Emma Coolen - Filosofie

Soccer and philosophy: polar opposites or the perfect combination?

When I’m in the car, on the way to my Belgian team, I like to listen to the Philosophize This podcast. In the show, host Stephen West uses well-known figures from the history of philosophy to explain his theories, a new one every single week (some quick math teaches me that in the past season alone, I’ve spent over 250 hours in the car driving to Mol, so you can imagine that I’ve enjoyed quite a few episodes).

So what does this have to do with soccer, you might wonder? Well, if you ask me, surprisingly much. Of course, at first glance the two subjects might appear to be on completely opposite sides of a spectrum. Philosophy is about life and its meaning, and soccer is about 22 people trying to get a spheric object in a net as fast as possible, to be rewarded with – if you happened to be blessed with the male sex – a few zeroes added to the number on your bank account and eternal glory. But that’s not the end of the story.


In episode 79 of the podcast, on the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, show host West makes an interesting comparison. ‘[Going out for a run or lifting weights at the gym] is directly analogous to life itself. The same way that you are met with resistance, and you don’t want do it, and you feel like quitting, but you push through it at the gym… Life throws you resistance. Life throws you things you don’t want to do. I think because of that training, you’re much less likely to quit when you’re faced with adversity in life.’

When I heard this part for the first time, I almost tripped over some steps at Den Bosch Central Station. When my heartbeat had settled down, I stopped Spotify, rewinded it a minute, and listened to his analogy again. And again. The point he made was exactly what I had been thinking about for so long when it comes to the value of sports, and in my case, soccer, in regards to the ‘rest’ of your life – everything that happens outside of the white lines.

Miniature version

I’ve written about the adversities I’ve faced in soccer quite a few times before, and how the soccer world because of that sometimes felt like a miniature version of the ‘real’ world. Not getting what you want, even though you’ve worked so hard for it, not belonging to a group, even though you tried so hard, and those days where everything just seems go wrong and you have no idea why. Is this about soccer, or a regular day in the life of a college student?

The point Stephen West is making highlights why sports is so incredibly important for children. It teaches them, from a very young age on, to deal with disappointments, how to cooperate, and the added value of hard work. When those kids then turn 20, and sit in their car in the parking lot crying, because they once again failed to make the match squad for that weekend’s game, a podcast about philosophy might come in handy. If anything, it’s brilliant at putting things in perspective.

Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂

Emma - Signature