Action Replay: The ‘Absurd’ Goalkeeper

In his youth the French writer Albert Camus (1913-1960) played in goal for Racing Universitaire d’Alger (RUA) junior team from 1928 to 1930 (he was born and brought up in Algeria which was then part of France). They won both the North African Champions Cup and the North African Cup twice each in the 1930s. It was the sense of team spirit, fraternity, and common purpose that appealed to him but any aspirations to a career in football disappeared when he contracted tuberculosis when he was seventeen.

During the Second World War Camus joined the French Resistance cell Combat, which published an underground newspaper of the same name. He became the paper’s editor in 1943 and continued to edit it after the war until 1947. It was a leftwing paper but critical of the Communist Party. He began to frequent the cafés in the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris where Sartre and other French intellectuals used to gather but his criticism of the Communist Party did not win him friends there.

His rejection of the Communist Party’s doctrine was strongly expressed in the Rebel published in 1951, a philosophical analysis of rebellion and revolution. This brought about a final split with Sartre. Despite this, Camus has continued to be categorised as an ‘existentialist’ but he rejected this description and felt that because we lived in an absurd world, he would be better described as an ‘absurdist’

When he was asked in the 1950s by a sports magazine for a few words regarding his time with the RUA, his said that ‘what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA’. he was referring to the sort of simplistic morality he wrote about in his early essays, the principle of sticking up for your friends, of valuing bravery and fair-play which still survives in the amateur game.

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