To be, or not to be, that is the soccer. The game we love is often an all-occupying, life-consuming force that serves as the lens through which we view our day-to-day surroundings. Soccer fandom, more than many other sport, is often a lifestyle choice, rather than a recreational activity. For better or for worse, it’s at the core of who we are.
That’s the sort of thing people say on book jackets to lure the snobby Arsenal fans from that notorious New York Times story, or soccer writers and pundits who take themselves too seriously say to get people to buy and talk about their shit. Who knows, really?
There probably isn’t a concrete answer as to whether society’s relationship with soccer or any other game is a marker of something greater in the human experience, but it’s still a worthwhile question to ask. Most times, in big-picture discussions, abstract questions are more interesting than supposed answers.
This brings us to the fine folks at Harvard — alma mater to noted scorer of 13 career MLS goals, Andre Akpan — who have added a new course of study to its Humanities curriculum. Romance Studies 109 – The Global Game: Soccer, Politics, and Popular Culture will offer students a chance to study soccer as “a window onto some of the most pressing questions posed by the humanities.”
Professor of the Humanities, Mariano Siskind, described the course’s intent, saying:
“The point is to use soccer as a portal, as an entryway into the disciplines but also the questions that the humanities propose about the production of social meaning,”
“What is beauty, and why is it called the beautiful game? That’s a central question in aesthetic philosophy.”
What is tiki-taka? Why are we obsessed with the three-sidedness of midfield diamonds and triangle passing?
I want to take this class. Sip some brandy in the back row and ask the professor off-the-wall questions about whether or not José Mourinho’s “anti-football” is a sign that he’s against the technological progression of the modern man.
“We need to shake students up,” he added, “in the way that Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky asked them to ‘defamiliarize’ the objects they take for granted.”
Get out of that box, man. Shift them paradigms. Is a 3-6-1 really that terrible or are you just afraid of stability?
Course co-creator, Francesco Erspamer, added:
“When [students lacking a foundation in critical analysis] become leaders or prominent people they will just be repeating or simply adhering to situations instead of being innovative change-makers. This space is where you learn to be courageous, to go beyond yourself, to take some intellectual risks.”
To bite an opposing defender. To hurl that flaming scooter off the roof of the San Siro. To sing harmonic songs with your brethren and sistren about your rival being told to “fuck off” during a particularly unfortunate trip to Rome to see the Pope.
This is the class where you will learn to be a better leader. You will shy away from the empty-bucket midfield decisions of your life and find the courage to go for goals on the road. You will gain the perspective to find a system that suits your personality and aspirations and the confidence to remain unwavering in its implementation, regardless of any lack of success. You will be Laurent Blanc.
We don’t know why we do the things we do in the name of soccer, but the professors at Harvard might. Acceptance into this class, or at least a DVD with a few lectures on it, should come with every season ticket purchase.
Just imagine a new Age of Enlightenment for supporters across the world. We could save future generations from terrible, thoughtless choices, like World Cups in Russia and Qatar.