I Don't Love Soccer Because Soccer Has Never Loved Me is a collection of artworks produced in response to the essay The World Cup and Its Pomps written in 1978 by the famous Italian semiotician, intellectual and writer, Umberto Eco. Published in his 1986 collection of essays Travels in Hyper-Reality (1986), Eco links football “with the absence of purpose and the vanity of all things” questioning the corrosive banality of its punditry, its inherent prejudice and exclusivity and its (a)political morality. The essay concludes with Eco asking rhetorically "Is the armed struggle possible on World Cup Sunday…Is revolution possible on a
Unlike many other creative projects that sprung up before and during the 2014 tournament the artworks featured in I Don't Love Soccer Because Soccer Has Never Loved Me are not celebrations of the World Cup. Instead they take a critical look at the global event. Whilst the world was transfixed by all things Brazilian and the media saturated with World Cup related stories, greatest of TV compilations and commercial spin-offs, the graphic designers and illustrators featured in I Don't Love Soccer Because Soccer Has Never Loved Me took inspiration from Eco's semiotic critical theory to examine the beautiful game.
I Don't Love Soccer Because Soccer Has Never Loved Me was first exhibited in Liverpool in June 2014. The opening of the exhibition coinciding with England's predictable exit from the competition. As fellow illustrator Christoph Niamann predicted in his web essay for the New York Times, "On July 13, only 3.125 percent of all fans and players will be able to remember the tournament happily for the rest of their lives".
The exhibition was curated by Ian Mitchell, and featured artwork by by Graphic Design and Illustration tutors at Liverpool School of Art and Design. The accompanying print publication was designed by Jonathan Spencer, and this project website designed and built by Chris Jackson. The initial edition of 90 publications is now sold out.
However, to commemorate this year's Women's World Cup, the ongoing revelations of FIFA corruption and the anniversary of the original publication launch a very limited 2nd edition has been produced. 30 new copies, titled I Don't Love Soccer Because Soccer Has Never Loved Me (AET) have been printed and are now available to buy.
This is the first in a series of projects by the Graphic Design and Illustration programme at Liverpool School of Art and Design to examine subjects and issues in the wider world through the lens of graphic design and illustration practice.
Programme Leader, Graphic Design and Illustration
B5 format, 4 colour ink, 44 pages, throw-out and tip-in's
Umberto Eco – Travels in Hyperreality
The World Cup
and Its Pomps
Many malignant readers, seeing how I discuss here the noble sport of soccer with detachment, irritation, and (oh, all right) malevolence, will harbor the vulgar suspicion that I don’t love soccer because soccer has never loved me, for from my earliest childhood I belonged to that category of infants or adolescents who, the moment they kick the ball — assuming that they manage to kick it - promptly send it into their own goal or, at best, pass it to the opponent, unless with stubborn tenacity they send it off the ﬁeld, beyond hedges and fences, to become lost in a basement or a stream or to plunge among the ﬂavors of the ice—cream cart. And so his playmates reject him and banish him from the happiest of competitive events. And no suspicion will ever be more patently true.
I will say more. In an attempt to feel like the others (just as a terriﬁed young homosexual may obstinately repeat to himself that he "has" to like girls), I often begged my father, a sober but loyal fan, to take me with him to the game. And one day, as I was observing with detachment the senseless movements down there on the ﬁeld, I felt how the high noonday sun seemed to enfold men and things in a chilling light, and how before my eyes a cosmic, meaningless performance was proceeding. Later, on reading Ottiero Ottieri, I would discover that this is the sense of the “everyday unreality,” but at that time I was thirteen and I translated the experience in my own way; for the first time I doubted the existence of God and decided that the world was a pointless fiction.
Frightened, as soon as I had left the stadium, I went to confession to a wise Capuchin, who told me that I certainly had an odd idea, because reliable people like Dante, Newton. Manzoni, T.S. Eliot, and Pat Boone had believed in God without the slightest difficulty. Bewildered by this consensus, I postponed my religious crisis for about another decade — but I have been telling all this to indicate how, as far back as I can remember, soccer for me has been linked with the absence of purpose and the vanity of all things , and with the fact that the Supreme Being may be (or may not be) simply a hole. And perhaps for this reason I (alone, I think, among living creatures) have always associated the game of soccer with negative philosophies.
This having been said, the question could arise as to why I, of all people, should now discuss the World Cup. The answer is soon given: The editors of L’Esspresso, in an excess of metaphysical vertigo, insist that the event be discussed from an absolutely alien point of view. And so they have turned to me. They couldn’t have made a better or shrewder choice.
Now, however, I must say that I am not against the passion for soccer. On the contrary, I approve of it and consider it providendal. Those crowds of fans, cut down by heart attacks in the grandstands, those referees who pay for a Sunday of fame by personal exposure to grievous bodily harm, those excursionists who climb, bloodstained, from the buses, wounded by shattered glass from windows smashed by stones, those celebrating young men who speed drunkenly through the streets in the evening, their banner poking from the overloaded Fiat Cinquecento, until they crash into a juggernaut truck, those athletes physically mined by piercing sexual abstinences, those families financially destroyed after succumbing to insane scalpers, those enthusiasts whose cannon-crackers explode and blind them: They fill my heart with joy. I am in favor of soccer passion as I am in favor of drag racing, of competition between motorcycles on the edge of a cliff, and of wild parachute jumping, mystical mountain climbing, crossing oceans in rubber dinghies, Russian roulette, and the use of narcotics. Races improve the race, and all these games lead fortunately to the death of the best, allowing mankind to continue its existence serenely with normal protagonists, of average achievement. In a certain sense I could agree with the Futurists that war is the only hygiene of the world, except for one little correction: It would be, if only volunteers were allowed to wage it. Unfortunately war also involves the reluctant, and therefore it is morally inferior to spectator sports.
For I am speaking of spectator sports, mind you, not of sport. Sport, in the sense of a situation in which one person, with no financial incentive, and employing his own body directly, performs physical exercises in which he exerts his muscles, causes his blood to circulate and his lungs to work to their fullest capacity: Sport, as I was saying, is something very beautiful, at least as beautiful as sex, philosophical reflection, and pitching pennies.
But soccer has nothing to do with sport in this sense. Not for the players, who are professionals subjected to tensions not unlike those of an assembly-line worker (except for questionable differences in pay), not for the spectators — the majority, that is — who, in fact, behave like hordes of sex maniacs regularly going to see (not once in their lifetime in Amsterdam but every Sunday, and instead of) couples making love, or pretending to (something like the very poor children of my childhood, who were promised they would be taken to watch the rich eating ice cream).
Now that I have posited these premises, it is clear why these weeks I have been feeling very relaxed. Rendered neurotic, like everyone else, by recent tragic events during a three month period* when we had to devour newspapers and stay glued to the TV, awaiting the latest message from the Red Brigades, or the promise of a new escalation of terror, I can now skip reading the papers, avoid TV, at most looking on page eight for news of the Turin trial, the Lockheed scandal, the referendum. For the rest, the papers and the TV talk about the thing I want to hear nothing about — and the terrorists, who have a keen sense of the mass media, know this very well and don't attempt anything interesting, because they'd end up in the local news or on the food page.
There's no need to ask ourselves why the World Cup has so morbidly polarized the attention of the public and the devotion of the mass media: From the famous story of how a comedy by Terence played to an empty house because there was a trained bear show elsewhere, and the acute observation of Roman emperors about the usefulness of circenses, to the shrewd use that dictatorships (including the Argentinian) have always made of great competitive events, it is so clear, so evident that the majority prefers soccer or bicycle racing to abortion, that it isn't even worth reflecting about. But since external pressure impels me to reflect, I might as well say that public opinion, especially in Italy, has never needed a nice international championship more than it does now.
In fact, as I have remarked in the preceding essay, sports debate (I mean the sports shows, the talk about it, the talk about the journalists who talk about it) is the easiest substitute for political debate. Instead of judging the job done by the minister of finance (for which you have to know about economics, among other things), you discuss the job done by the coach; instead of criticising the record of Parliament you criticise the record of the athletes; instead of asking (difficult and obscure questions) if such-and-such a minister signed some shady agreements with such-and-such a'foreign power, you ask if the final or decisive game will be decided by chance, by athletic prowess, or by diplomatic alchemy. Talk about soccer requires, to be sure, a more than vague expertise, but, all in all, it is limited, well-focused; it allows you to take positions, express opinions, suggest solutions, without exposing yourself to arrest, to loyalty oaths, or, in any case, to suspicion. It doesn’t oblige you to intervene personally, because you are talking about something played beyond the area of the speakers power. In short, it allows you to play at the direction of the government without all the sufferings, the duties, the imponderables of political debate. For the male adult it’s like little girls playing ladies: a pedagogical game, which teaches you how to occupy your proper place.
And at a moment like this, concentrating oneself with the running of the government (the real one) is traumatic. So faced with such a choice, we are all Argentines, and that handful of Argentine nuisances who are still reminding us that, down there, people are “disappeared” from time to time, should be more careful not to mar our pleasure in this sacred mystery play. We listened to them before, and quite politely, so now what do they want? In other words, this World Cup has arrived like Santa Claus. Finally some news that has nothing to do with the Red Brigades.
But while we're on that subject: The reader who is not completely distracted knows that there are two theses in circulation (naturally I consider only the extreme hypotheses, but reality is always a bit more complicated). According to the first thesis, the Brigades are a group obscurely maneuvered by some Power, perhaps foreign. According to the second, they are “misled comra"es," who behave execrably but, all things considered, for noble motives (a better world). Now if the first thesis is correct, Red Brigades and organisers of World Cups belong to the same articulation of power: The former destabilise at the right moment, the latter restabilize at the right moment. The public is asked to follow Italy-Argentina as if it were Curcio-Andreotti and, if possible, to place bets on the number of kneecaps involved in the next outburst of violence. If, on the contrary, the second thesis is correct, the Red Brigades are comrades who are really very misled indeed — because they insist so readily on assassinating political figures and blowing up assembly lines, but that, alas, is not where power is. It is in society’s capacity for redistributing tension, immediately afterwards, on other poles, far closer to the soul of the crowds. Is the armed struggle possible on World Cup Sunday? Perhaps it would be best to engage in fewer political discussions and in more circenses sociology. Is it possible to have a revolution on a football Sunday?
*Written in 1978, the year of the kidnapping and eventual killing of former. Italian Prime Minister
Aldo Moro by Red Brigade terrorists.