Literary Figures on the Field

As we are all now aware, the world cup of football is now well under way. I have two favourite teams, and both are playing in a very mediocre fashion right now – which is leaving me in hope of a serious miracle for either of them to get to the next stage!

It was just before the great global kick-off of football of 2010, that a TV programme was re-run up here in the northern hemisphere, ‘John Cleese on football’ I believe was the title. I watched the programme with obvious great amusement at not only enjoying John Cleese humour, but I found out more about his own philosophy on football. What has this to do with literature you may be asking by now, and if you are asking it, then perhaps ponder what the literary greats may have done had they discovered football. Would they adore football like us, or remotely tried at playing this feverish game themselves?

Just before the May 2010 exams I was in touch with a fellow student via the internet to spur each other on before the impending leap toward examination day. He retorted that he would just kill to play football now rather than swot, even though he was really nearer a stronger understanding to his literary companions which happened to be Dante, and Virgil. I replied that perhaps you could imagine Dante and Virgil playing football with you for a while, they are after all, both Italian, and would probably love to learn about football if they were alive today. This was when my own strange imagination began working overtime – I began to think about literary figures on the field, the John Cleese special just gave me more fuel for knowledge and scenarios.

I have no doubt Dante would have kicked a ball around in the ‘Inferno’ – in some respects both he and Virgil would possibly make good mid-fielders in any walk of life, seeing what needs to be achieved so to speak. How about Shakespeare as a striker, and Marlowe – a true bad boy of football, I can just see him waving his dagger at anyone who dare to tackle him, (a true Eric Cantona of his day). Virgil most likely would have his own team as well – It would have to be Aeneas and what is left of the Trojans battling it out at an away game…this time Virgil as referee. Chaucer strikes me more as a good referee rather than a player – I imagine him and his characters from the Canterbury Tales, each player in a team position that suits their characteristics.

I suspect ‘The Wife of Bath would be sent off a lot – mainly for fouling the clerics and delivering the best left boot to the lying and indifferent ‘Merchant’. No doubt Friars would be hurled into vindictive tackles as well. She would be captain of the ladies team, and be the ‘Red Card’ queen of all time. Charles Dickens would most likely play for a while, but end up being the best Coach – he would have ‘Great Expectations’ of everybody!

With all this imagination played out, there have been some real life writers and celebs that have played and written about football, Albert Camus was a goalie for the football team for Algeria at one time, and apparently Henry Kissinger played whilst at University. Pope John Paul II played for Poland as a young man, but had to retire due to WWII.

As we all know Nick Hornby put footy well into literary and literal prowess with ‘Fever Pitch,’ and ‘My favourite year’- (a collection of football writing). If you love football these are really good modern reads that is for sure, if you wonder how the older writers would have taken to football then all you need to do is use your imagination, (comments are appreciated). On that note whether you love or you can leave football – here is an honest quote for all those who read, play, or whatever ‘your field’ of learning happens to be, it is the same philosophy…..

“Success is not accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all love of what you are doing, or learning to do.”

Written by Rachel Aspögård

2 thoughts on “Literary Figures on the Field

  1. A quite interesting piece to read,and hope to join the UoL to study English after i successfully completed my studies with the University.


  2. Ready for some football? It’s hard to find a World Cup party here; I’d like to see Dante and Chaucer heading out for fish and chips after a match. Clever woman! Thanks for the uplifting post!


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