Soccer is popular because stupidity is popular

neymar-wallpaper-brazil-7There have been more than 300 million Tweets related to the #WorldCup since group play began. It is twice the volume of tweets seen during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London over 16 days. The opening match between host country Brazil and Croatia saw the most Twitter conversation during a match in real-time thus far with over 12.2 million Tweets. Director of FIFA TV Niclas Ericson said:

We believe the overall audience figures from the 2014 FIFA World Cup will show again that the World Cup is the most popular single-sporting event on the planet and that football is the world’s number one sport.

Even US is surrendering to soccer’s charm. Portugal game was most watched football match ever on US TV, higher than any of NBA Finals:

Soccer (like religion) remains one of the few non-American narratives binding the world together. (…) But all that is changing.

Why is soccer so popular? A famous Argentine put forward a theory years ago:

Soccer is popular because stupidity is popular.

As you may guess, the one who said that was neither Diego Armando Maradona nor Lionel Messi; not even the witty Jorge Valdano. No, it was a famous Argentine writer: Jorge Luis Borges. Whether he actually believed it or not, it is not the point. Talking about soccer—I would say—provocation is the norm. More interestingly, Borges wrote a short story with his colleague Adolfo Bioy Casares pointing to the heart of the matter: Esse est percipi(1) (to be is to perceive/be perceived.)

Let me take the liberty to slightly reword the key paragraph from Borges and Casares’ tale (You can read the original text here):

There’s no score, no teams, no matches. The stadiums have long since been condemned and are falling to pieces. Nowadays everything is staged on the television and the internet. The bogus excitement of the sportscaster- hasn’t it ever made you suspect that everything is humbug? The last time a soccer match was played in the world was on 12 July 2014. From that exact moment, soccer, along with the whole gamut of sports, belongs to the genre of the drama, performed by a single man in a booth or by actors in jerseys before the TV cameras.’

‘Sir, who invented the thing?’ ‘Nobody knows.

Why is soccer so popular? Nobody knows. But remember that more and more we live in a world where “to be is to be perceived”.

Do you mean to tell me that out there in the world nothing is happening?

Very little (…) Mankind is at home, sitting back with ease, attentive to the screen or the sportscaster, if not the yellow press. What more do you want (…)? It’s the great march of time, the rising tide of progress.’


(1) Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, “Esse est percipi” (spanish, english)


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