A paean to the game of soccer by and for men

“For Men Only» (Mono yia andres in Greek), published earlier this month by Kastaniotis, is a tribute to soccer, or, rather, to soccer players. The main body of the album consists of 38 photographs, almost all of which show players in the various stages of an embrace, presumably after a goal has been scored. Each photograph is accompanied by the musings of an equal number of people, mostly artists, whether writers or visual artists. There are also a couple of politicians – one of whom, deputy government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris, is a published poet – a few journalists and, paradoxically, only two soccer players, both retired: Ilias Yfantis of Olympiakos and Aristidis Kamaras of Panathinaikos. The compilation was made by another well-known literary figure, Thanassis Niarchos, which explains the preponderance of men of letters. An interview with Yfantis, which opens the book, is apposite: The Olympiakos striker was the first-ever Greek soccer player to be made the subject of a poem, a longish ballad by prominent poet Aris Diktaios, in the late 1950s. For a sport, widely followed though it may be, whose practitioners are considered today – even more so in the late 1950s – as uncouth thugs on the margins of society, this was a stunning tribute. Yfantis himself has still not got over it, since, during the presentation of the book on October 7 at Olympiakos’s club, he fainted when his turn came to speak. The 38 vignettes in the book are not exactly literary masterpieces, and their quality is uneven. Some are mere descriptions of the photos that accompany the text, while others have to do with the author’s personal experiences as a spectator or, in Kamaras’s case, as a player. Why «for men only?» The mainstream view is that soccer is strictly a men’s affair, both on the pitch and in the stands. Although more women are going to matches, the majority of them are to be found at VIP sections. Furthermore, the pictures show men embracing in an intimate way that, in any other context, would raise eyebrows, or worse, in our still-homophobic society. For there is definitely something erotic about these pictures. Fans of the game – men only, of course – will appreciate this album. A revisionist reviewer (a woman, perhaps?) has claimed that the book is actually addressed to women to explain why their husbands or boyfriends choose to ignore them for the sake of a game. If so, be careful before showing the book to the woman in your life: It is quite heavy.