From Eduardo Galeano's classic, now available as an ebook. We'll have excerpts throughout the week.
In 1993 a tide of racism was rising. Its stench, like a recurring nightmare, already hung over Europe; several crimes were committed and laws to keep out ex-colonial immigrants were passed. Many young whites, unable to find work, began to blame their plight on people with dark skin.
That year a team from France won the European Cup for the first time. The winning goal was the work of Basile Boli, an African from the Ivory Coast, who headed in a corner kicked by another African, Abedi Pele, who was born in Ghana. Meanwhile, not even the blindest proponents of white supremacy could deny that the Netherlands' best players were the veterans Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, dark-skinned sons of Surinamese parents, or that the African Eusébio had been Portugal's best soccer player ever.
Ruud Gullit, known as "The Black Tulip," had always been a full-throated opponent of racism. Guitar in hand, he sang at anti-apartheid concerts between matches, and in 1987, when he was chosen Europe's most valuable player, he dedicated his Ballon d'Or to Nelson Mandela, who spent many years in jail for the crime of believing that blacks are human.
One of Gullit's knees was operated on three times. Each time commentators declared he was finished. Out of sheer desire he always came back: "When I can't play I'm like a newborn with nothing to suck."
His nimble scoring legs and his imposing stature crowned by a head of Rasta dreadlocks won him a fervent following when he played for the strongest teams in the Netherlands and Italy. But Gullit never got along with coaches or managers because he tended to disobey orders, and he had the stubborn habit of speaking out against the culture of money that is reducing soccer to just another listing on the stock exchange.
Excerpted from Soccer in Sun and Shadow. Copyright © 1997 by Eduardo Galeano and Mark Fried, translation. Published in paperback by Nation Books, 2013. Published in ebook by Open Road Media, 2014; available wherever ebooks are sold. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City and Lamy, NM. All rights reserved.