Jonathan Wilson's editor's note from Issue Twenty Six
At the beginning of the year, Asker Hedegaard Boye suggested writing an article on the Parc des Princes. It’s a stadium the location of which has always slightly baffled me – at the Euros in 2016, it was a perpetual frustration after games as we’d walk for half an hour to get away from the crowds, only to find ourselves in an area too wealthy to have affordable restaurants and have to walk for another 20 minutes before ending up, inevitably, back at the same bistro, where you’d sit alongside well-heeled and disdainful elderly Parisian women, and try to watch whatever other game was on reflected in a mirror at the end of the bar – and so I said yes.
The problem was, the piece didn’t fit in any section, loosely defined and contrived as they often are. So eventually I asked a few other writers if they fancied writing something about a stadium that intrigued them. The response was extraordinarily enthusiastic. Journalists, it turns out, love stadiums.
Some chose arenas that have hosted World Cup finals. Some picked humbler grounds where they first fell for the game. Some opted to tell the history of games played there, others opted to rail against the corporatisation of the modern stadium. In the end, there wasn’t even room for my anecdote about a drunken encounter with Beyoncé in Donetsk. But I’m sure it’s a theme to which we’ll return in a year or two.
What comes across in all 10 pieces here, though, is how important place is. I’m no great fan of Eduardo Galeano but he is surely right when he speaks of the eeriness of the empty stadium, the weird sense of echoes of emotion in the silence of somewhere built to be occupied. Stadiums become repositories for something far more significant than the mere games – something I discussed in relation to Roker Park in Issue 15 – and that means that we accept, perhaps even relish, shabbiness and familiar flaws, that comfort and sophistication are secondary concerns over a sense of home and history. For all the glitz and surface lustre of the modern game, for all that it is viewed far more on television than at the stadium, there is still a desire for authenticity.
Speaking of homes, if that isn’t too clunky a segue, you’ll notice we have a new website. This is the first issue launched on the new site, on which everybody can view up to three articles per month for free. That should make it easier to share articles you’ve enjoyed: you’re the only advertising we have so please do that and encourage others to sign up for the full subscription.