From Eduardo Galeano's classic, now available as an ebook. We'll have excerpts throughout the week.
Once a week, the fan flees his house for the stadium.
Banners wave and the air resounds with noisemakers, firecrackers and drums; it rains streamers and confetti. The city disappears, its routine forgotten. All that exists is the temple. In this sacred place, the only religion without atheists puts its divinities on display. Although the fan can contemplate the miracle more comfortably on TV, he prefers to make the pilgrimage to this spot where he can see his angels in the flesh doing battle with the demons of the day.
Here the fan shakes his handkerchief, gulps his saliva, swallows his bile, eats his cap, whispers prayers and curses and suddenly lets loose a full-throated scream, leaping like a flea to hug the stranger at his side cheering the goal. While the pagan mass lasts, the fan is many. Along with thousands of other devotees he shares the certainty that we are the best, that all referees are crooked, that all our adversaries cheat.
Rarely does the fan say, "My club plays today." He says, "We play today." He knows it is "player number twelve" who stirs up the winds of fervor that propel the ball when she falls asleep, just as the other eleven players know that playing without their fans is like dancing without music.
When the match is over, the fan, who has not moved from the stands, celebrates his victory: "What a goal we scored!" "What a beating we gave them!" Or he cries over his defeat: "They swindled us again." "Thief of a referee." And then the sun goes down and so does the fan. Shadows fall over the emptying stadium. On the concrete terracing, a few fleeting bonfires burn, while the lights and voices fade. The stadium is left alone and the fan, too, returns to his solitude: to the I who had been we. The fan goes off, the crowd breaks up and melts away, and Sunday becomes as melancholy as Ash Wednesday after the death of Carnival.
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.