Authors and their love affair with soccer
By Alex Chams
A month-long season of soccer is about to begin in the form of the Euro 2016 which this year will take place in France. It also means that bookshop windows are filling up with books on the subject. Books on soccer, or football as it is called in Europe, are not just about the strategy of the game, histories of previous World Cups or children's tales. Nobel prize-winning literary novelists and philosophers have spoken and written on the subject such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Julian Barnes, Salman Rushdie, Eduardo Galeano and Nick Hornby. Camus, for example, was a goalkeeper for the university soccer club in Algeria in 1929, the Racing Universitaire Algérois (RUA). He did not continue professionally because he contracted tuberculosis, but later, with money earned from winning the Nobel Prize for literature, he bought a property in the south of France where he often spent Sunday afternoons watching children training or playing matches against neighboring villages. He famously said “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football (soccer).”
The French philosopher Jacques Derrida had wanted to become a professional soccer player but had to give it up when he realized he wasn't good enough.
More recently, a compilation of award-winning essays by Mexican author Juan Villoro have been translated and united in a single volume, entitled God is Round just published by Restless Books in the US. Villoro said that he found the idea of publishing a book in the US about soccer quite astonishing, implying that he was delighted. His British translator Thomas Bunstead said that Villoro's writing was very literary, and that on top of it a certain literacy was required for the football idiom, so the fact that he is a literary translator as well as a soccer fan worked out well.
Sports journalists are often brilliant writers, and online arts and lifestyle magazine Paste helpfully created a list of contemporary writers who report on soccer, including Nick Hornby, who of course doesn't just write about soccer.
Finally, in keeping with the tradition of writers and sports, the Goethe Institut-Paris and the Association for Athletic authors has organized a friendly soccer match the day before the Euro 2016 kick-off between French and German authors.