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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Look at this place.

Do these look like the living quarters of a criminal mastermind? “A devious architect,” they allege, “who builds his creations for the sole purpose of destroying what is beautiful, what is cherished.” I understand the role I play—that is, the role they have me play. It’s a business, like anything else: of course I know this. It’s just not fair. It isn’t fair that I have to build my own life, my real life, to confirm my existence as I want it to be, not as it has been manufactured by those who disseminate information to the masses.

If I let you into my home, I’m not sure that much would surprise you on first glance. Take this vase, for example. What do you see? I’ll wait.

You’ve already thought too hard. It’s just a vase. This is what they’ve done to you. They’ve made me superhuman, when I’m truly anything but. I worked hard, and continue to work hard, have achieved goals I’ve set for Napoleonmyself, and continue to create new goals. I keep my home nondescript because I need to remind myself that it is who I am. I recently read that Stephen Colbert doesn’t allow his children to watch his show, because he worries that they will think their father is a mean person. A brilliant idea, and perhaps one I should look into.

What do you think my bed looks like? Pillars on the corners, curtains surrounding it, a kingdom fit only for the king of kings? Or perhaps the rotating, circular variety that such a deviant creature as I would deem necessary for the conquest of my wife and the mistresses that you assume I have? Shame on you. Shame on you for believing what you are told. Magritte's l'Art de VivreJust as I am meticulous in my preparation for a match, my opponents (both off the field and on) are just as particular. The pictures you see of me are always with a funny face, never unremarkable. The videos are always of my reactions, never of my calculations. And my bed, if you must know, is without pillars and curtains. It is very comfortable, and square.

I suppose I should take some time to discuss a certain large fixture that is coming within the following weeks. A lot of time has been spent discussing my opponents, and to be honest, I’m apprehensive about how this should change my approach to the match. I’ve spent so long being seen as the ringleader, the key figure, the X factor, and wishing that I could just do my job, that this new role—extraneous, almost irrelevant—is both relieving and unnerving. I now, finally, have some room to breathe, and yet I have the sinking feeling that something is missing. It is slight, but disconcerting. I will not let myself become the man they’ve made me out to be.

It makes me laugh, all of the careful deconstructions of their style. All of the labels bandied about, when they play the same game as anyone else. They only send 11 people onto the field, even if it looks like dozens more. Don’t disregard my remarks as condescending—they are a wonderful team, and I look forward to facing them. I simply wonder whether 30 years from now, their style will be described as it is now, regardless of the reality on the field. In this way, I feel for Dunga. In a matter of months, people will be furious that their conceptions of the entire nation of Brazil will be put in a dumpster, even while they will celebrate another World Cup. Or if the public will turn a blind eye, and preserve their silly notions of 11 consecutive backheels: the Brazilian way. Either way, I weep for you.

If you are reading this to gain some insight into the tactical choices I’ve made, or will make, I’m sorry, but you have come to the wrong place. You can find that in any of the myriad publications filled with experts who have made a living off of trying to shoot the moon and succeeding one too many times. Read them only with a careful eye and a cynic’s mind. And only then will you begin to understand.

This is Sean Rubio’s first piece for The Run of Play. Most of his work is under 140 characters at

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by Andy Streets · April 14, 2010

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