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!