Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

“I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer.”

Originally published in 1995, Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow is, at its core, a love letter to the game. There are a lot of books that tell the history of the sport, from its roots to the modern day; this is one of them. But, unlike most others, this tells why that history matters. Soccer in Sun and Shadow conveys the joy of the game in its prose. In short, it is poetry.

There is no overarching narrative, nor are there long chapters in this book. Galeano lays out the story of soccer in short bursts; he’ll write a paragraph about a goal, two or three pages about a World Cup, and then move on. But in these short bursts is seemingly endless passion for the game. Galeano can’t help, even given an obvious distaste for the commercialization of the modern game, but to write about soccer in romantic terms. The ball is always “her,” and isn’t “kicked” but rather “caressed” and “kissed” on her way to the net.

“Sometimes soccer is a pleasure that hurts,” he writes. Above all, Galeano writes not as an impartial historian, but as a fan of the game, a beggar for good soccer. There is a childlike joy in these pages, and I imagine that when I find myself disillusioned, I will pick this book up and remind myself why I—and so many others—love it so much.

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