So, you’re an artist. And naturally, you hate sport. That’s OK. That’s just part of your creative soul. Those of us who have been put on this earth to enlighten others, to illuminate truth through the manipulation of words and sounds and images: we can hardly be expected to exist on the same plane as those who are lauded and showered with riches simply because they can kick a ball or catch a horse or whatever it is they do. These muscleheaded freaks would not know a satirical street art installation if it jumped up and yarn-bombed their jockstrap, and that’s why we shall forever be at war with them, mainly via the use of the term “sportsball”, which I believe was coined by Dorothy Parker in a particularly witty mood.

But every now and then a dilemma arises: the World Cup.

What is one to do about the World Cup? On the one hand, it is, definitely, sport; and not in that ironic way that the Tour de France is sport; this is genuine game-playing by silly men kicking a silly ball around a silly field.

On the other hand, as artists there’s a certain nagging appeal to the World Cup, isn’t there? I mean it’s so foreign for a start: even the Australian players have ethnically interesting names; it’s possible that not liking the World Cup might seem a bit racist. I mean, sport in Australia is practised and followed by Neanderthal bigots, but overseas it’s cultural, and frankly none of us want to be cultural imperialists. That would make us no better than the sports people themselves.

Also, it’s very niche, is the World Cup. You can gain a lot of cachet from knowing obscure biological details about Costa Rican goalkeepers and Belgiam midfielders. Whenever it comes around everyone is scrambling for information, so with a bit of diligence you can definitely position yourself among your circle as the person who already was into this stuff.

The clincher, for me, is that soccer is the sport that seems to irritate other sports. A lot of the mouth-breathing racists who love other kinds of football dislike soccer, in an extremely homophobic way, so by getting on board the World Cup bandwagon you will definitely be putting yourself on the right team. In fact some football fans hate soccer so much it might as well be the arts.

So how do you deal with the World Cup, wanting as you do to be a proper lover of this strange arty sport, but being ill-equipped for the appreciation of athletic endeavours? Luckily, soccer, or “football” as you’ll be calling it if you have even the slightest intention of taking this seriously, has many attractions that provide an access point for the sensitive artist’s character to slip through:

Firstly, have you noticed how on each team, there is only one man who is allowed to use his hands? He is usually the tallest member of the team, and dresses in a different colour. Imagine a society where the manual labourer is king, ruling over those who must rely on their feet (police) and heads (scientists). Now imagine making an avant garde film about this society. Now imagine showing that film at a queer film festival. My god, hasn’t this game just come alive?

What is one to do about the World Cup? On the one hand, it is, definitely, sport; and not in that ironic way that the Tour de France is sport; this is genuine game-playing by silly men kicking a silly ball around a silly field.

But perhaps you are not a filmmaker. Maybe you write poetry. That’s fine. Isn’t there poetry in the dancing players’ feet, in the criss-crossing passing patterns across the field? Isn’t there poetry, most of all, in the myriad near-misses that populate most games? When you think about how hard the players work to find ways to goal, the ceaseless effort and meticulous planning and precise execution they go through, only for the slightest of miscalculations to render all their work utterly meaningless, being a footballer is a lot like being a poet, really, isn’t it? You can relate to these people. Don’t look up their salaries while watching though, it’ll kill your buzz.

There’s plenty in the game for the visual artist too: the vivid green of the pitch, the clean white of the goals, and the dazzling palette of players’ uniforms make the World Cup a bonanza for those who work with paint and pencil and etch-a-sketch. Why not watch the game with brush in hand, turning the scene before you into a thing of beauty and a searing commentary on modern life? For example, what if you painted Lionel Messi scoring a goal, but the ball is Tony Abbott’s head? Or what if you painted the Colombian team, but none of them have pants on and they all have enormous erections, symbolising masculinity’s yearning for companionship? Or what if you painted Jesus playing for the Netherlands, being crucified by penalty shootout? Or what if you painted Brazil’s players surrounding the referee arguing over a red card, but the red card is Tony Abbott’s head? My point is, there are a lot of ways you can work Tony Abbott’s head into a picture of a soccer game, so why wouldn’t you?

Maybe you’re the musical type. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, music is a big part of the World Cup – at every tournament an official song and an official anthem are released, and the public gets to choose which is more awful. But you can write your own unofficial anthem for this World Cup, something a little more soulful and non-commercial and mumbly than those “hits”. A few suggested titles to get the juices flowing:

  • I Woke Up With The Smell Of Neymar On My Pillow
  • Can’t Get You Out Of My Onion Bag
  • You Can Run Into My Box But Don’t Expect A Handball
  • Suck My Dick, Ref
  • Mario Balotelli on the Streets, Bryan Ruiz Between the Sheets

Or maybe you can just sit in front of the game strumming your guitar quietly in time to the gameplay. Or playing free jazz. Or doing a bit of throat-singing. Let your footballing muse run wild. There are few things in the world that inspire greater music than soccer: almost all of Arcade Fire’s back catalogue was composed on a soccer field. And just listen to the score of Bend It Like Beckham.

There are a million other ways to derive artistic satisfaction from the World Cup: make a collage out of the group tables; create a gigantic sculpture of Maya Angelou giving birth to a pelican representing grassroots political activism made entirely out of used shin guards; design placards demanding less transphobia among central defenders; collaborate on a multimedia project retelling the epic of Gilgamesh but using the life story of Mark Bosnich; critique contemporary power dynamics with a one-act play about Roberto Baggio and David Batty concealing their homosexual relationship from the Stasi; make a tiny papier-mache Robin van Persie; write a series of erotic love letters to Miroslav Klose’s calf muscles; crowd-source a webcomic about Craig Foster solving crimes with the help of his talking scrotum; draw a map of Argentina on your own face with stud-wounds; seriously I could go on.

The important thing to realise is that while sport is not art, football is art, and art is football, and as long as you are truly committed to feeling superior to normal people, even kicking a ball can be a thing of beauty.


Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian with a keen interest in television, politics and gratuitous nudity. His work is seen in The Age, New Matilda, the Guardian, the Roar, and myriad other corners. He has written three books and read almost twice that many.