Soccer in the Sun and Shadow, Part 2

By | January 26, 2019

Galeano ends his description of Jairzhino’s winning goal for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup with reference to the “hot breeze blowing from the south” (p. 155). As we discussed in class on Thursday, this can be read as an allusion to the Global South. Keep in mind that Brazil’s victory against England, a powerful European nation, came in the midst of national liberation struggles throughout (what was then known as) the Third World (this term has mostly fallen out of favor). What other references to the politics of imperialism can you find in Soccer in the Sun and Shadow? Why is soccer a useful lens through which to analyze the politics of imperialism? The “hot breeze blowing from the south” is a beautiful example of the use of metaphor. Can you find other examples of metaphor (or other literary techniques) in Soccer in the Sun and Shadow?

One of the goals for this class is to encourage you to work on your writing. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are—even extremely experienced writers, every time they write something new, work to develop their craft. In that spirit, I would ask you all, as an experiment, to challenge yourselves not to use the word “interesting” in your posts for this week. “Interesting” is a perfectly fine word (I use it all the time). But experimenting with our writing by putting limits on commonly used words is a useful way of developing our skills as writers.

25 thoughts on “Soccer in the Sun and Shadow, Part 2

  1. Jeremy Yi

    One of Galeano’s most striking chapters was the one titled, “From Mutilation to Splendor”. Not only does it speak to the challenges of playing football in Brazil with dark skin, but it demonstrates how and why things in Brazil began to change. Galeano explains that “with the passage of time, the old soccer mutilated by racism gave way to a soccer of multicolored splendor”. When I think of Brazilian soccer, I think of my favorite player ever, Ronaldinho. Other legends like Pelé, Carlos Alberto are similarly of non-white descent. Even in today’s day and age of global football, Neymar, Dani Alves, and Thiago Silva are the first players that come to my mind. Although Galeano’s description of the “mutilated” old soccer ways of Brazil with players whitening their faces with rice powder and ironing their hair in the dressing room is no longer representative of the modern game, unfortunately, the fight against racism in football and Brazil persists. A famous incident happened with Dani Alves while he was playing for FC Barcelona in 2014 against Villarreal. As he was about to take a corner kick, a banana was thrown at him. Alves has been a regular target of racism during his time in Spain and has spoken out about it, too. His response, in this incident, was to pick up the banana, eat it, then continue to take the corner. Fellow professional footballers stood in solidarity with Alves following the incident, with superstars Sergio Kun Aguero, Neymar, Moussa Dembele and others taking to social media by posting pictures of themselves eating bananas. While the fight against racism is not nearly over for Brazilians or for other ethnic minorities, many more of the global football community recognizes that racism has no place in professional football. As Galeano describes, it is “one of very few democratic venues where people of color can compete on an equal footing… At least soccer offers a shot at social mobility for a poor child, usually black or mulatto”. What I appreciate most about soccer is that it is an opportunity for all to express their love and dedication to the game regardless of ethnic or cultural backgrounds and it should forever be that way.

  2. Jack Navin-Weinstein

    The ability of the powerful and wealthy European clubs to steal, or buy depending on how you look at it, talent away from poorer clubs based in the ‘third world’ mirrors the imperialist powers looting their colonies of valuable resources. Although Galeano doesn’t look at this in depth he does talk about Foreign Players being integrated into different countries in the section titled: “Football, excitement and local identity”. Foreign Players in order to be successful Galeano posits have to conform to the identity of the team that he or she is playing at. This may mean that for countries with weak leagues, most of their talented youth go to other countries in order to get better and end up staying there as there is more money. In particular instances these foreign players will play for the country they migrate to rather than the one they were born in: Diego Costa was born in Brazil but plays for Spain. It is important to view soccer from this lens as it highlights the inequalities in the world. This inequality is further demonstrated when you realize no African team has ever won the world cup.
    Galeano describes the phenomenon of teams having players of multiple nationalities through the example of Marseillais as he talks about the club through the metaphor of a ‘melting pot’. The players of different nations and regions come together to create a new identity.

    1. Lord Nicklas Bendtner

      Looking at soccer through the lens of club play does reveal vast discrepancies in transfer budget and salary room. Cities with large, affluent markets like London, Paris and Manchester have a distinct advantage over smaller, less developed cities. One of the aspects that makes competitions exciting is when the smaller clubs defy logic and find success in an uphill battle; Leicester is the prime example, a working class town winning the title with initial odds of 5000:1. But this initial joy in the underdog story is quickly eroded when their key players leave for established clubs, Kante, Drinkwater and Mahrez play for “bigger” clubs. Inequality is a part of the sport.

  3. Cole Garda

    The spread of soccer around the world is largely a result of European imperialism. Galeano describes the connection between the two in the first half of the book and continues referencing imperialism in sketches throughout the second half. He shows how the way the game spread shaped both modern style of play and the current soccer landscape. The sketch “the English Invasions” describes how soccer was introduced to South America through British Imperialism. The image of teams playing under a portrait of Queen Victoria brilliantly shows the games popularity and how it could be used as a tool for the British in their conquests. This idea is highlighted more in the sketch “The Opiate of the People”. Soccer took such strong roots in South America that some thought of it as a “sedative of consciousness”. Galeano states, “the spread of soccer across the world was an imperialist trick to keep oppressed peoples trapped in an eternal childhood”, echoing the opinions some people had at the time. Though this may be true in the early development of soccer in South America, it eventually proved to be a powerful method of showing individual creativity and overcoming of the imperialists. The South Americans added a magnificent flair to the game that still exists today. In his sketch, “The Second Discovery of America”, Galeano tells the story of when Uruguay played in the 1924 Olympics held in Spain. Written off as outsiders and major underdogs, they dominated the tournament with style and finesse Europe had not seen before. Describing the match against England, Galeano writes “The English squad had perfected the long pass and the high ball, but these disinherited children, begotten in far-off America, did not walk in their fathers’ footsteps.” Uruguay had taken the sport that England introduced to them and taken it to a new level. This narrative is revisited later in the sketch “Pagan Sacrifices”. Galeano states how at the 1990 world cup, rowdy English fans would yell “’Rule Britannia’ and other rancorous cheers from the lost Empire”, eluding to their days of global imperialism. This idea of the global superpower being challenged through a game is rather beautiful. The soccer field is a unique space where an overpowered country can take on a mighty nation and prove its creativity and ability.

  4. Tyler Wenger

    The politics of imperialism can be found in all sections of the book. For me, the section entitled “A Few Numbers”. With European countries being the major colonizing force and the main imperialist forces, it makes sense that European teams had twice as many opportunities to win as did teams from the Americas during fifteen World Cups. Additionally, it is important to realize that Great Britain has four chances to win a single World Cup with England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales when no other team has any chances. As this section continues it becomes apparent for the 1994 World Cup that more “token countries” needed to be added to allow for each continent to have a fair representation.

    While I am all for fair representation, I find it surprising that it took so long for the control to shift from Europe’s main control. In the time where Europe had most of the control, the Intercontinental Cup had been won 53% more by America than by Europe. This shows that no reason in quality of players in leagues was the reason besides the residual effects of colonization. Additionally, it is important to recall that single matches can bring a community together as did Columbia’s 5-0 win over Argentina had in 1993. That game, although not including a European team, is a match in which showed that Columbia, a little known team in regards to past experience at the time, could challenge a two-time champion and brought together the entire nation.

  5. Matthew Farrell

    One potential passage that relates to Imperialism is in the section entitle Cruyff. Galeano writes that “this orange fire flitted back and forth, fanned by an all knowing breeze that sped it forward and pulled it back.” Although on the surface Galeano is referencing a Dutch football team, this is an allusion to the ever-growing waves of imperialism. Imperialism has long been a struggle between the colonizers and the colonized. This struggle and tension is captured in the first part of Galeano’s writing. Imperialism is being symbolized as a fire. This symbolism highlights the incendiary nature of imperialism. Additionally, much like how fire spreads quickly when given oxygen and fuel, imperialism grew exponentially as European powers raced to conquer the globe. Armed with advances in technology, the European powers had the necessary “fuel” and “oxygen” to fan out across the globe and enact their often vengeful will.

    Additionally, the second part to Galeano’s quote highlights the tug and pull that these colonial conflicts create. This “all knowing breeze” Galeano describes is history itself. History has unfortunately seen these conflicts play out countless times throughout its long gaze. However, this history is by no means static, and therefore, there have been constant winners and losers as each side of the struggle has continued to push and pull and make their way into the general ledger of history.

    Soccer is an immensely valuable lens to be able to view this struggle because it too is not static, but rather constantly evolving. Some teams are historically good; however, this does not necessarily predict future results. This can especially be seen with the Dutch national team who finished in third place in the World Cup in 2014, and then failed to even qualify for the World Cup in 2018. Therefore, there is a pull and tug, between traditionally strong teams, and newer, less orthodox teams. In addition to its dynamic nature, soccer is a global game that takes on meaning from the people who play it. As I commented last week, soccer often is an act of protest. Therefore, much like how Algeria used its national team as a calling card to the world that it was truly an independent nation, soccer is used as a symbol of different people, nations, and cultures.

  6. BJ James IV

    Throughout his book, Galeano makes reference to the influences of imperialism throuhgout the history of soccer. No history of soccer would be complete without this account and consideration. Despite its deep roots, the impacts of imperialism today are largely forgotten. Imperialism did not stop impacting societies when European nations withdrew from certain geographic areas, the influence still seeps throughout the Southern World. Galeano does not explicitly make this claim, however he alludes to it when considering what he calls an “Export Industry.”

    In the sketch entitled “An Export Industry,” Galeano recounts how small clubs in modern soccer have no choice but to sell their players to larger clubs in Europe who are awash in money. Uruguay is used as an example of an export country due to the constant outflow of talented footballers. This leads to more mediocre domestic leagues, less interested fans, and ultimately less money for the local clubs and league. This process is an endless cycle. The wealth in Europe exacerbates the divide that was first rooted during imperialism, in which Europe extracted wealth and resources from the Global South, leaving the south with less and less and an inability to build.

    Galeano does leave the sketch with a bit of nostalgia and optimism. He was able to recall the days when Pele and other South American legends played at huge clubs in their home countries, undeterred by the influence of foreign football. The players still proudly represent their home nations in international play, but gone are the days of superstars playing at home year round.

  7. Christopher Kleypas

    In the excerpt titled “From Mutilation to Splendor,” Galeano offers readers a glimpse of the politics of imperialism by describing soccer in the wake of the racial inequality stemming from imperialist activities. Galeano uses a metaphor to describe the way in which soccer has the potential to alter the life course for those that are born into misfortune. He states that “the ball is the only fairy godmother [the player] can believe in. Maybe she will feed him, maybe she will make him a hero, maybe even a god” (Galeano). Galeano uses this metaphor to understand the sport of soccer as a great equalizer — finding equality on the pitch during times of rampant inequality; that those who have been left disadvantaged by imperialism may gain the upper hand through soccer. There is a notion that soccer is, to an extent, beyond the influence of racial inequality, or as Galeano calls it, “a racial democracy” (Galeano).
    Or maybe it’s all just a facade. To me, this excerpt is reminiscent of the discussions during earlier classes surrounding national identity, Zidane, and even the 2018 French national team. Despite being centuries away from the age of imperialism, this passage allows us to observe how its politics (conflicts of race and national identity) continue to persist in global activities, including soccer. It conveys the idea the level playing field is not as level as we might think — that “the player who grew up hungry and the athlete who never missed a meal” (Galeano) may have different rights even when on the pitch.

  8. Jared Cordover

    Throughout Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow, allusions to modern imperialism are frequent and dense. Galeano details the history of the sport through his own eyes, eyes that had experienced brutal political regimes in Uruguay and had a true understanding of the political atmosphere surrounding momentous soccer matches of the last century and beyond.

    One passage in particular, titled Kopa, drew my attention with its metaphors and tone. In an initial bow to imperialism, Galeano cites a nickname given to Raymond Kopa, a French footballer: “the Napoleon of soccer.” Soccer provides a creative outlet for media and fans to liken their favorite athletes to historical figures through similarities such as style and power. Kopa, known for his short stature and territorial conquests, was the perfect player for the French to equate to their fabled military leader. Kopa is further described as a “player of great mobility and florid feints,” an indication of a South American (primarily Brazilian) style of play. Galeano foreshadows a politically-centered critique of Kopa fueled primarily by experts from his home country. Because of the fun he would have with the ball, “French experts often accused him of having a South American style.” The tone insinuated by the word accused seems indicative of the imperialist attitude towards inhabitants of South America, almost as if they were guilty by of their origins. Many of France’s territorial claims in the Americas, beginning in the 1600s, were in the US and Canada, but the Caribbean and South America also experienced exploitation by the French, including the colony known today as French Guiana.

    Despite earning a reputation as a star at the 1958 World Cup and winning the ensuing Golden Boot for being the best player in Europe that year, Galeano elicits the inherent despise that many French soccer experts held towards Kopa for dancing his unorthodox dance. This criticism was to be expected for Kopa; his childhood left little to be desired and soccer became his joyous escape.

  9. Cameron Anderson

    Galeano’s chapter on “The Second Discovery of America” relates the Uruguayan championship in the Olympics to the Europeans ‘discovery’ of the west. Uruguay became an a source of untapped riches where Europeans could go to “mine” both talent and tactics from the emerging soccer nation. Just like with their discovery of the west it sparked a fascination with something new and dramatically changed the balance of the world as they knew it. When Europeans discovered the America’s it forced them to redraw their maps of the world; similarly, when Uruguay found international success it forced the to redraw their tactical maps of how to best play football.

    An example of literary device that Galeano used is in the excerpt on “The Sin of Losing.” Here Galeano uses soccer as a metaphor for religion. In his words “losing is the only sin that cannot be redeemed.” In many ways this actually puts a performance in a football match above a duty to God. Jesus died for our all sins except, apparently, losing a match of football. This accurately reflects, for many, the importance of soccer in both national and personal pride and identity. Millions identify as Catholics, for example, but millions more identify as soccer fans.

  10. Qusai Hussain

    Throughout the book, Eduardo Galeano emphasizes several times the sharp divide between Europe and the Americas with the rest of the World, especially in terms of World Cup attendance. Often, it seemed that countries from the “south”, or developing, countries often rotate in terms of participation. But only because of pity from FIFA—and not with the perspective that they actually have chance of winning or returning to the next cup. This is likely rooted from imperialistic tendencies, where the invader believe that they will always will be superior to the invaded.

    It is unfortunate because within the realm of soccer, several players from the “south” have surpassed famous European players in skill and agility. However, many of these players still end up playing for countries that colonized their home countries. In the chapter An Export Industry, Galeano writes about the “itinerary of a player from the southern reaches of the globe who has good legs and good luck.” He explains that because these developing countries are not as wealthy, their best players end up playing for European leagues. Since the World Cup and FIFA began at a time when Europe was significantly wealthier than other countries, they have had a significant advantage in attracting players. The misbalance continues today. In the same chapter, Galeano provides an example by describing Uruguay, where “soccer is an export industry that scorns the domestic market.”

    Similarly, Galeano’s account of African players brings to light imperialism and racial politics that exist today. In the chapter 1998 World Cup, he writes, “Black Africa’s teams left the World Cup early, but Africa’s children and grandchildren continued to shine on the teams of the Netherlands, France, Brazil, and others.” In the chapter 2010 World Cup, Galeano continues, “many Africans players worthy of their heritage of good soccer live and play on the continent that enslaved their ancestors. Like Latin America, Africa exports working hands and working feet.” Today, when soccer is heavily commercialized, where profit and loss surpass winning and losing, it is troubling how several African countries continue to produce the best players, yet do not reap any of the fame. Soccer is a useful lens to understand the politics of imperialism because it shows that while slavery no longer exist, developing countries continue to be subjugated and exploited. Whereas slaves did not have the choice to escape, players from the “south” have the choice to forgo contracts to play for leagues in their home countries. However, they choose not to because the incentives are too strong to turn down and their identities from their home countries are slowly vanishing.

  11. Joshua Landsberg

    In the chapter “The 1930 World Cup,” Galleano adeptly underscores the relationship between the European imperialist powers and Latin America. As we discussed in class, soccer was invented in Europe, but began to evolve rapidly across the world. As such, countries like Uruguay and Argentina were eager to prove that they too could play the game at a high level, with their own unique style as well. In his description of the state of global affairs, he mentions that the creators of the game, were busy jailing Mahatma Ghandi, and that Stalin was busy consolidating power. Still, all of Europe was invited to the tournament in Uruguay as a sign of respect. However, the tournament was dominated by the South American teams, who were once again able to demonstrate the breadth of their abilities, much to the chagrin of the Europeans. In fact, the final between Argentina and Uruguay did not receive more attention than a 20-line writeup in the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

  12. Ian Roughen

    In “The English Invasions” the spread of sport through the expansion of the English empire is made clear. When discussing the sport, it is said that it became as common of an export as “cloth, railroads, and loans”. The sport was so entrenched in the lives of the British people that if was only natural for it to spread to South America, just as the other facets of British life had been passed on. In this story, the metaphors that are used for soccer are “export” and “contagion”. The explanation for export is simple but contagion in this case could have a variety of meanings. One could be that the game caught on quickly and spread rapidly, and the other is that the game came with the empire and took over without regard for the people there. It is possible that they had games that were taken over and disregarded as soccer was forced onto the population, and that the english who came to Argentina paraded their sport over the local ones, as a way of taking over. Both of these explanations show the speed at which the sport grew here and and how this came from the expansion and intrusion of the British Empire. The image of Queen Victoria in this passage is used to show how the English viewed the growth of the sport in Uruguay and Brazil, as her image is looking down on them with disdain, as they have taken this sport and made it their own. At this stage they were viewed as beneath the British with regards to this game, and as it was the British who pushed it on them, this is a fascinating point: that the British might be disappointed in what they created. This is ironic given the eventual success of these South American nations when it comes to World Cups, particularly in games against England.

  13. Kevin Winiarski

    Galeano’s story of the 1974 World Cup discusses a number of important world events that were occurring during the turbulent ’70s. Specifically, Galeano notes many famous political changes that happened in the year 1974, specifically the Watergate Scandal, the fall of dictatorships in Greece, Portugal, and Spain, and the deaths of a few famous artists. However, the most striking political aspect of this World Cup that Galeano does not explicitly state is that of the Cold War. Galeano points out that the Soviet Union, a superpower both geopolitically and athletically, had failed to qualify for the tournament, while U.S.-backed countries such as West Germany and the Netherlands both had. These two teams would play in the final of the tournament, with West Germany surprisingly triumphing over the free flowing Dutch. Those these two nations are not thought of as part of the Global South, the important metaphor that can be taken from their story is the conflict between the values endorsed by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. In other words, the Soviet Union failed to even qualify while its rival, West Germany, won the entire tournament. This can be seen as a metaphor for the eventual triumph of the U.S. over the U.S.S.R. in the Cold War, in which capitalistic societies prevailed over socialist ones.

    Furthermore, a victory by a European nation in this cup represents the tit-for-tat pattern of European and South American countries alternating victories throughout the ’60s and ’70s. West Germany’s victory was bookended by Brazil’s in 1970 and Argentina’s in 1978. This shows that despite the emergence of South American nations as soccer superpowers with their own flair, European nations were equally as capable of innovating and adapting to new styles of the game.

    Lastly, the Chilean presence in the 1974 World Cup demonstrates the fact that while soccer is often thought of as an “escape” from real life, real world events have massive consequences on the ability of a team and national spirit. Chile underwent a coup in 1973 to depose President Salvador Allende, which ushered in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. This event had two massive consequences: the Soviet Union refused to travel to Chile to play a qualifying match, and the Chilean team was left in a period of turmoil. Though Chile qualified for the tournament because of the Soviet forfeit, they failed to win a single match once there. Galeano does an excellent job of noting that a changing and turbulent political climate can have crushing effects on the morale and ability of a national soccer team. His words also serve as a metaphor for the many regime changes in South and Central America throughout the 1970s and ’80s.

  14. Lord Nicklas Bendtner

    The chapter “The 1962 World Cup” is particularly political as Galeano describes events surrounding the cup, some of which were incredibly interwoven with soccer. The author points to the fact that it was around this time that Algeria began the process of independence, having discussed it in class and upon further research, the Algerian Football Federation was not established until that year and would not become an official part of FIFA until 1963. Before its recognition, playing soccer matches as their own team was a form of defiance, an act of rebellion against their European oppressors.

    The author mentions other events of importance. It is stated that the “OAS got a majority to expel Cuba, the black sheep of Pan-Americanism.” This refers to the Organization of American States kicking the country out due to the newly developed association with the Soviet Union and seizing of all the means of production by the new tyrannical regime. It is hinted that this had some ramification for the development of the sport in the country. Though not exactly imperialism, the USSRs expansion of influence into the new world had a profound effect on the expression of cuban soccer; the island became an outcast and invitations to international cups and friendlies became a rarity.
    Galeano uses the world cups as units of time, the chapter “The 1966 World Cup” is similarly structured to the aforementioned chapter as it discusses a myriad of events. But more direct signs of imperialism and eurocentrism can be found in the conduction of the event, “in the previous World Cup, European referees officiated at twenty-six matches; in this one, they ran twenty-four out of thirty-two. A German referee gave England the match against Argentina, while an English referee gave Germany the match against Uruguay.” The sport was dominated by the old world, and the partiality in the selection of the referees shows how biased and corrupt the federation was even at its early days. The creators of the sports would have their due.

  15. Steve Hassey

    As I read Galeano’s work, I noticed the intermittent focus on the global south and how the power dynamics between the South American countries and their former colonizers played out on the pitch. In the discussion of each World Cup, Galeano notes how many participants came from each continent, frequently framing those from the Global South as invaders and conquerors of European soccer. In many of these South American countries, soccer was a symbol of power. As outlined in “Soccer and the Generals,” soccer was a universal expression of power, a way for dictator’s to firm their grasp on the nation. Extrapolating this metaphor, and we can understand that, when countries from the Global South beat the Europeans, they were retaking power, leveling the playing field after generations of exploitation and colonization.
    I also took note of how Galeano emphasized the equalizing nature of soccer – how players could rise to the top of the game, regardless of the color of their skin or their socioeconomic background. In particular, this stood out to me in his discussion of Pele, when he explains that “he reached the summit of power and fortune where blacks were not allowed.” By playing soccer, these players were able to break down barriers and achieve a success that was unparalleled for people of their race in more traditional work settings.

  16. Crystal McCarthy

    From its origins as an elite school boys sport in England to a world wide sport that crosses into all genders, cultures, and socioeconomic categories, the wave of soccer swept the globe prompted by imperialism and latched onto by the masses. And it was the masses that changed the game. Numerous times in Galeano’s work Soccer in Sun and Shadow he discusses the rise of football in the global south and its eventual dominance. Teams like Uruguay and Argentina, filled with players who had grown up playing barefoot in the streets with a homemade ball, were beginning to beat England at its own game. The teams were winning world titles and making a name for their countries that were otherwise over looked and undervalued. The game went from being a white mans sport where any color was punished or banned to a diverse game where you were celebrated for your skill and ability to manipulate the ball. In Galeano’s vignette “The Fan” he introduces the magic of skill and what is celebrated by the fans of the game. The ball is referred to as “she” and she is meant to be cherished, danced with, moved about, and created magic with. She can be put to sleep or made to leap around in a beautiful partner dance with who every happens to have possession of her at that time. The beauty, the skill, the tricks and touches that make the crowd go wild is the game that was introduced and perfected by the likes of Brazil and other south and central American players. And that is the game that has become popularized and challenges that more proper and less creative and artistic style of Europe. The global south has made the game their own. It has turned work back into play, and brought about an appreciation of the game that can be thanked for providing hope of a way out and an unspeakable joy as an escape from the toil and struggle of daily life. When England introduced the world to soccer, little did they know that the world would take it, run with it, and make it their own. With what England has taught to play, the world has learned to dance.

  17. Andrew Workman

    While soccer has the magical ability to unite a nation, it can also entrench long-standing division through regional rivalry. In the chapter “Chants of Scorn,” Galeano explores how tribal chants attempt to place their opponents beneath them in the social hierarchy usually upon unsavory criteria, from race to religion. Galeano refers to this rift as a barrier “invisible” yet one that functions on a more impactful level then the Berlin Wall –– “raised to separate those who have from those who need” (201). Players from the slums become gods on the pitch, yet biases against neighborhoods, counties, and whole sections of a country thrive in the passionate rivalry that produce these chants. Galeano points to this phenomenon in Italy where the north has traditionally always looked down upon the south. In the 1980s when Napoli began playing great soccer, the northern fans responded with signs and chants such as “Neapolitans, welcome to Italy” and “Vesuvius, we’re counting on you,” calling into question whether their darker complexions and poorer status was ever sufficient for them to be truly Italian. Similarly, Galeano describes a chant against the Boca Juniors in Argentina who play in a place populated by many poor, dark-skinned Argentinians from the interior: “Boca’s in mourning, everybody knows, / ’cause they’re all black, they’re all homos. / Kill the shit-kickers, / they aren’t straight. / Throw the bumpkins in the River Plate.” This chant employs racist and homophobic attitudes that are unacceptable in the modern day. This presents an interesting struggle as the modern, wealthy world becomes obsessed with politically correctness while fans from poorer countries still use any insult that has a bite. This caused controversy in the last World Cup when Mexico’s fans were noticed yelling “Puto” in unison. Soccer in a way heralds the old values of masculinity: to be victorious, one must have the heart of a warrior and the skin of a rhino. And since the stadium will always allow man to blow off steam, this increasing effort to make chants politically correct will prove to be an interesting debate.

  18. Richard Asfour

    Throughout his book, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Galeano makes a number of references to imperialism and its connection with soccer. As it well known, soccer was invented in England, but it was the South Americans who truly mastered the game. In his sketch ‘Andrade’, Galeano tells the story of the Uruguayan player Jose Leandro Andrade, who he describes as ‘black, South American and poor, the first international idol of soccer’. In this description, Galeano almost seems boastful and proud of his countryman. Although imperialism is not explicitly referred to, Galeano seems to hint at the irony of Andrade becoming an international star. In the face of oppression from European imperialists in South America, an unlikely boy transformed into a figure that received wide praise from playing the game they created. Most obviously, the link between soccer and imperialism is especially highlighted in the sketch ‘The English Invasions’, where Galeano outlines how British imperialism helped introduce the game to South America, describing it as a typical British export. As with any imperialist campaign, the invading empire makes its presence feel felt in various aspects of the invaded society. This certainly did not exclude soccer. In the same sketch, Galeano recounts early South American soccer games that were played under a large portrait of Queen Victoria.

    There are a wide variety of reasons as to why soccer is a useful lens to analyse the politics of imperialism. For one, soccer and imperialism are inherently linked in that the global craze for soccer can greatly be attributed to British imperialists that spread the game throughout their colonies. In these colonies, it was likely that British citizens would play games in their own leisure time, and, in some countries, were the original organisers of local teams that would eventually form the basis of future leagues. With this, we are able to understand the political role that soccer may have played in these early colonies, in addition to how this role transformed over time and shaped the nations that exist today. Furthermore, as we’ve discussed previously in class, soccer can be an important element in a country’s identity. Galeano even describes a player on a country’s national team as one ‘who embodies the nation’. With the formation of this new identity, countries symbolically break ties with past imperialist aggressors and forge a new path forward.

  19. Alex Bajana

    The way Galeano presents soccer is truly unique, especially when it comes down to his exposé on World Cups. Each section in his book on world cups is a little summary of the world during the year of the world cup. He covers everything from pop culture to global politics and finds a way to tie all back to the sport. Focusing on the politics outlined in the sections, Galeano rarely shies away from making his thoughts known when it comes to certain world events. For example, “in Washington an army lieutenant who had murdered a hundred civilians in Vietnam was being found innocent: after all, there weren’t more than a hundred, and they were civilians, and what’s more, they were Vietnamese.” Through his sarcastic tone, Galeano makes his thoughts and feelings known, but he also uses more literary devices to get his point across. The book is chock full with metaphors and similes that are used to make his thoughts clear. A good example of this is when Galeano discusses the events of the 1978 world cup. He discusses how the Dutch lost to the Argentinian post and personifies the post with a comedic tone stating, “That post, which stopped a resounding blast by Rensenbrink, was never given military honors only because of the nature of human ingratitude.” Galeano sees soccer as much more than a game. He sees it as the reflection of the world and the power that has. In the section called Soccer and the generals, Galeano makes it known that the military dictators that ran South America throughout the 70’s also understood the power and popularity of soccer and try to manipulate for themselves.
    Soccer really is a mirror into the human psyche. As was discussed before, soccer has a lot of values that humans find admirable, and these values play a role in how soccer and politics can be connected. When it comes to the politics of imperialism nothing is more representative than the world cup. Country battles country to determine who is the best, and like in real war and imperialism it is the countries that are the most developed that will come out victorious. But every now and then an underdog rises to the occasion. Mexico will beat the world champions of Germany; Russia will defeat the classic Spaniards who have been training for this their whole life. It is these upset that make soccer a useful lens to view politics through. Just as in the real world, anything can happen on the pitch.

  20. Henry Soule

    The chapter “Pagan Sacrifices” goes into detail on what can probably be considered one of the most negative externalities of the beautiful game: hooligans. Galeano lists numerous examples of hooliganry that have ended in violence, surprisingly dating all the way back to 1890 when the Times of London called the hooligan “a hideous excrescence on our civilization” (189). What’s upsetting is that the existence and prominence of these hateful and dangerous “fans” has not been contained successfully and instead has spread to all corners of the globe where football is played. Today there are countless stories of fans hurling racial slurs and acting out violently in countries from England to Italy to Russia and beyond. Most recently there was a story of a Milwall supporter who slashed the face of an Everton fan prior to the two sides’ FA Cup clash (far from the first of this type of behavior from Milwall supporters).

    Beyond blind hate, hooligans are notorious for their ultra-conservative, nationalist, and racist motivations. These groups of people use football as a medium through which to express their hateful views. Galeano lists a couple of especially insulting jeers typical of hooligans, such as “Go back to Africa!” and simply, “Ebrei!” (Jews!). These personally offensive and inappropriate insults cross a well-recognized line of chanting etiquette. Insulting other teams is a staple of football culture and provides supporters with a common enemy – and this can be perfectly acceptable if practiced in the right way, but chanting racist and xenophobic content should have no place in the stadium. Hooligans somehow neglect all codes of ethic when inside the stadium and allow their most deep-seated and vile emotions to boil over. Therefore, through soccer we can analyze divisions in a community that might not otherwise be visible outside the lawlessness of the arena.

  21. Mark Birmingham

    In the Sketch “The Sin of Losing”, Galeano refers to the soccer players as soldiers. Galeano states, “With ball on his foot and the national colors on his chest, the player who embodies the nation marches off to win glory on far-off battlefields. If he returns in defeat, the warrior becomes a fallen angel.” In other words, Galeano paints soccer as two teams going to war, a war that must be won. Similarity to war, the author describes the field as the battlefield. The quote from this sketch relates to imperialism because of the emphasis on taking land by military force. Galeano describes these battles as fighting for glory on far-off fields. In essence, soccer teams travel the world and fight other teams for glory. Eventually the top team will rule the world from its imperial conquest over all other teams standing in its way from a World Cup. Like the early conquests of Ancient Rome, you either won or you had no home. An all or nothing mind set can also be related to soccer. The connection is illuminated when Galeano claims, “We are because we win. If we lose, we no longer exist. Without question, the national uniform has become the clearest symbol of collective identity, not only in poor or small countries whose place on the map depends on soccer. This sketch is a prime metaphor to imperialism because of soccer’s connection to war, glory, and an all or nothing mentality in battle. For many countries, soccer is the only subject that keeps them relevant to the rest of the world. The only thing that keeps them competitive and seen as threat. They say an army with nothing to lose is the most dangerous. I believe the same can be said about a desperate soccer team being the most lethal during their conquests in a tournament.

  22. Armin Ameri

    The essay titled “Pagan Sacrifices” (p.163-165) in part addressed the impact of colonialism on modern soccer politics while also discussing the tribalism of soccer at large. Galeano outlines how soccer fanaticism can draw from far more than just a love of the game; fanatics from England, whom Galeano describes as dressed in tattoos, smelling of alcohol, and wearing brass knuckles, would often use nationalist language when supporting their teams. This language often contained the remnants of imperial slogans, phrases like “Rule Britannia”. Galeano calls these phrases “rancors from the lost Empire”, thereby demonstrating his disdain for these hooligans. These fans more than dislike their opponents; they view them as racially inferior.

    While this essay doesn’t discuss imperialism throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, it touches on the modern politics of nationalism and the lasting legacy of imperial rule. Galeano mentions how soccer can be used as a cover for nationalist agendas, as Nazis and nationalist groups use the sport to mask their anti-immigrant agendas. Galeano writes, “under the pretext of soccer, Italian ‘naziskins’ whistle at black players and call the enemy fans ‘Jews’. ‘Ebrei!’ they shout.” We can see the same dynamics in modern day soccer, as some French fans renounce their own players, as they see them not as French but rather as African. Soccer highlights the relationship between modern nationalism and the history of imperialism, and Galeano uses the sport to demonstrate how the politics and soccer cannot be separated.

  23. Julia C

    In the sketch titled “The Second Discovery of America”, Galeano compares the emergence of Uruguayan soccer to the initial the European discovery of the Americas. This reference back to imperialistic ventures draws a connection between the two rapid changes in relationships between European and American countries. During the era of imperialism, European countries quickly transitioned from ignorance, in their lack of knowledge about the existence of the Americas, to fascination; countries poured large sums of money into exploring the foreign land and exploiting its bounties for their own betterment. Similarly, in the realm of soccer, the victory of the Uruguayan national team at the 1924 Olympic Games put their small country on the map and this emergence attracted mounds of European attention. Galeano employs a simile in order to describe the popularity of this newly discovered team: “crowds lined up to see those men, slippery like squirrels, who played chess with the ball.” Unlike the European style already known to these fans, the Uruguayan teams presented a faster game with more touches and shorter passes that revolutionized soccer.

  24. Patrick Donley

    In “The English Invasions,” Galeano describes the initial spread of soccer from England to the rest of the world. Galeano describes soccer as an “export” just like the “blankets, boots and flour” that the English were exporting to these same countries. He uses a simile to explain that soccer is “as typically British as Machester cloth, railroads, loans from Barings, or the doctrine of free trade.” Galeano uses this simile to demonstrate that soccer began as a very British tradition, which is ironic because we know that it quickly became adopted all over the world and that the English quickly fell behind many other nations, including the South American nations that they had just colonized and introduced to the game. Later, in “The Second Discovery of America,” Galeano tells of the early dominance of Uruguay over European soccer teams, despite being introduced to the game by British colonists less than 40 years before. Galeano, a native Uruguayan, seems to really enjoy describing the dominance of this Uruguayan team over the Europeans calling them “slippery like squirrels” and using the metaphor of the players “playing chess with the ball” to demonstrate their mastery of the game.

    One of the reasons that soccer has been able to become so universally popular is that it was adopted and mastered in all different parts of the world, thanks to the vastness of the British Empire. Additionally, the fact that soccer can be played with nothing more than a ball allows it to be a sport that anyone can master, making it possible for a small country passionate about soccer to reinvent the game and dominate the country that introduced it to them as a game for royalty. Because of the universal appeal of soccer, it provides a useful lens for analyzing the politics of imperialism. Soccer teams from all over the world have committed to the sport, raised brilliant young players and risen up against their imperialists or former imperialists. Whether the Uruguayans dominating the Europeans in the 1920s, or the Algerian team competing with France in 2001, soccer teams have long served as a symbol of defiance or independence and always as a source of national pride. The ubiquity of soccer and its level of importance to so many people globally have allowed it to serve a politically important role in many conflicts throughout history.


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