This weekend, radical footballers gather in Oakland for Copa Communidad VII 2014. Guest writer Vivian Huang admits that she is not a sports fan, but loves to simply play and in this piece, reflects on the revolutionary possibility of soccer:
It’s fitting that I would be blogging on this site, as I was often picked almost-last in elementary school PE. This practice – the process where the team captains take turns picking teammates – created an understanding early on about who was athletic and therefore, popular and on top of the social hierarchy. As a kid, I didn’t like team sports – they all seemed to involve a lot of putting down your opponents, stressful fighting among teammates, and people yelling at me when I made a mistake. I remember being part of a lot of soccer games in elementary school PE, and when I say “being part of” I mean hanging out in the back area near the goal, talking to the other outcasts, and making grass flower bracelets, all the while wishing that I could be somewhere else, reading a good book.
Well, years later, I did go and read a good book, one that transformed the way I thought about soccer. Eduardo Galeano’s “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” is an homage to the beauty, grit, and inspiration of the play of soccer. The beginning dedication reads,
“The pages that follow are dedicated to the children who, once upon a time, years ago, crossed my path on the Calella de la Costa. They had been playing soccer and were singing: We lost, we won, either way we had fun.”
The ending chapter offers up this wisdom, “A reporter once asked the German theologian Dorothee Solee: ‘How would you explain to a child what happiness is?’ ‘I wouldn’t explain it,’ she answered. ‘I’d toss him a ball and let him play.’
I’ve been fortunate to discover belatedly the joy that comes from playing with a ball as I kick it with Left Wing Futbol Club, a group of anti-imperialists who play with the motto “If you want to change the world, you have to change the way you play.”
It is a space where everybody plays according to their ability, nobody keeps score, and the love of the game and your fellow community members is the only thing that matters. I’m there to experience that joy from running with the wind, playing with the ball, laughing at the ridiculously bad (and good) moves, and momentarily forgetting the heartbreaks of the world.
I was inspired by the protests in Brazil, as millions turned out to protest the injustice of capitalism having turned kicking a ball into a multi-billion dollar sports industry while so many are without basic education and social services. Galeano writes,
“Brazilians, who are the most soccer-mad of all, have decided not to allow their sport to be used any more as an excuse for humiliating the many and enriching the few. The fiesta of soccer, a feast for the legs that play and the eyes that watch, is much more than a big business run by overlords from Switzerland. The most popular sport in the world wants to serve the people who embrace it. That is a fire police violence will never put out.”
If transforming our system has to start from transformation within, then playing soccer for fun, for community, and for joy can be a revolutionary act in of itself. Soccer should serve the people. Let’s play!