the everyday epic, the contemporary epic

“Heaven is beating Real Madrid and hell is losing against Barbastro. Being from Barça, we have both wingers insured”. Manuel Vazquez Montalban

the everyday epic, the contemporary epic

“Heaven is beating Real Madrid and hell is losing against Barbastro. Being from Barça, we have both wingers insured”.

Manuel Vazquez Montalban (1939-2003)

If one thinks about it a little, the distance between the football and the art it seems that it should be quantified in light years. If one thinks about it a bit, artistic expressions and this sport have not stopped intermingling. Even since football was not football and was called episkyros in Ancient Greece and Roman legionnaires practiced the harpastum in Britain in the 1st century; In the 14th century, Edward III of England prohibited Carnival football for being violent, and the Florentines played calcium in Piazza Santa Croce in the 16th century. Without forgetting the Mesoamerican ball game, which apparently served to resolve disputes. It is a pity that it is not accredited that pre-Columbian soccer players used a human head as a ball.

Soccer, in what it has of war by other means -and in what it has of epic-, has not ceased to be an artistic matter. If Homer, or whoever it was who created the Iliad and the Odysseyhad Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Paris, Odysseus, Aeneas, Ajax and Menelaus, this sport has had its own heroes: Maradona, Pelé, Messi, Cruyff, Di Stéfano, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane, Ronaldo, Garrincha, Puskas, Iniesta… are the protagonists of this contemporary epic, in which there is no lack of tragic defeats or glorious triumphs, great battles or superhuman feats.

The transcendental The match between CD Tenerife and Girona FC for promotion to the First Division is an opportune reason [hay más] to approach this curious relationship between football and culture, in which games of the century take place five or six times a year and the deedsas well as the humiliating failuresthey are no longer even produced only on Sundays, because there is nothing that a good subscription to a digital content platform does not solve.

The poet Rafael Alberti wrote the ‘Ode to Platko’ in 1928, impressed by a performance by the Hungarian goalkeeper of FC Barcelona


Albert Camus (1913-1960), that schoolyard striker, who became a schoolyard goalkeeper and later a writer and philosopher, among other things and pursuits, said: “I soon learned that the ball does not always come from where it is expected . That helped me a lot in life, especially in big cities, where people are not always straight”. The Frenchman also said: “There is no place in the world where a man can feel happier than in a football stadium.”

The Andalusian poet Rafael Alberti (1902-1999) published in 1928 his Ode to Platko -Ferenc, Franz or Francisco was his name-, impressed by the performance of the Hungarian goalkeeper of FC Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey that year, against Real Sociedad. The goalkeeper prevented a goal from the San Sebastian team by diving at the striker’s feet, but he did not prevent the kick to his head that Cholín -that was his name- had intended for the ball. Platko had six stitches put in and he returned to the field.

Official poster of the Spain 82 World Cup, which reproduces a work by the artist Joan Miró. / GIVES


There is a good handful of films that, with greater or lesser success, explicitly or tangentially, allude to football. From John Huston, who brought Pelé, Osvaldo Ardiles and Bobby Moore together on a pitch with Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine in Escape or victory (1981) -although he didn’t wear shorts, Max von Sydow did play a German officer- to I want to be like Beckham (2002), going through Start over (José Luis Garci, 1982), the first Oscar for best foreign film that Spain received, or It was the hand of God (Paolo Sorrentino, 2021). Precisely D10sthat is, Diego Armando Maradona, in case someone still does not know at this point in the game, represents like few others the role of tragic hero in soccer mythology.

John Huston joined Pelé, Ardiles and Moore with Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow in ‘Escape or Victory’

The filmmaker and writer Gonzalo Suárez is the stepson of Helenio Herrera, the magician, who stated that football was played better with 10 players than with 11. Suárez came to act as a scout for the Argentine coach. His link with sport is manifested, for example, in the novel eleven and one (1964) and also in the movie The goalkeeper (2000).

Continuing with the literature, it should be remembered that Jorge Valdano, an Argentine soccer player and coach, once compiled soccer stories (1995), which was followed football tales 2 (1998), with stories by authors such as Bernardo Atxaga, Mario Benedetti, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, Miguel Delibes, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Roberto Fontanarrosa, Eduardo Galeano, Juan García Hortelano, Javier Marías, Rosa Regàs, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Manuel Rivas, Augusto Roa Bastos, José Luis Sampedro, Manuel Vicent, Juan Villoro, Antonio Skármeta and Soledad Puértolas.

Mechanic Josef Bloch, who had previously been a famous soccer goalkeeper, was told on his way to work in the morning that he was fired.. This is how Peter Handke begins his novel The goalkeeper’s fear of the penalty. An apparently innocuous phrase, but one that, for no known reason, reminds one of that morning when Gregorio Samsa woke up turned into a monstrous insect, according to Kafka.

If ‘the goal of the century’ that Maradona scored against England in Mexico 86 is not art, let Nijinsky download and see it

In 1982, Spain hosted its first – and so far only – World Cup. The official poster reproduces a work by Joan Miró, to which are added those destined to announce each of the venues of the competition that Italy finally won. These plates are signed by artists such as Chillida, Tàpies, Kolar, Bury, Topor, Eduardo Arroyo, Jacques Monory or Alechinsky.


But if art feeds on football much more than it seems, this sport by itself is also art. On June 22, 1986, at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Argentina and England played the quarterfinals of the World Soccer Championship (2-1). In less than five minutes, Maradona scored two goals that have gone down in history: the hand of God and the goal of the century, in which, starting from his own field, he dribbled past five players in an unusual choreography. If that’s not art, let Nijinsky come down and see it.