Exile

Domenico Peterlini: Dante in exile, 1860. Palacio Pitti, Florence.

Domenico Peterlini: Dante in exile, 1860. Palacio Pitti, Florence.

Boccaccio imagines ten youths, seven maidens and three lads, patiently sheltered at Fiesole, fleeing from the plague. To shorten the fears of the night he has each of them tell a story during the long days they must remain in hiding. The birth of the Decamerone is also the rebirth of the short story: during those hours under refuge paragraphs by Petronius and parts of the Hezar-afsana (which Bocaccio did not hear of), the one thousand and one myths nestled in Scheherazade’s mouth, came alive again.

I am unfortunate enough to reside in a country where soccer is tantamount to a religion whose faithful are strictly observant; once again I must endure the never late-coming pestilence of ball playing, as these grown-up children like to amuse themselves. Die enorme sozialpsychologische Bedeutung des Fußbalsports ist also auf ein illusionäres Wir-Gefühl angewiesen, Gerhard Vinnai wrote in 2007 (The enormous psychosocial significance of soccer is so dependent on a false sense of belonging); the quote is included in a brief essay, Zur Ideologischen Funktion des Fußbalsports, which comes as an addition to his 1970 admonitory work, Fußbalsports als Ideologie. Juan José Sebreli saw in him a source from which to compose that book of his that turned him into anathema to so many erstwhile friends and followers, The Era of Soccer. Soccer as an ideology of nationalism, ideology of hired violence, ideology of superfluous and even criminally excessive expenditure and ideology of stupidity. A rarity that bestows on the reader the beauty of a translation, Bill Buford’s magnificent work, Among the Thugs, is prodigiously rendered into Spanish as Entre los bárbarosAmong the Barbarians. Soccer as an ideology of barbarism.

To run away from soccer, even if peacefully and in a respectful manner, is seen as an offense by the zealous supporter, the self-righteous fan. Soccer, in many countries, has become an obligation of fervor, a mandate of enthusiasm. There is, then, no other resource but flight and self-imposed exile. Luckily for us, we know the day on which this petty tyrant will die, even if only for four short years.

H.B.

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