Football Vs Art

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There was an interesting profile piece in the Sunday Mail this week about England manager Fabio Capello. Reading between the lines, you get the distinct impression that football and cultural pursuits are deemed mutually exclusive - that it is somehow surprising that a man into his football should also enjoy a bit of modern art. But then Fabio Capello is Italian, and an appreciation of the arts is central to his national identity, we surmise. 

An orange football. The 1966 World Cup Final ball © National Football Museum.

A work of art? The 1966 World Cup Final ball © National Football Museum.

This really got me thinking. It’s difficult to accept that football and art don’t mix when you are in a city where football is art.  In Liverpool we have put football at the centre of Capital of Culture year through UEFA’s Only A Game? exhibition at World Museum Liverpool. Football is one of the city’s key assets - part of the currency, the vocabulary, the mythology, the identity - full stop. To omit it would be a nonsense. Football can create as much passion and drama, and elicit the same heightened emotions as a great piece of theatre, an imposing painting or a rousing music recital.  It brings an aesthetic quality to the sports field that requires elegance, balance and poise – infact, as a rugby league fan, I have often joked that football has more in common with ballet than rugby. Isn’t that why it’s called ‘the beautiful game’? (The introduction video for Only A Game? is worth a look - it's fun and light-hearted look at football in a European cultural context).

Capello is reported to be a big fan of Scottish painter Peter Doig, who won the Walker Art Gallery’s John Moores Painting Prize in 1993 with Blotter. Blotter is currently featured in a major solo show in Frankfurt,  but you can still see Pelican (Stag) which was loaned by the artist in exchange. The current John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize ends this Sunday 4 January, so if you share Fabio’s passion for modern art, seize the moment. If on the other hand you prefer his penchant for football, then you've got until 1 March to see Only A Game? at World Museum Liverpool.

The relationship between sport and culture will be further scrutinised in a new exhibition, Fashion Vs Sport that opens 13 February at the Walker Art Gallery. It ends its run at the V&A this Sunday.