Categories
Sports

Galeano on Di Stefano

The entire playing field fit inside his shoes. From his feet it sprouted and grew. Alfredo Di Stefano ran and re-ran the field from net to net. He would change flanks and rhythm with the ball, from a lazy trot to an unstoppable cyclone; without the ball he’d evade his marker to gain open space, seeking air whenever a play would get choked off.

He never stood still. Holding his head high, he could see the entire playing field and cross it at a gallop to pry open the defense and launch the attack. He was there at the beginning, the during and the end of every scoring play, and he scored goals of all colors:

Watch out, watch out,

here comes the arrow

faster than all get out.

The crowd would carry him off on their shoulders.

Di Stefano was the engine behind three teams that amazed the world in the forties: River Plate, where he took Pedernera’s place; Millonarios from Bogota, where he sparkled alongside Pedernera; and Real Madrid, where he was Spain’s leading scorer for five years in a row. In 1991, years after he retired, the magazine France Football bestowed on this Buenos Aires boy the title of “best European player of all time.”

Categories
Blog Books Tweets

On Story Telling

Got this gem from Natasha Badhwar, who is a gifted story teller herself, on Twitter (follow her now). The quotes below are from Steve McCurry‘s (of the iconic Afghan Girl photo fame) wonderful blog.

The story was the bushman’s most sacred possession. These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization. Without a story of your own, you haven’t got a life of your own. — Laurens Van der Post

People did not wait until there was writing before they told stories and sang songs. — Albert Bates Lord

To be a person is to have a story to tell. — Isak Dinesen

Reminded me of a chapter from the wonderful book, “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” by Eduardo Galeano.

Have you ever entered an empty stadium? Try it. Stand in the middle of the field and listen. There is nothing less empty than an empty stadium. There is nothing less mute than stands bereft of people.

At Wembley, shouts from the ’66 World Cup which England won still resound, and if you listen very closely you can hear groans from 1953 when England fell to the Hungarians. Montevideo’s Centenario Stadium sighs with nostalgia for the glory days of Uruguayan football. Maracana is still crying over Brazil’s 1950 World Cup defeat.

At Bombonera in Buenos Aires, drums boom from half a century ago. From the depths of Azteca Stadium, you can hear the ceremonial chants of the ancient Mexican ball game. The concrete terraces of the Nou Camp in Barcelona speak Catalan, and the stands of San Mames in Bilbao talk in Euskera.

In Milan, the ghost of Giuseppe Meazza scores goals that shake the stadium bearing his name. The final of the ’74 World Cup, won by Germany, is played day after day and night after night at Munich’s Olympic Stadium.

The stadium of King Fahd in Saudi Arabia has marble and gold boxes and carpeted stands, but it has no memory or much of anything to say.

Categories
Books Review Sports

Soccer in Sun and Shadow: Mini Review

You can’t write enough about a book that begins with, “We lost, we won, Either way we had fun.

In the book, Eduardo Galeano takes you through a brief history of football (soccer to him) through the last century, inter woven with a lot of social commentary. You get goosebumps reading his description of certain goals, matches, and individuals. Though not as intricate in social details as CLR James in Beyond the Boundary, you can clearly see the viewpoint of a South American in a game that was then managed by the Europeans.

To choose a few highlights from the book would be a travesty, given that every short note (the maximum length of a chapter is three pages) is a masterpiece in itself. You would have read authors describe players, plays, matches, or rivalries, but have you ever read an ode to the stadium? Read what Galeano has to say of it when a goal is scored.

“… the stadium forgets that its made of concrete and breaks free from the earth and flies through the air.

There is nothing more mute than the stands bereft of people.

At Wembley, shouts from the ’66 World Cup which England won still resound, and if you listen very closely you can hear groans from 1953 when England fell to the Hungarians. …… The Stadium of King Fahad in Saudi Arabia has marble and gold boxes and carpeted stands, bit it has no memory or much of anything to say.”

Or what he says of idols.

“Sometimes the idol doesn’t fall all at once. And sometimes when he breaks, people devour the pieces.”

And of course, he writes the most (for a player) about Maradona, who he felt has not been fully understood and punished too often for speaking out his mind.

“Maradona charged a high price, and paid one as well. He charged for his legs – and paid with his soul.

Diego Armando Maradona never used stimulants before matches to stretch the limits of his body. It was true he was into cocaine, but only at sad parties where he wanted to forget or be forgotten because he was cornered by glory and couldn’t live without the fame that wouldn’t allow him to live. He played better than anyone else in spite of cocaine, not because of it.”

If there is only one soccer book you will ever read, let this one be it!