4:13pm

Fri June 6, 2014
This Week's Must Read

Like A Smitten Teenager, In Love With The Beautiful Game

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 7:29 pm

Soccer in Sun and Shadow is the most lyrical sports book ever written. Perhaps this is also because its writer is one of the most lyrical authors in any language: Eduardo Galeano.

Galeano's rhythmic prose as poetry is often used in the service of explaining the injustices faced by Latin America. He's written about despots, dictators and revolutions. Here, Galeano puts his unmatched gifts toward the sport he clearly still loves with the ardor of a smitten teenager.

Galeano, in just about 300 pages, attempts nothing less than an exposition of the entire cultural history of soccer. No chapter is more than a few pages; some merit only a paragraph. Yet all are evocative, with words woven to create a mood as thrilling as watching the World Cup in a packed pub.

In soccer, Galeano finds both a reflection and extension of everything he loves and finds maddening about the part of the world that has been the central focus of his writing for decades. In describing the murder of a Colombian player, he observes: "As in all of Latin America, injustice and humiliation poison people's souls."

The most joyous parts of the book are when Galeano forgoes politics for a moment and describes the players who over the course of time have captured his imagination.

He writes, "I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: 'A pretty move, for the love of God.' And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it."

Dave Zirin is the author of Brazil's Dance With the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The World Cup starts next week in Brazil. The airwaves are already full of stories about the soccer tournament, and it's the inspiration for this week's Must Read, in which authors recommend books that relate to the news. Today, Dave Zirin tells us about a writer with a passion for soccer and for Latin America.

DAVE ZIRIN, BYLINE: In all of sports literature, one book stands out. "Soccer In Sun And Shadow" is the most lyrical sports book ever written. This should not be surprising. It's by one of the most transcendent authors in any language. Eduardo Galeano writes in rhythmic prose that's almost poetry. He has covered despots, dictators and revolution. Here, he puts his abilities toward the sport he clearly still loves like a smitten teenager.

Galeano is attempting nothing less than an exposition of the entire cultural history of soccer. He describes how the goalie is alone, condemned to watch the game from afar. He awaits his own execution by firing squad. He takes us back to the start of the sport in ancient China and the balls of straw used by the Egyptians.

Galeano has been writing about Latin America for decades. He loves this part of the world, and he finds it maddening. In soccer, this is reflected and extended. Talking about a person who murdered a Colombian player, he writes, (reading) as in all of Latin America, injustice and humiliation poison people's souls.

The most joyous parts of the book are when Galeano forgoes politics and describes the players who have captured his imagination. He writes, (reading) I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums, I plead a pretty move for the love of God. And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle, and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it.

SIEGEL: The book is Eduardo Galeano's " Soccer In Sun And Shadow." It was recommended by Dave Zirin. His latest book is "Brazil's Dance With The Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, And The Fight For Democracy." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.