The philosophy of football

by Massimo Pigliucci

The football (i.e., soccer, for Americans) World Cup is in full swing. Setting aside the more than justified controversies about FIFA, the organizing body, and Qatar, the hosting country, I’ve had some time to reflect on the game itself from a bit of a detached perspective. After all, Italy didn’t make it to the tournament this year, so I’ll have to wait until the 2026 edition in North America (a joint US-Mexico-Canada effort) to see the Azzurri in action again. Fate permitting.

I’d like to analyze the idea of football—seen from the point of view of a player—in Stoic terms, because I think football embodies many of the lessons of Stoicism itself. Which is a bit ironic, given that the ancient Stoics taught us not to give a damn about games, and especially not to care about which team may or may not win. Epictetus admonishes:

“When the occasion demands, do speak, but not about any of the usual topics, not about gladiators, not about horse-races, not about athletes, not about food and drink, the subjects of everyday talk.” (Encheiridion, 33.3) … (continue at Substack)

Published by Massimo

Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

2 thoughts on “The philosophy of football

  1. Well, the Krauts didn’t make the knockout round for the second tournament in a row, and El Tri didn’t make the knockout for the first time since 1978. I know that Brazil is a big favorite, but, let me see more on their injury status first, especially on Neymar.

    And, does Stoicism deal with dealing with the expanded use, and the time involved, of all the VAR incidents?


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