Football in Sun and Shadow: An Emotional History of World Cup Football

From this classic work:

How is football like God? Each inspires devotion among believers and distrust among intellectuals.
In 1902 in London, Rudyard Kipling made fun of football and those who contented their souls with ‘the muddied oafs at the goals’. Three-quarters of a century later in Buenos Aires, Jorge Luis Borges was more subtle: he gave a lecture on the subject of immortality on the same day and at the same hour that Argentina was playing its first match in the 1978 World Cup.
The scorn of many conservative intellectuals comes from their conviction that football worship is precisely the superstition people deserve. Possessed by the ball, working stiffs think with their feet, which is entirely appropriate, and fulfil their dreams in primitive ecstasy. Animal instinct overtakes human reason, ignorance crushes culture and the riff-raff get what they want.
In contrast, many leftist intellectuals denigrate football because it castrates the masses and derails their revolutionary ardour. Bread and circus, circus without the bread: hypnotized by the ball, which exercises a perverse fascination, workers forget who they are and let themselves be led about like sheep by their class enemies.
In the River Plate, once the English and the rich lost possession of the sport, the first popular clubs were organized in railroad workshops and shipyards. Several anarchist and socialist leaders soon denounced the clubs as a manoeuvre by the bourgeoisie to forestall strikes and disguise class divisions. The spread of football across the world was an imperialist trick to keep oppressed peoples trapped in an eternal childhood.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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