The philosophy of football
The beautiful game also captures much of what practical philosophy is about
The football (i.e., soccer, for Americans) World Cup is in full swing. Setting aside the more than justified controversies about FIFA, the organizing body, and Qatar, the hosting country, I’ve had some time to reflect on the game itself from a bit of a detached perspective. After all, Italy didn’t make it to the tournament this year, so I’ll have to wait until the 2026 edition in North America (a joint US-Mexico-Canada effort) to see the Azzurri in action again. Fate permitting.
I’d like to analyze the idea of football—seen from the point of view of a player—in Stoic terms, because I think football embodies many of the lessons of Stoicism itself. Which is a bit ironic, given that the ancient Stoics taught us not to give a damn about games, and especially not to care about which team may or may not win. Epictetus admonishes:
“When the occasion demands, do speak, but not about any of the usual topics, not about gladiators, not about horse-races, not about athletes, not about food and drink, the subjects of everyday talk.” (Encheiridion, 33.3)
And here is Marcus Aurelius:
“From my tutor [I learned] not to side with the Green Jacket or the Blue at the races, or to back the Light-Shield Champion or the Heavy-Shield in the lists.” (Meditations, I.5)
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