“Sport is the love of form, a spectacle which does not transcend the sensory, the instant emotion, which unlike a book…scarcely leave a trace in the memory and does not enrich or impoverish knowledge. And that is its appeal: that it is exciting and empty.” - Mario Vargas llosa
This thought suggests all that is brilliant about attending or watching a football match is experiencing it in the moment, but the ability to reflect on the game and experience it as a significant experience in the canon of football and world culture allows for a greater level of understanding that Ilosa shirks. Sure, football at its core is just a game that people enjoy playing, but, instead of making the sport empty, this is just what allows it such cultural meaning and significance. The emptiness and purity of game at its base form create a canvas that can be painted on. Distinctiveness in style, tactics, and meaning for each team and country leads the sport to transmit cultural and ethnic heritage in a way that art has most notably achieved. The differences between catenaccio and Total football serve to illuminate schisms just as well as cold-war abstract expressionism and soviet harsh realism did in the art world. We can learn so much about the world in the 20th century from football because the people who chose to play the “curious game” have irreversibly shaped it. While other activities are direct corollaries to some sort of action, American football and chess are metaphors for war, football, on the other hand, allows the participant to paint the competition how they want it and thus inform the world about their values. Three examples of how football has been used as a canvas for culture in very different ways are the regionalist movement in Barcelona and Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Spain, “Futbol Arte”, the extension of body culture in Brazil, and the development of Total football in the Netherlands as a product of the limited space in the Dutch environment.