Given its rich history and global appeal, it should come as no surprise that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of delicious quotes about football. From players to pundits, commenting on soccer, football, the beautiful game – whatever it’s called in your corner of the world – has become almost as much a pastime as playing it: Italian defender Paolo Malini once claimed that “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”; Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once quipped, “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”
Of course, the game is no stranger to the world of literature. Countless authors, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to JK Rowling to Michael Rosen, call themselves fans of the sport, and many more have penned brilliant poetry, articles and books centred on the subject. Below, we’ve plucked 11 of the most beautiful passages about the beautiful game from their pages.
“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”
- Albert Camus
“I understand why people play [football] … I even learned how to talk the game. It was the opposite of trash talking—tidy talking, I suppose you'd have to call it. If you did something good, it was brilliant; something less than brilliant was useless; if all of you were useless together, you were rubbish; and if a person did something brilliant that nonetheless became useless, everyone cried, 'Oh, unlucky!'”
- Adam Gopnik, from Paris to the Moon
“In victory, the players suddenly stopped looking like rich, pampered superstar athletes and became, instead, innocent young men bright with the realisation that they were experiencing a great moment in their lives.”
- Salman Rushdie, in New Yorker article ‘The People’s Game’
“In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team."
- Jean-Paul Sartre, in Critique of Dialectical Reason
“I watched my first penalty shoot-out during the World Cup 2014 (Brazil vs. Chile): men cried, I cried, Neymar cried. I was done for. I loved it.”
- Jessica Pan, in Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
“Football has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to impede it. […] Luckily, on the field you can still see some insolent rascal, who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.”
- Eduardo Galeano, in Football in Sun and Shadow
“...So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.”
- Nick Hornby, in Fever Pitch
“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink.”
- J B Priestly, in The Good Companions
“Then strip, lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,
And if, by mischance, you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble on heather.
And life itself is a game of football.”
- Sir Walter Scott, in The Edinburgh Journal