The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Kuyt El Capricho

I have a confession. The other day, while rolling down I-45 in Houston, Texas, I sinned. My crime? I rolled down the passenger-side window and stared at the outcome of the crash. I took in the surrounding scene: the ambulance, the totaled Honda Civic, the huddled family. I did not feel contempt. I did not feel empathy. I felt fascination. I find myself searching for similar stimuli in the beautiful game. A few nights ago, I pondered over many a quaint and curious YouTube video. I sought the soccer world’s shadowy specter.

I did not sift through the gruesome. The recent Taylor tackle and Keane assault of 2005 turn my stomach. I prefer Hitchcock to Carpenter. Hopkins and Poe both wrote poetry, but only one poet stalks you in your dreams. Torres and Kuyt both score goals, but only one makes you uneasy by his unnatural gait.

His face would make Dora Maar squirm in her chair. He lumbers around the pitch like Igor, eager to please but shunned by fleet-footed teammates. Yet he scores goals. Benítez defends him using the 21st century discourse of efficiency. I extol him for playing as if in a Goya painting. Kuyt is el capricho of my pesadillas.

Kuyt is the Damian of soccer because he defiles the beautiful game’s consummate act. Against Newcastle and Reading, Kuyt slips as he scores. Todos caeran. Against Chelsea and Aston Villa, he lurks in Crouch’s shadow, clinging to his coattails like a leech. Volaverunt. Against Wigan and Reading, he lowers his head, trading aquellos polbos for goals. He feasts on the children of the Premier League with the ravenous grimace of Saturn.

Kuyt is no “cult icon”—his blood-red torso is an emblem of the occult. Kuyt is the “thinking man’s player”—because el sueno de la razon produce monstrous. White as a ghost, he floats about the penalty area. Centerbacks flinch nervously, catching brief glimpses out of the corner of their eye.

My eyes follow Kuyt from the midfield to the top of the box to the corner flag. He screams in amusement. Soplones. Rafa Benítez nervously scratches his chin. De que mal morira? I hear some gentle rapping at my window. I glance away from my laptop screen and catch my reflection. In my image I see Kuyt’s wry smile. A shuffling of cards and we could be the inquisitor, carefully tying the duodenum to the lever and then gleefully twirling the crank. Hahnemann and Shorey huddle and moan in vain protest. Ya es hora.

Elliott is the editor of


Kuyt El Capricho

by Elliott · March 12, 2009

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