Football according to Pier Paolo Pasolini

The passion that the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini felt for sport – and especially for football – is understood in depth by reading the book about the sport, from the Spanish publisher Contra. It brings together texts written between 1957 and 1971, published in various media. They are about soccer, boxing and cycling, but also about the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. An interview published days after his murder, which occurred on November 2, 1975 “between the beach of Ostia… and a soccer field”, as it reads.

Pasolini, who is commemorated one hundred years after his birth (Bologna, March 5, 1922), played soccer frequently. But he also liked to watch the matches of his beloved Bologna and boxing matches and bicycle races.

He admired Omar Sívori, a member of Juventus, Napoli and the Italian National Team. “I would advise you not to lose sight of Sívori,” he wrote in one of his texts. But his gaze goes beyond the field of play: “As is known, soccer players are flawed: for a few years of their youth, they are stars like no other star.”

He also refers to sports journalism: “Literature, as everyone knows, is a jargon, a code. Thus, it is practiced by an elite, even though this elite is expanding today. Now, I don’t see an opposition between literary language and sports language, because sports language is a subcode of the literary code. But sports language is not the language of sports journalists.”

And he adds about football: “It is the last sacred representation of our time. Basically it is a ritual, although it is also an escape. While other sacred representations, even the mass, are in decline, football is the only one left to us. Football is the spectacle that has replaced the theater. The cinema has not been able to replace the theater, but football has. Because theater is a relationship between, on the one hand, a flesh and blood audience and, on the other hand, flesh and blood characters who act on stage. While cinema is a relationship between a flesh and blood audience and a screen, some shadows. Soccer, on the other hand, is once again a spectacle in which the real world, of flesh, in the stands of the stadium, is measured with the real protagonists, the athletes on the field, who move and behave according to a precise ritual. That is why I consider that football is the only great rite that remains in our time”.

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Filmmaker and writer, the Italian refers that “in football there are moments that are exclusively poetic: they are the moments of the goal. Each goal is an invention, it is always a subversion of the code, each goal has an ineluctable character, it is lightning, stupor, irreversibility. Like the same poetic word. The top scorer in the league is always the best poet of the year”.

“I like to play football, and that is why there is always someone who calls me. I’m just going to play. For me, art is a game, as well as, in a way, the game is art, ”he says before explaining that one of his greatest pleasures was getting together to play with friends. And he remembers as the most beautiful afternoons of his life those in which he played football for six or seven hours in a row in the Prados de Caprara.

He praises Brazilian football (let’s take into account the context: times of Garrincha, Pelé, etc.): “a poetic football: it is totally based on dribbling and scoring.” The context can be applied in another of his phrases, unfortunate yesterday and today: “That women play soccer is an unpleasant mimicry that is somewhat simian. Women are denied for football like Benvenuti or Monzón”. He defines himself as “a lousy spectator of athletic events” and qualifies as “overflowing” the Olympian Muhammad Ali in Rome, whom he calls Cassius Clay.

His views on the environment surrounding the 1960 Games are original and, at times, ironic. “Sport has been entertainment for too long, and the entire sports organization is in favor of entertainment. The grass of the stadiums and the ring are theater stages that, in fact, have replaced the real stages, ”he adds.

But there is one phrase that perhaps summarizes his position on football more than others: “Damn that everyone considers me just a man of culture. They only want cultural justifications from me, also because culture is currently an optimal strategy. They never invite me to give a conference on football, and I’m really into the subject. Look, athletes are poorly educated, and educated men are poor athletes. But I am an exception.”

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