A lyrical exploration of the global game of soccer.
In the most prosaic sense, Villoro is a Mexican journalist and professor of literature. But when he writes about soccer, these job titles are insufficient. When tackling the beautiful game, the author is a poet and a critic, a philosopher and a historian, a keen observer and a devoted fan. This book collects a wide range of his writings on soccer, previously available only in Spanish. “It would not exist if it weren’t for the on-pitch wizards,” writes the author, “but just as crucial were the masters who convinced me of a certain axiom: reality gets better in the writing of it.” Most of the chapters consist of little more than loosely connected vignettes, sketches, and thoughts, sometimes of only a couple of pages. Whether he is producing a “diatribe” aimed at Portugal and Real Madrid narcissist Cristiano Ronaldo or a celebration of Argentina and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi; trying to understand the egomaniacal enigma who is Diego Maradona; or listing his favorite players who wore No. 10 jerseys, Villoro brings some memorable line, some delightful turn of phrase, some inescapable image to every page. Readers will be reminded of a similar stylist, Eduardo Galeano, whose Soccer in Sun and Shadow has always represented the literary apogee of writing about soccer. A word of credit belongs to Villoro’s translator (and respected writer himself) Bunstead, who ensures that Villoro’s finely wrought work makes the poetic transition from Spanish to English. There are occasional moments of repetition, especially when the author revisits a subject he has addressed earlier, but with writing like this, few readers will resent this most minor sin.
For millions around the world, soccer is not just a game, but rather life itself and, as Villoro ably reveals, very much worth pursuing to the final whistle.