TOIn elementary school, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld was allowed to stay in the gym playing soccer with the boys, when the girls were expelled to shower after physical education class. “I was good at it. I can still hear the teacher yelling: ‘Rijneveld is on the ball, Rijneveld is scoring!’ ”Says the author, whose parents disapproved of their daughter playing such a youthful sport.
It wasn’t until, as a rising star on the Dutch literary scene, they were asked to write a few poems for a football magazine that everything flowed again. The poems never happened “because I thought: how do you write a good football poem without making it ugly?” says Rijneveld, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns them / them. “But then I delved into football terms and discovered that those terms actually refer to life. I wanted to write my own football memories, and it soon became more about life than football itself. “
Rijneveld made it to the top world literature division last year when he became the youngest winner of the International Booker Prize with his first novel, The Discomfort of Evening, at the age of 29. They made headlines again this spring when they were commissioned to translate. The poetry of Amanda Gorman to the Dutch; this caused an uproar because Rijneveld is not black. They relented with an elegant poem, printed in The Guardian, accepting that, despite a shared history of “fighting[ing] pigeonhole with your fists … someone else can make it more habitable “.
When Rijneveld grew up, their parents prevented them from playing soccer. In adulthood, they took up the sport again, but found that they had lost the skill. “My coordination turned out to be bad. I didn’t have an overview of the games and my fear of failure was too great. “
The game could have stopped, but the love for soccer remained. “It is a game about power, cooperation, communication, happiness and unhappiness, perseverance, disappointment, hope and joy; everything we experience in daily life in terms of emotions is in a football match, ”says Rijneveld. “We recognize ourselves in the players, we recognize ourselves in the rules. Soccer is a kind of ritual and I think that’s why it’s so important to a lot of people ”.
Written after the Netherlands were eliminated from Euro 2020, his poem The Substitution Applause sums up a lot about the tumultuous week we’ve just been through, not just in football, but also in the Wimbledon championships and the Tour de France. It does not speak of victory, but of the moment in all sports when the body gives up.
“For me it has never been about winning, I find it much more interesting to lose,” says Rijneveld. “You can lose and still feel like a winner; the other way around is impossible. Sometimes we long to lie on our back and look at the clouds and not have to act for a while. “
By Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison
With a pity on my legs, I glimpsed
the hunting grounds before me as I lay mowed
In the grass, wondering if I was cured now
either once knocked down, the curse clenched between
my teeth, torn calf muscles, I had finally become what
He wanted to be: motionless and still. The bliss of
This moment was almost impossible to put into words.
Well how would you put it? Not being pushed to my feet.
this time for once don’t stand up and go on with
things, just lying there like a run over quarry. Yes
lying there and perishing, because I could, why not
one is always blamed for perishing, there is no yellow or red card
no more goals that could be missed would be incurred. I lay
there in that blissful moment, temporarily out of play,
still dreaming of possession of the ball, of leaving the
defense, from a glorious long shot on goal,
no weak substitution applause, never offside again.
But once I was shot down I saw how I had dribbled
over the years how they constantly cut me off
down and nobody covered my back, that the hours
They were full of feints, feints made with hope and that
I was fooled over and over, and for the first time
I looked at the clouds in peace as I thought of more
time, days with overtime and more lying down, with
that pain in my legs, being a desperate lack
sometimes and miles off the mark but that’s just how it goes
They are with all those occasions and life in the knockouts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism