The Soccer Machines of the Wolves

Players and supporters of a team whose full name is Wolverhampton Wanderers know that soccer itself is a vehicle, a means for self-study, self-exploration; a possibility of salvation. There is, after all, quite another audience in football, Beckett’s audience (like the visionary company of Jerzy Grotowski in Poland); those in every country who do not set up intellectual barriers, who do not try too hard to analyze the message with statistics. This audience laughs and cries out, and in the end celebrates with the essence of the game—leaving the stadium nourished and enriched, often with a black heart yet full of a strange irrational joy. Poetry, nobility, beauty, magic: suddendly these suspected words are back into the theater of soccer once more.

These words are soccer machines. People in the media smile at them, but they hold their ground; they are critic-proof. We get nowhere if we expect to be told what they mean, in the context of a football match, yet each one has a relation with us we can’t deny. If we accept this, as anyone who cheers for the Wolves must do, the symbol opens in us a great and wondering O.

Sadly, the Wolves players are stuck in a Beckett scene as well: dark, painful, pessimistic. This prevents many of them from finding hope. But the pitch field can be deeper than that of a painter; it too has a sacred aim. Once the people are back into the imaginary theater of soccer, just where the tremendous punctuation of every season makes them wriggle, squirm, and yawn? I have a deeper confidence in the power of photography to capture the vast expanses of holiness and hearsay that no other church will ever be able to contain, and the first experimental result in this kind of historical phenomenology of soccer wrongdoing is a series of pictures taken in the 1970s at the College of Art in Wolverhampton. ♦

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