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June 07 , 2008

The Matters of Life, Death, and More

Writing on Football


As the world's eyes are on Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, Aleksandar Hemon reminds us of a sad fact: 'an average life seldom contains more than twenty World Cups-our games are tragically numbered.' We need to pay attention, to absorb the joy, the skill, the agony, the triumph, the beauty-everything that football is. And football is, of course, everything.

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My Prisoner

When Aleksandar Hemon and Velibor Božovic became friends as teenagers in Sarajevo, it was, in Hemon's words, "pretty clear that our friendship was for life, even if we could have no notion of what lay ahead of us."In the coming years, it became clear that their future was going to be entirely unlike anything they might have imagined. Their…

In these pages, Hemon revisits memories of his first World Cup (1974), for which his homeland, Yugoslavia, qualified in dramatic fashion. He takes us through the World Cups of the eighties, nineties, up through South Africa in 2010-and to the brink of the 2014 World Cup, which is a special one for Hemon: the first time that Bosnia and Herzegovina has qualified in the country's history. Football is a high-stakes enterprise full of extreme passion, extreme talent, extreme money, and often extreme politics. But here too are stories of the heated games of Hemon's youth in Sarajevo's gravel courtyards, of the frozen pick-up games of his adulthood in Chicago, and now, of his daughter's slightly less intense soccer practices, replete with cones and shin guards.

For Hemon football is more than a sport, it's certainly not 'exercise,' it is the beautiful game-and never more so than in these pages.

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