Forged by a history of social injustice, the beautiful game is inseparable from the rebellious spirit and deceptive artistry of its people. In this article, James Vaughan explores the development of the beautiful game by highlighting the fundamental role of culture.

Football is not the beautiful game; the beautiful game is only one form of football ­­– a form devised within a particular movement culture and shaped by a unique combination of socio-cultural constraints and movement opportunities. In Brazil, poverty, unstructured street play, samba and capoeira have all played their part, creating a perfect storm to infuse Brazilian play with Ginga – a deceptive swaying movement 1.

However, there are deep, dark roots that anchor the beautiful game to the colonial corruption and slavery that characterised a young Brazil1. For the Brazilian masses, oppression bred a rebellious mindset, a mindset that shaped their way of life. In the following paragraphs, we explore the origins of this mindset and use the idea of affordances to better understand the relationship between players and their environment.

Football is often described as a ‘way of life’ and Dutch philosopher Erik Rietveld suggests that our ‘way of life’ and our movement culture are linked, creating what he calls a ‘form of life’2. It is each ‘form of life’ that holds the unique opportunities for movement or action in its particular environment – these opportunities for movement are called affordances2.

Rietveld and Kiverstein2 suggest it is the socio-cultural practices of humans that define a ‘form of life’ or a way of doing things: Something they describe as the regular movement patterns that come about in the normal behaviours and customs of our communities and cultures.

“Within football the dominant ‘form of life’ can be understood as the dominant ‘playing style’.”

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James Vaughan
James Vaughan
James Vaughan is a Co-founder of Player Development Project and currently based in Stockholm where he is coaching at AIK and working towards his PhD in Creativity & Motivation in Football.
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