Football: a detachment from space and time

Adrian de León
5 min readMar 28, 2023
Photo by Nelson Ndongala on Unsplash

Humans use space and time to peg experiences and events into temporality. Without it, we would be simply experiencing events one after the other, relying on an imperfect and subjective memory to (unsuccessfully) keep us afloat. Before technology, humans relied on the passing of seasons and the sun’s rotation to cement experiences in space and time.

When we manipulated the material around us to wrestle nature into submission, we began to talk of time, calendars, geography, kilometres and epochs. As technology proliferated and memories became less subjective, less unreliable, and turned into observable records, we grew more self-aware. As we became more self-aware of ourselves we became more aware of one another, and ‘being aware’ of your neighbour turned into ‘beware’ of your neighbour. So we became more tribal, then sectarian, and finally we became a species stuck somewhere between regionalism and nationalism. In this latter period of our existence, football played a prominent role amongst large swaths of the population, and the clubs became symbols of cities and regions. Football clubs reified space, time, and communities, and the shirts that the football players carried on their shoulders, reified the culture and traditions of the cities or regions they were representing. Whole cities were divided into red, blue, green, or yellow, factions, and clubs became proxies for both positive and negative celebrations of culture and community.

Unfortunately, because football exists in space and time, and because this space and time is dominated by the material conditions they operate in, football fell victim to neoliberalism and there has been a clear acceleration of the unrooting process that appears to be inherent to the proliferation of the ‘financial securitisation’ of society. It was inevitable that as the hedge funds and the national investment funds poured their digits into the football economy that football clubs would become a commodified simulacra of what they were originally conceived for. Space and time are the only things holding back our beloved clubs from turning into banal franchises similar to what occurs in the NBA or NFL, where cities are stripped of their teams and left vulnerable to the whims of the owners of the modes of production.