Albert Camus and football!

The unbreakable bond between Camus and football started from his childhood in Algiers. Discreet allusions dot his work, but he spoke more easily of his passion for football in his life as a man and described it as one of the essential components of his life course.

The discovery of football

By reading Albert Camus’s notebooks, we understand the man and his journey through the world. He entrusts his childhood memories to posterity and, in particular, reveals to us what football has brought to his construction as a man.

Fatherless when he barely reached his first year of life, little Albert grew up in the poor Belcourt neighborhood of Algiers. There, in primary school, young Albert discovered the joys of football. His poverty was so great that his grandmother was very careful not to wear out his shoe soles while playing football. At the age of 13, he became the goalkeeper of the Association Sportive de Montpensier before joining the junior team of Racing Universitaire d’Alger (RUA). He excelled in this goalkeeper role and the newspapers of the time emphasized his exploits. Unfortunately, his dream of becoming a professional soccer player was shattered when he learned at the age of 17 that he had tuberculosis, a fatal disease at the time.

A lifelong passion for football

Despite a fate forced away from football, Albert Camus will maintain a passion for football throughout his life. In all his great novels, L’Etranger, La Peste, La Chute or le Premier Homme, there are references to this sport. Football and the position of goalkeeper he has held will be one of the fundamental components of Albert Camus’ personality. Placing him both in the team and alone in his cage will help him find the balance necessary for his life as a writer and artist. He will retain his taste for collective work and team spirit in the theatrical and journalistic activities that he will later become. Between the loneliness essential to creation and the imperative need to be part of the world, of his time and of his contemporaries, this position will remain his throughout his life.

Loyal to his club, the RUA (Racing Universitaire d’Alger), from the Parc des Princes, he says of receiving his Nobel Prize in Literature: “I go to the races of the Racing Club de Paris, of which I made my favorite , just because he wears the same shirt as the RUA, circled in blue and white.” He will also mention: Because after many years in which the world has offered me many spectacles, what I finally know about the morals and obligations of men, I owe it to sports, it is to the RUA that I know. †

The life lesson of football

“It was in the goal that he learned that the ball never went where it was expected”. He would later confide in him that this perception served him very well in his development in a Parisian intellectual environment where he fiercely opposed other intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre. For Albert Camus, football served as a school of life complementing that of the republic. He would later thank both schools at his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1957, where he gave his vision of the artist: “alone in creation and yet a full member of the human community”. His bases helped build the man he would become: free and devoted at the side of his brothers in humanity.

“Personally, I can’t live without my art. But I never put this art above anything else. If it is necessary for me, on the contrary, it is because it separates from no one and allows me to live, as I am, on the level of everyone. Art for me is not a solitary enjoyment. It is a means of moving the greatest number of men by offering them a privileged view of common suffering and joys. It therefore obliges the artist not to divorce; it subjects it to the humblest and most universal truth. And the one who often chose his destiny as an artist because he felt different, quickly learns that he will only nourish his art, and his difference, by admitting his resemblance to everyone else. The artist forges himself in this eternal back and forth from himself to others, halfway between the beauty he cannot afford to miss and the community he cannot tear himself away from. †

Albert Camus

Extract from the Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, December 10, 1957, Gallimard Editions, coll. The Pleiade.

Leave a Comment