Ideas that add up #203

Tribal and indigenous peoples have art and music just like everyone else. They also have ‘traditional’ sports, which include wrestling, running with heavy logs, canoe and horse racing, and a kind of polo. Rubber originates in the Americas and was used to make balls for football, hockey and lacrosse well before European colonization. Variants of football have been played (including of course by Europeans) for centuries.

‘Modern soccer’ has also now become common in much of the world, and a set of goal posts can be found in almost every Indian community in the western Amazon. In some tribes, teams happily swap members until each has scored the same number of goals, when the game draws to a close. 

Tribal Peoples for Tomorrow’s World: a guide by Stephen Corry (1/3)

The essence of football right there: it’s so damned fun to play, the competitive bolt-on is superfluous.

When kids are young enough and start a kick-around in the playground or park, there’s almost no thought of winners or losers. The teams are a floating flux as players come and go without explanation, and goals mount up on either side with with only a cursory effort at keeping tab. We even play this way as grown-ups when we merge into scratch teams for casual games in parks, and on beaches and patches of open ground anywhere in the world.

That spirit of freedom and zest for the game itself, rather than a cold focus on its notional “result”, is still more evident in South American football than anywhere else. Perhaps a legacy of that Amazon Indian convention Corry describes above?

Luis Suarez scores the first of his awesome brace of goals for Uruguay against England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Photo courtesy of The Daily Star

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