Few, if any, have made the beautiful game read with as fitting a splendor as Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer who died Monday at age 75.
Known for his left-wing politics, Galeano’s writing on soccer was a pleasure for either side of a political debate.
Despite his beliefs, he rallied against leftist writers who criticized soccer as being an opiate for the unprivileged.
His book, “Soccer in Sun and Shadow”, is among my favorites on the sport. Deadspin has posted some selections, and we’ll snare a few to give the unfamiliar a taste (and the familiar a reminder).
This scrawny live wire earned a spot on the Ajax roster when he was only a child: while his mother waited tables at the club bar, he collected balls that went off the field, shined the players’ shoes, and placed the flags in the corners. He did everything they asked of him and nothing they ordered him to do. He wanted to play and they would not let him because his body was too weak and his will too strong. When they finally gave him a chance, he took it and never let it go. Still a boy, he made his debut, played stupendously, scored a goal, and knocked out the referee with one punch.
From that night on he kept up his reputation for being tempestuous, hardworking, and talented. Over two decades he won twenty-two championships in the Netherlands and Spain. He retired when he was thirty-seven; after scoring his final goal, the crowd carried him on its shoulders from the stadium to his house.
We’d recommend the book to any soccer fan, and can only imagine how much better it reads to someone in Galeano’s native tongue.
We can only hope someone goaded him into writing his own obituary, since it’s hard to believe anyone would do him justice.