sketch so notable primarily because of its structure. In simple fashion, Galeano starts by describing the origin and nature of a bicycle kick: “body in the air, back to the ground, he shot the ball backwards with a sudden snap of his legs, like the blades of a scissor.” The imagery that Galeano evokes with his depiction of the gutsy maneuver accurately portrays the ambiance that surrounds the bicycle kick. When a player decides to test out this Chilean technique, the soccer world stops for a moment and stares. Galeano successfully communicates this sentiment with his introductory paragraph.

    He continues by conveying the bicycle kick’s spread in popularity, when, in the late 1920s, Chilean coaches brought the move to Europe, and many journalists and soccer fanatics became enfatuated with the new high risk goal-scoring method. Today, it is very rare for a new technique to be introduced into the most popular sports, as most have been around for at least a century. One parallel I can draw is with the NBA dunk contest. We are seeing NBA players become increasingly more athletic and preferred game flow constantly changing based off personnel. Every year or two, a high-flying dunker will introduce a new type of slam at the annual dunk-off that leaves NBA social media salivating for more. I felt it was necessary to relate the introduction of the bicycle kick in the 1920s to modern day sports so that I could best grasp what it must’ve felt like for avid soccer fans to spectate their first bicycle kick wondergoal.

    Galeano reveals his double-edged sword style of writing with his final paragraph – a mere sentence. He shares that Arellano, the Spanish striker who was the first to perform a bicycle kick in Europe, died during a match the same year because of a failed attempt (and ensuing collision) of the maneuver. Although it first seemed to be a harmless yet breathtaking phenomenon, Arellano’s death highlights the immanent danger of performing such a risky physical feat. It also represents the extent of physical harm that players are willing to experience for the good of their teams and countries. The final sentence helps soccer fans contextualize the position that players put themselves in by becoming professional in their industry – they do whatever it takes to support their side, even if it means committing the ultimate sacrifice.

  19. Matthew Farrell

    Two quick thoughts about Galeano’s sketch in “A Rolling Flag.” First, soccer, and sports in general, bring people together. Has one ever thought about this paradoxical relationship between a competitive sport and its unifying nature? By definition, soccer is contentious. It pits two diametrical opposites against each other to fight to the death in the intense competition that it spawns. In certain countries, such as Argentina, fans literally will fight to the death (observed all the too often in games between River Plate and Boca Juniors). However, soccer also unifies. It brings together. That is exactly what Galeano’s sketch brings out so well. Even though fans might hate each other during the club season, they are one again when the national team plays. Galeano further depicts how national teams are a form of political protest. For example, the Algerian team, whose players risked their careers, stands out as a sparkling example of soccer as protest, and how national teams can be used to publicize their causes. Furthermore, Galeano powerfully captures the story about the WWI Captain Neville, who when leading his charge against the Germans, initiated it by kicking a soccer ball and dribbling it towards the opposing trenches. Neville’s platoon successfully conquered the contested no-man’s-land and celebrated the victory. One story surprisingly not mentioned here is one where soccer again unifies two warring nations. During WWI on Christmas day, men of opposing nations played a “friendly” soccer game against each other. In the midst of a brutal, drawn out conflict where maiming and death were ubiquitous, soccer acted as a rallying cry which helped demonstrate, even briefly, both side’s humanity.

    My second reaction is just how awful FIFA is. Today, people harshly criticize the NFL on how it handles player protests. Imagine the uproar the FIFA rulings depicted in this sketch would have caused now. It would have been a death blow to the organization. Galeano, in a non-political way, tactfully shows how ruthless FIFA has been. For example, by banning players who went abroad to protest Franco’s brutal regime, FIFA threatened these players’ well-being knowing full well these players would face retroactive punishment by the regime itself if they went back to Spain. Additionally, FIFA banned Morocco for several years for just playing a match against Algeria, a team it didn’t recognize. Not only did FIFA crush players and countries that it didn’t recognize, but it furthermore tried to crush even any teams or countries that associated with them. I always knew that FIFA has had a tumultuous path, but was startled at just how aggressive they were.

  20. Andrew Workman

    In the section titled “The Language of War,” Galeano stages the football match as a battle by employing impressive war diction to describe the actions of the game. I thought this was quite brilliant, as it captures how soccer brings to the surface a fierce tribalism that sulks in every human heart. Evolution has taught us that humans evolved in tribes and that this “us vs. them” ethos is intrinsic to our nature for better or worse. The beauty of soccer is that it channels this regional tribalism to a (mostly) harmless outlet while still allowing fans and players to imagine they are indeed at war on an epic stage. Bromberger’s assertion that soccer allows fans to break social taboo and verbally attack the opposing side supports this idea. In Galeano’s adept hand, his team moving the ball down the field becomes “the home troops invaded enemy territory,” emphasizing the tribal conflict against a foreign foe. The ball becomes a “projectile,” the striker an “artilleryman,” and the keeper a “custodian of the seemingly unassailable bastion.” As Galeano’s team successfully defends the “home trenches,” the enemy is “reduced to impotence by the gallantry of our gladiators.” Masculine contest, which arguably birthed sport from the lacrosse of the Native Americans to the wrestling and boxing of the Greeks, fuels man against man and fan against fan. There can only be one victor on this battlefield. Interestingly, a code of conduct still stands true like any respectable warrior would hold himself to––”the gentlemanly rules of the noble sport of soccer.” Soccer is ultimately a gentleman’s battle where humility and fair play bring glory (if matched with victory). Soccer allows cities and nations to play each other and unloose tribal animosity against one another without actually engaging in real combat. For centuries France and England fought each other on the battlefield, and thankfully, now they only fight each other on the pitch. Screams of “Agincourt!” persist.

  21. Mark Birmingham

    A compelling sketch from the first half of Galeano’s book was “Goal by Rahn”. This sketch gave me a new perspective on soccer. The sketch focuses on the 1954 world cup in a match between Hungary and West Germany. Despite Hungary being the favorite, the match was tied 2-2. The German forward stole a pass from the Hungary defense in the semicircle and eluded a defender to get in range of a goal. Rahn shot the ball with his left foot and scored.

    When the goal was scored, Zimmerman, who was the most famous broadcaster erupted to share the goal with the world listening. This moment impacted more than just the players and the fans watching. The 1954 world cup was the first time Germany was able to play in the tournament since World War II. This goal in context with the societal views of Germany illuminates how monumental it was. Post-war Germany was crippled economically with paying reparations to the United Kingdom. Also, the rest of the world expressed their disapproval of the country because of the actions of Hitler and the Nazi regime. Germany was looking for redemption and a reason to been seen as anything other than the image Hitler created. Rahn’s electrifying goal was their redemption. The goal made the German people feel like they belonged in the international community again. Rahn gave his people a reason to stand proud as a German after the horrors from the Nazi regime. The echoing scream of the broadcaster became a symbol of a national resurrection of the German people. It was this moment that I realized soccer was more than a game. Soccer is a mechanism that can heal international wounds and change the perspectives of how people view other and themselves. It’s incredible to think how one moment changed the lives of every German.

  22. Christopher Kleypas

    My favorite sketch from Soccer in Sun and Shadow has to be “The Sin of Losing.” In this excerpt, Galeano presents the reader with a much darker perspective on the experience of the soccer player, whereas for some players and teams, poor performances on the pitch result in tragic events. He chronicles events dating back all the way back from 1952 to present day, in which soccer players were publicly humiliated, sought asylum, and were victims of arson and murder just stemming from losing a match. In some cases, it seems that the game of soccer offers its players no forgiveness for a single bad day, and furthermore it offers no shot at redemption — winning is all that matters.

    Moreover, I’m fascinated by how Galeano captures the sadly ephemeral nature of an professional athlete’s career. For some players, one single “rotten day” as he describes in “The Player,” can immediately transform a superstar into an afterthought. In this light, the story of Andrés Escobar is especially heartbreaking; the golden boy of Colombia’s first ever World Cup qualifying team was brutally murdered just for the misfortune of scoring an own goal. After re-watching the incident, it’s astoundingly clear that the own goal was a pure accident in an attempt to make a play on the ball, and Escobar was beside himself with anguish. Immediately, I came to understand how oftentimes, we the spectator take the humanity of soccer (and other professional sports as well) for granted. In that sense, Galeano does a fantastic job of putting the experience of the soccer player into perspective — one that at times, can be severely dehumanizing and degrading.

  23. Owen Fitzgerald

    One of the passages I found most interesting by Galeano is when he describes Jairzihno in the 1970 world cup, in his words below.

    “It was at the ’70 World Cup. Brazil was playing England.

    Tostao got the ball from Paulo Cesar and scurried ahead as far as he could, but all of England was spread out in the penalty area. Even the Queen was there. Tostao eluded one, then another and on more, then he passed the call to Pele. Three players suffocated him on the spot. Pele pretended to press on and the three opponents went for the smoke. He put on the brakes, pivoted and left the ball on the feet of Jairzinho, who was racing in. Jairzinho had learned to shake off his markers on the sandlots of the toughest slums of Rio de Janeiro: he came on like a black bullet and evaded one Englishman, before the ball, a white bullet, crossed the goal line defended by the keeper Banks.

    It was the winning goal. Swaying to the rhythm of a fiesta, Brazil’s attackers had tossed off seven guardians of the steel fortress, which simply melted under the hot breeze blowing from the south.” Galeano, 135-136

    I found this very interesting because the clip showed a goal that itself was very simple, not flashy or impressive, yet the language used was very emotional and provoked a sense of great excitement. “Tostao got the ball from Paulo Cesar and scurried ahead as far as he could, but all of England was spread out in the penalty area. Even the Queen was there.” creating a visual that showed much deeper emotion of the entire country even the queen rooting for the defense, wanting Brazil to fall short. “he came on like a black bullet and evaded one Englishman, before the ball, a white bullet, crossed the goal line defended by the keeper Banks.” offering greater visualization of the speed at which the breakaway came though in the clip it is quite regular and the shot a well placed pass that evaded the keeper. This emotion that Galeano felt and the fans and players felt over a play that was fairly benign when compared to others, I believe very well describes how soccer evokes the viewers emotions and reactions.

  24. Alex Bajana

    The most interesting sketch for me was titled “The Second Discovery of America.” In it, Galeano talks about the first time a Latin American soccer team played in Europe and competed in the Olympics. The sketch focuses on the 1924 Uruguay national team and how they defied expectations throughout the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. I picked this sketch because it presented an amazing story of underdogs and showed off the nature and strength of the Latin American people. The sketch discusses the events leading up to the first soccer match for the Uruguay national team of 1924 Olympics. This was a team not of professionals who only played the sport, but of ice vendors and musicians. This is what made their story so incredible. They weren’t bogged down by the conflicts of playing for money or because of your career, they played because they simply loved the sport. Uruguay, who was far removed from the European titans of footballs that ruled the sport during this time, had developed its own version of play for the sport, which the likes of had never been seen before. Traditionally the game had been played with high balls and long passes but the Uruguayans had created a form of play that involved quick passes and “high-speed dribbling.” It is this form of soccer that Galeano equates to the best form of the game. He even goes as far as quoting Henri de Montherlant who states “Here we have real soccer. Compared with this, what we knew before, what we played, was no more than a schoolboy’s hobby.”
    Galeano emphasizes the comedy of having this grab bag team defeat the proper and respectable players of Europe. By including the detail of the Yugoslavian spies, he sets up the irony and comedy of the story when the players that were so bad that “It makes you feel sorry,” beats Yugoslavia 7-0. Uruguay’s story gets better when you look into how badly they dominated the rest of the Olympic teams. They beat heavy hitters like the Netherlands and France with ease, even beating the ladder 5-1. They went on to win gold by shutting out Switzerland 3-0. This sketch depicts an epic triumph and as a Latino, I am proud to see that it was the lowly ice vendors and meatpackers that won gold on the world’s biggest stage.

  25. Armin Ameri

    One of the more compelling passages of the first half of Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Galeano is titled “The Blacks”. In it, Galeano details the first South American championship between Uruguay and Chile in 1916. The game resulted in a 4-0 win by Uruguay. However, the Chilean delegation attempted to discount the win, claiming that the win was illegitimate given that two of the Uruguayan players – Isabelino Gradin and Juan Delgado – were of African descent.

    This passage resonated with me for a couple reasons: first, it’s reflective of the politics surrounding modern soccer. Even though this incident occurred 100 years ago, the racial dynamics are comparable to those discussed in class. A recent example of this is the 2018 World Cup, where many questioned the French-ness of the players on the French national team given their families’ Algerian dissent. It’s apparent that nationalism and racism have been persistent themes in soccer throughout its history.
    Second, Galeano doesn’t linger on the racism, instead providing anecdotes about each of the players, their play styles, and tongue in cheek characteristics. He comments on how beautifully Gradin played the game, also noting Delgado’s love of dancing at carnival and his go to trash talk phrases. It’s humanizing to focus on both of the players individual qualities, and Galeano combats the racist past by providing charming facts about both players. It’s heartening to see the ways in which the grandsons of slaves inspired a country.

  26. Richard Asfour

    In Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow, one of my favourite of the vignettes is “Goal by Nílton”. In this sketch, Galeano describes a fantastic goal scored by Brazilian defender Nílton Santos after dribbling from the Brazilian back-line through the entire Austrian squad. What I found to be particularly interesting was the juxtaposition of Nílton’s movements to the reactions of Brazilian manager, Vicente Feola. While Nílton is dancing past the Austrian squad, Galeano describes a distressed Feola screaming at Nílton to pass the ball, but he nonetheless is ecstatic with the goal. Whenever we watch a football match, especially when a goal is scored, our focus is centred on the ball, goal scorer or other players involved in the goal, and it is never really on the manager’s reaction to the play on the side-lines.

    Galeano’s retelling of Feola’s behaviour provides interesting insight to the team’s dynamics, especially when coupled with an understanding of the Brazilian player’s sentiments at the time. After doing some research, I found out that Nílton’s goal was scored in Brazil’s first match of the 1958 World Cup, the second of three against Austria, which was a turbulent time for the South American powerhouse. After a series of underachievement in previous World Cups and two less-than-stellar matches at the start of the 1958 tournament, Brazilian players rebelled against Feola, demanding a less rigid, scientific structure of play and to allow players to play the way they wanted.

    Putting Galeano’s sketch in context, we can understand the significance of this goal to the future of Brazilian football. It seems that Nílton’s goal was almost an act of rebellion against Feola’s tactical system, a demonstration of the true capability of the Seleção and the first step toward defining Brazilian footballing style and identity. As echoed earlier in Galeano’s book, many managers of the 20th century employed a fairly scientific tactical system, creating organised structures that restricted movement and carefully defined player responsibilities. This system has been successful for some clubs and nations, but in the case of the Brazilian team, Feola overlooked the strengths and exceptional qualities of his players. Rather than create a system where these strengths could be used to the team’s advantage, Feola attempted to mold his players into something they were not. After Feola agreed to player demands, the Brazilians, led by Pelé and Garrincha, played more fluidly with flair and grace, eventually winning the tournament. This new playing style would soon be termed ‘o jogo bonito’ or ‘the beautiful game’.

  27. Patrick Donley

    One of my favorite passages was “Goal by Rahn,” which describes German forward
    Helmut Rahn’s game winner in the 1954 World Cup Final and the now legendary call
    of the goal, or “tor,” by German announcer Heribert Zimmerman. One of the things that I liked about the sketch was that Galeano told it as it occurred in his memory, as he did with every sketch in the book. Rather than focus on all of the context surrounding a game, we remember games for their defining moments, and that was what was most memorable about this game: the winning goal and the passionate call by the winning broadcaster. In researching this moment a little deeper, I found out some more about what else was occurring in the game. Particularly, Hungarian player Ferenc Puskás scored a goal in the 87th minute that was ruled offsides in a very controversial call. Additionally, there have been many charges that the German players had been doping in order to gain an advantage. And on top of all this Ferenc Puskás had been injured in a group stage game that saw Hungary win 8-3, and was not fully fit for this more important rematch. However, despite all of this, this sketch still captures the memory of the moment as if it the story was destined to play out this way. The Germans, newly reinstated to FIFA, won the World Cup and simultaneously ended the legendary Hungarian’s 32 match unbeaten streak. When we remember soccer games and goals, as with much of history, it seems as though it was written like a movie and couldn’t have possibly ended any other way. However, there is often a much larger context, with possible alternate endings, that we ignore in order to give in to the romanticism and spectacle of the sport. I like that Galeano chooses to capture these sketches like this because the real reason we love soccer is that it is fun to get lost in the passion of the moments and the seemingly storybook plot lines of the stories that we follow. The “Miracle of Bern” as this game has come to be known, certainly seems like a story perfectly written for a movie, but I’m sure that there are still many angry Hungarians searching for evidence that Puskás was onsides or that the German’s were definitively doping.


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