10 December 2022

"Soccer is popular because stupidity is popular"

"In Argentina, as in many soccer-mad countries with deep social divides, gang violence is a routine part of futbol, part of what Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges termed a horrible “idea of supremacy.” Borges found it impossible to separate the fan culture from the game itself, once declaring, “soccer is popular because stupidity is popular.” As Shaj Mathew writes in The New Republic, the author associated the mass mania of soccer fandom with the mass fervor of fascism or dogmatic nationalism. “Nationalism,” he wrote, “only allows for affirmations, and every doctrine that discards doubt, negation, is a form of fanaticism and stupidity.” As Mathews points out, national soccer teams and stars do often become the tools of authoritarian regimes that “take advantage of the bond that fans share with their national teams to drum up popular support [….] This is what Borges feared—and resented—about the sport.”

There is certainly a sense in which Borges’ hatred of soccer is also indicative of his well-known cultural elitism (despite his romanticizing of lower-class gaucho life and the once-demimonde tango). Outside of the hugely expensive World Cup, the class dynamics of soccer fandom in most every country but the U.S. are fairly uncomplicated. New Republic editor Foer summed it up succinctly in How Soccer Explains the World: “In every other part of the world, soccer’s sociology varies little: it is the province of the working class.” (The inversion of this soccer class divide in the U.S., Foer writes, explains Americans’ disdain for the game in general and for elitist soccer dilettantes in particular, though those attitudes are rapidly changing). If Borges had been a North, rather than South, American, I imagine he would have had similar things to say about the NFL, NBA, NHL, or NASCAR."
More at Open Culture, including a link to a story written by Borges on this subject.


  1. Bread and circuses?

  2. American football functions similarly here. Just look at Herschel Walker: underqualified to work as a greeter at Walmart let alone as a senator, yet voted for by millions despite being no more than a football player who has taken too many shots to the head.

  3. Unfortunately (or not)- I think Mr. Walker's current state of mind has probably been all too consistent throughout his lifetime, whether or not "too many shots to the head" have, in fact, become an issue. At least Mr. Fetterman has a chance at full recovery.

  4. Humans are tribal by nature, always have been, and always will be. Thus, nationalism, religion, and sports; all of these are 'tribes' that pit Us against Them. The good thing about sport, at least, is that (in theory), when one side beats the other, Us and Them all go out for a round of beers together and can be friends until the next match.


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