Dynamics of Religiosity in Contemporary Spanish Soccer as Portrayed in José Luis Sampedro’s That Saintly Day in Madrid

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CONFERENCE: SouthEast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures (SECCLL)

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Ashton, Timothy J
Spain; Soccer; Literature; Religion; Jose Luis Sampedro; Aquel santo dia en Madrid; International and Area Studies; Other International and Area Studies; Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature; Spanish Literature; Sports Studies
lecture / presentation description
Since the sport of soccer first began captivating the masses roughly 100 years ago, Spanish intellectuals have made comparisons between the sport and religion in Spain. Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s bestseller, Fútbol: una religión en busca de un Díos (Soccer: A Religion in Search of a God) helped solidify the Spanish people’s perception of the role that soccer plays in contemporary Spanish society – comparable to that of a “secular religion”, as Vázquez Montalbán puts it. Many intellectuals claim that Spain’s past obsession with Catholicism has today been replaced by soccer, and some have even modernized the Marxist theory of religion, proclaiming that today soccer is Spain’s “opiate of the masses”.José Luis Sampedro addressed these issues head-on in his science-fiction soccer tale, “Aquel santo día en Madrid” (“That Saintly Day in Madrid”), about an alien who revisits Planet Earth after 200 years to witness the World’s state of religiosity, because, as the alien claims, “if the people’s faith is strong enough, we [the aliens] could stage a return of The Messiah and control the people indefinitely”. The alien visits Spain, which was previously the “maximum national incarnation of Catholicism”, on a Sunday and assumes “the masses flocking to the cult’s largest temple on the day of worship” are people attending church, when in actuality they are attending a soccer match. What ensues are comedic misinterpretations of the soccer match made by Sampedro’s alien narrator to demonstrate that soccer’s fanatical following in Spain is of religious proportions.This paper will link a number of highly respected intellectuals’ theories regarding Spain’s religious history and the role of soccer in contemporary Spanish society with José Luis Sampedro’s “That Saintly Day in Madrid”.