Friday, 16 July 2010

Ultimate football book

Received this morning, nicely inscribed by good friend and contributor, Edward Winters, a substantial 408 page book titled Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game, edited by Ted Richards. It has David Beckham (looking a little, I dare say, like Joe Cole) playing keepy-uppy with his head on the front and chapters headed:

Nietzsche's Arsenal
Can Robots Play Soccer?
The Hand of God and Other Soccer...Miracles
What's Wrong with Negative Soccer?
He Had to Bring Him Down
Why Playing Beautifully Is Morally Better
Is It Rational To Support Aston Villa
Kierkegaard at the Penalty Spot
The Loneliness of the Referee
The Player Prophet and the Phenomenology of Reading the Ref
and Ed's own: How to Appreciate the Fingertip Save

All this among others no doubt equally as wonderful. I look forward to reading Hungary's Revolutionary Golden Team. Pretty old gold by now, alas.

Now tell me football is not serious! Mind you Arsenal were more a Bentham kind of team in the years before Wenger. Can robots play soccer? Peter Crouch does.

All we need now is The Philosophy of the Terraces: a Grimsby Town Reader.


Gwil W said...

Anything in the book about Blackurn Rovers, founded 1875, ground Ewood Park, Hon.Pres. Mrs M Thatcher, team colours blue & white halves ...?

Come on yew blooo-oooz ...

or PNE come to that. That was your first experience wasn't it George? I remember a poem you wrote. You went with your dad. Tom Finney, the plumber. No there wasn't much money in soccer then. No Ferrari on the players car park. Warmed up pie at half time. Toilets, a wall painted balck in a fly infested blackcorner.

Just call me sentimental, George.

Gwil W said...

I don't mean to say your dad was Tom Finney. :)

George S said...

I don't mean to say your dad was Tom Finney. :)

No, but he was a plumber's mate just before and after the war (when he wasn't in forced labour). And he worked his entire life in England for a plumbing, heating, ventilating company.

So he was almost Tom Finney.

dana said...

happy weekend!

George S said...

It only begins with whining, Dana. There is also:

screaming till you're blue in the face,
feigning death
immediate and miraculous resurrection

and the old famous one which you won't know but which is as redolence for fans of my age as Madeleines were for Proust:

Norm bites yer legs!

That is what makes it the glorious game it is. That and Gwilym's Blackburn Rovers who went roving some time ago and are still out there somewhere.

George S said...


puthwuth said...

And what exactly did Nietzsche have to say about Arsenal then? 'One nil to the Triumph of the Will'?!

George S said...

I haven't read that chapter yet, Puthwuth, but will now do so as a matter of urgency, because a question like that requires an answer. I can tell you that it begins with the Death of God, and that its subheadings are:

Dionysus and the Team
Soccer as an Aesthetic Phenomenon
Club v. Country
From Boring to Scoring
Young Guns
Loathed Like the Antichrist [this promises well!]
Oh to Be a Gooner

I wonder why there isn't a Thus Spake Wenger?

I will report back. The book is available in eBook form I understand and Amazon has a Look Inside feature which gives the opening chapter but not, alas, the chapter regarding which you enquire. But with a little personal triumph of the will I'll do my übermensch best to provide a succinct summary.

Gwil W said...

yes, George, they're out there - , Dalglish, Flowers, LeSaux, Newell, Hendry, Ripley, Wilcox, Warhurst, Batty, Sherwood, Shearer, Sutton,(and all UK born and bred) yes,George, they're out there but sadly no longer a-roving ... as the old song has it. And the Premier Championship year song: "You're simply the best, better than all the rest..."* yes, I can almost hear it now, and then all eyes to the tunnel, and then the Ewood roar.
Oh, George it's so sad today - all those legionaires. Hardly the same is it?

*Go on George, be merciful. Put it up on Sunday for me. Bitte!

George S said...

*Go on George, be merciful. Put it up on Sunday for me. Bitte!

Wish granted. How could I be so heartless as to refuse? Is that Tina Turner version, or as heard in the stadium at Ewood Park? (Please, please don't say the latter.)

George S said...

I am a man of my word Puthwuth and, having read the chapter, I consider it flawed. One-nil to the Arsenal doesn't come into it, of course: it's not George Graham's Arsenal he is talking about. It's all Wenger. Here follows the Argument:

Once God is declared dead, Nietzsche asks: What sacred games shall we have to invent". This takes the author, naturally, to football.

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche posits the Apollonian as the individuating principle and the Dionysian as the principle of primordial unity. Perfect unison of individual brilliance and team-work being claimed here.

In his essay 'Homer's Contest' FN claims that "it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified". The beautiful game. You see where this is taking us?

The late FN, as in The Gay Science, was anti-nationalist, so, it is argued, he would go for club over country. But then which club? The author considers the claims of the cities where FN lived. FC Basel? Olypique Nice? Juventus (Turin)? He thinks about Juventus for a moment, then turns to Manchester United but reckons that United's iconography is "too closely related to the symbolism of Christianity. (We do remember, though he doesn't mention it, that painting of Cantona as the risen Christ?) Barcelona are too much associated with Catalan nationalism. Ergo, there can only be one team left. Yes -The Arse!

He proceeds to parallel FN's concern for the body (in Twilight of the Idols) with Wenger's new approach to diet and how this transformed the club from 'boring' to 'scoring', and then has - to my mind - the extraordinary gall to claim that present Arse are better at total football now than the Dutch were in their heyday, for while Ajax won the European Cup three times in a row, the Dutch national team won nothing. Spotted the flaw in that one?

He thumps the aesthetic barrel again and cites Platini and Blatter to show that Arsenal were loathed both when boring and when scoring, in this case because of their youth policy of bringing in very young players from abroad (Fabregas at 15). Rumenigge accuses Wenger of 'child trafficking' This is tied to FN via Zarathustra, "I now only love my children's land". (The argument is getting pretty thin here, almost fraying.)

We end with Arsenal as the überteam that embodies the triumph of the will: "Arsenal, then, based upon this club philosophy, most adhere to Nietzschean principles"

I think he does mention somewhere that Nitezsche went mad.

Thank you. That will be 50 pence.

Gwil W said...

Thanks a million George.

Like TT and BRFC "you're simply the best!"

puthwuth said...

Many thanks for that. Though now I hardly need read it myself.

George S said...

Then 'tis like the breath of an unfeed lawyer- you gave me nothing for't, Puthwuth.

Though there are another thirty chapters of course.

Gwil W said...

The football season kicked-off yesterday in Austria. In the Bundesliga the match between Wiener Neustadt and LASK ended 5-0 for the home team. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think. The remarkable thing was that 4 of the home team's goals were from penalties. And all this during the first 40 minutes. Oh yes, the away team had 2 players sent off. There was fan trouble, as you'd probably expect, both during and after the match. The police "dealt with" it. Referee obviously lost the plot. Thank goodness England's football referee's are not at this level.