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Friday, November 23, 2007

Shakespeare and football

"If you think about it, the culture of a country is dictated by what they learn in school. We in France have Descartes. His rationalism is the basis for all French thought and culture. In Italy you have Machiavelli, who is also about being rational and calculating. Here in England, maybe because they are an island, they are more war-like, more passionate. They view football as an old style duel, a fight to the death, come what may. When an Englishman goes into war that's it, he either comes back triumphant or he comes back dead."
That's Arsene Wenger talking about the English way of sport in Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti's book "The Italian Job". It's the most illuminating thing I've read about sport and the national character in years. He could have gone a little further and pointed out that the key British writer is Shakespeare who saw things in terms of the battle between good and evil, vice and virtue, sincerity and duplicity. And generally ended up with a stage full of bodies. I look forward to hearing what Alan Shearer has to say about this.