Football: more than a game


Simon Super and David Winner fully understand the relationship between the Dutch and football. What they see is not a people and a sport, but a shared history of sport and culture.

The recurring theme for the week, and arguably the course, is adaptation. The Dutch face   a problem, assess, and devise a creative way to solve that problem. In the 17th and 18th centuries, that was the polder system and the creation of dikes and dams. For Dutch-Moroccans and others, it means to adapt stylistically. The majority of these adaptations allowed the Dutch to become revolutionary while still remaining uniquely Dutch.

Another adaptation that defies odds is the improvisation of Dutch soccer in Kuper’s and Winner’s respective works. The idea of flexible space was based on “mathematical calculations” (Winner, 45) and allowed the Dutch players to maximize energy and space to their advantage. While the idea of innovation in this facet of the Dutch way of life seems very abstract, its not. The concrete calculation of maximizing space on the football pitch is only made possible by the history the Dutch have of using every meter to their gain. This allowed them to succeed on the pitch, and allows players like Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie to succeed to this day. A great example of this maximization of space and energy is Robin Van Persie’s header in the 2014 World Cup.



The timing of his run, his spacing, and his understanding of his body allowed him to score this header. This innovation won this goal a FIFA Puskas award, and further cemented Van Persie’s place as one of the top strikers to have ever played the game.

On an entirely different note, the narrative styles of Kuper and Winner were very accessible to me. Kuper’s integration of quotations and anecdotes made his book read like a story, and I felt like I was able to observe the narrative almost like I was there. Winner was slightly less accessible by way of its style. It didn’t have the same feel to it as Kuper. Both of these books were far more accessible than Dibbits and Roodenburg. However, they were not as soft on the eyes as Karskens.


One thought on “Football: more than a game

  1. Awesome shot! Could any other national team have made it, in that way? Do you think Winner’s right that this is a particularly Dutch trait? They did export “total football” to Barcelona, right?

    I really like the theme of adaptation here. Arguably, other cultures–all cultures?–are adaptive. But it could be really interesting to see how particularly Dutch solutions present themselves to the Dutch situations, or to how Dutch people themselves think of adaptation as a national trait. How do you see this playing out in different media as you look back?

    Accessibility of narrative style is important. But beyond that, what do you think of Kuper’s framework itself (his understanding of culture, his notion of how historical memory works or doesn’t), and how do you think it plays out against, say Dibbits?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s