June 19, 2018
We put together an anthology of soccer writing for World Cup season
by Michael Barron
It seems nuts to me that, at the same time America is separating immigrant families, keeping kids in custody while kicking their parents back across the Mexican border (or hauling them by plane to Central America), an agreement passed for the two countries, along with Canada, to jointly host the 2026 World Cup. At least Mexico, who beat Germany, the incumbent World Cup champs, this past weekend, has a good chance to give America a whoopin’ on its own pitches.
Or maybe by then America will have voted into office more humane leaders who aren’t seeking such aggressive isolationism. I dearly hope for that, and while we’re dreaming, I would also like to hope that US team might not be so bad by then. In order for that to happen, we’d need to be more internationally engaged in the sport, even more internationally engaged in sports in general (I’m looking at you, World Series).
I get it. The World Cup comes but once in four years — how many of us really follow the CONCACAF and COPA Americas tournaments, the most important soccer tournaments in the Western Hemisphere, even when the US has hosted them (as we have done on several occasions)? Fact is, past middle school and beyond the moms in minivans, Americans just don’t care about soccer.
In other parts of the world, soccer (or football, or futbol) isn’t just devoutly followed by fans —it has its own literary genre enriched by many premier writers, contributing essays, cronicas, even fiction. Writers including Günter Grass, Javier Marías, Karl Ove Knausgård, Martin Amis, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Melville House alums Alejandro Zambra and David Peace. If you haven’t read Peace’s epic soccer novel Red or Dead, do it. It’s a masterpiece of sports literature that we are proud to keep in print.
Are you missing out? Yes. Can we help? Possibly.
Below you’ll find soccer pieces by writers from ten of the thirty-two participating nations. It may be incomplete, but take a dip. You’ll thank us later.
England: David Peace
Nigeria: Helon Habila
Belgium: Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Spain: Javier Marías
Peru: Mario Vargas Llosa
Russia: Anatoly Kusnetsov
Sweden: Frederick Ekelund
Brazil: Daniel Galera
Mexico: Juan Villoro
Germany: Günter Grass
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.