After the football season, the Associação Académica de Coimbra was relegated to the “Third Division”. I know that naming leagues has long since abandoned this classification model (there are now leagues and leagues in Portugal and I don’t know what else), but I insist on writing it like that. why? Because when I learned of Academia’s last place in the “Second Division”, I couldn’t help but remember those designations, or rather my father and our conversations about football.
In my childhood we lived in Pombal, and like other townspeople (yes, it was still a town), we used to go to Coimbra from time to time to watch the Academia games. I did not study and did not live in Coimbra – in any case, for me, the city has always been the land of academia. Apparently, after two defeats to the student team – with Benfica (1-2) and Porto (1-5, if memory correctly serves me) – I declared myself a fan of Academia, and felt that I was still without knowing it, of this childish compulsion which Every Portuguese citizen is required to be a member of one of the “big ones” (which, in fact, there were four at the time, including the Belenenses).
My father had the nobility of a person who, in the face of the vicissitudes of football, resisted all the manish clubs. Without even realizing at the time that this was happening, I learned with him to admire, and even more, to relish the fact that a football match is not a unified fantasy, but it happened with two teams, to the extent that we have available–and patiently cared–the talents of everyone in the field.
Although he died nearly thirty years ago, at a time, in spite of everything, the spherical saturation of the social and media fabric was not so gigantic at present, he was so disgusted, and sometimes cruelly ironic, that he noticed many forms of hysterical clubs . It taught me to see and understand, for example, that Académica itself emerged from a concept of sport in which commitment to the game did not take second place over other values, starting with the warm symbolism rooted in the relationship with the university.
A Benfica fan, he told me with real joy that he was present at Campo das Salesias (of Belenenses), in the first final of the Portuguese Cup, in 1939, in which Academia beat Benfica 4-3. Not forgetting that we were thrilled with the great team that Academia had in the mid-sixties, with players like Malo, Corrado, Ruy Rodriguez, the Campos brothers (Vitor and Mario), Tony or Artur Jorge – in the 1966-1967 season, this team managed to occupy Second place in the championship (won by Benfica).
I now feel that Académica’s dramatic exclusion, far from my family’s memories, corresponds to the fading of a beautiful football culture – a taste for the game’s contradictions – which, in these times of “compulsory” conflict, is getting weaker and weaker. A revealing sign of this process is the fact that discourses spread – from the press to politics – committed to promoting an unfortunate division: on the one hand, football will be a “neutral” festive phenomenon, on the other hand, the so-called cultural life.
So I think it’s important to remember that the cultural area is made up of the dynamics of values associated with all social exchanges – it’s not a stable domain, it’s punctuated by many differences and tensions, nor does it exist by decree, whatever the good intentions. As football works every day to maintain ‘national’ discourses or settle ‘justice’ issues, it is also important to add that our social existence is characterized by cultural components that include football as the dominant matrix of our behaviour, and in a systematic way the identity values that young ones inculcate.
The audiovisual treatment of football has also underestimated the freedom of appearance. Indeed, despite defining itself only as a goal-checking “judge”, VAR pollutes the audiovisual space with a pernicious (I mean culturally harmful) concept: from football to politics, passing through the pathetic imagination of ” famous”, images tend to be implicitly treated and, what is more, to be promoted as merely vigilant instruments of “truth” which, when uttered, will purify everything and everyone.
What did he lose? In the face of the social reduction of other images (cinema, photography, painting, etc.), a lazy idea is implicitly installed according to which we only look at images in general to search for a compulsive form of singularity and meaning. Now, how can you explain to a young man that no VAR technology (or its derivatives) will prove, let alone exhaust, the meanings of a Pablo Picasso painting, a portrait of Robert Frank or an Ingmar Bergman film? How do we know that images are more than weapons of “policing” human actions? In the meantime, I hope Académica starts the journey back to first class – my parents will be happy.