Literary dribbles and cultural exchanges

Focus on cultural exchange at Autonama All kinds of players, from earnest amateurs to not-quite-pros "The pitch is a great place to clear your head, shout and let it all out"

Football and literature: at first glance, it might appear that those two topics have little in common. But look a little closer and you can see an unmistakable similarity.

"The drama that you get in a match can, to a certain extent, be compared...

Focus on cultural exchange at Autonama All kinds of players, from earnest amateurs to not-quite-pros "The pitch is a great place to clear your head, shout and let it all out"

Footbᴀʟʟ ᴀɴd lɪᴛerᴀᴛure: ᴀᴛ ꜰɪʀsᴛ glᴀɴce, ɪᴛ ᴍɪɢʜᴛ ᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀ thᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴏsᴇ ᴛᴡᴏ ᴛᴏpics ʜᴀᴠᴇ lɪᴛtle ɪɴ ᴄᴏᴍᴍᴏɴ. But ʟᴏᴏᴋ a lɪᴛtle ᴄʟᴏsᴇr ᴀɴd ʏᴏᴜ cᴀɴ sᴇᴇ ᴀɴ unmɪstakᴀʙʟᴇ sɪᴍɪʟᴀʀɪᴛy.

"The drama that you get in a match can, to a certain extent, be compared with how literary works are constructed," explained Philipp Reinartz from the German National Team of Authors (Autonama) in an interview with FIFA.com. "Last week, everyone was talking about Bayern versus Chelsea as the Munich Champions League final rematch. In terms of the high points, the showdown and the drama, you could make that straight into a film or a book without having to change anything," he added.

Autonama was founded in 2005 by German author and script-writer Thomas Brussig. Since then, the writers in jerseys have gone on to win the Ruhrlit Cup 2010 which was the fourth hosting of the European Championships for national teams of authors. In 2008 they also published a collection of texts entitled 'Fighting for the title ('Titelkampf').

Reinartz himself has only been part of the team since 2014 and as such cannot tell us much about the original ideal behind the concept, but he has certainly had some exciting times in recent years. There have been official international matches, with a former professional coach there to get the most out of them.

"Otto Rehhagel was at the most recent book fair for example," said Reinartz, who hails from Freiburg. "For me at least that was an absolute highlight. The matches are often held around book fairs and supported by the DFB (German football association) cultural foundation, and we even get to walk out in the stadium with mascots. For amateur players like us, it’s an incredible feeling when kids come up to us and ask us for our autographs because they think that we’re important players."

Endlich ein Platz für den #Schiedsrichter! https://t.co/Cfp3K6KTWr #autorenamball #EURO2016 #autonama pic.twitter.com/E0yOExVfTV

— Goethe-Institut PAR (@GI_Paris) June 20, 2016

The focus, however, is on cultural exchange rather than football. "The matches aren’t just for the fun of playing. They are arranged in conjunction with readings from the authors at the Goethe Institute or at a German embassy. The interaction between authors sees some of the players from the teams reading their texts and then everyone discusses them. Often there are specific themes like a day of remembrance and we chose texts based around that."

"We spend a lot of time with the other teams in addition to whatever the official programmes have set out for us," said 'Foreign Country' ('Fremdland') author Reinartz of the idea behind Autonama. "There are dinners where people discuss what they’re working on or writing about with their colleagues, and there’s lots of cultural exchange there. The national teams of authors are designed to promote understanding between countries. Football is just one element of that alongside social exchange."

Training is held once a week and is a welcome break from what can be the very lonely business of writing. The players swaps words for balls and use the time on the pitch to look for fresh inspiration.

"We sit down and talk after training and discuss things, like how are you getting on with your book? Some people meet in smaller groups and work through their manuscripts. But out on the pitch, it’s a great place to clear your head, shout and let it all out."

Reinartz knows that it is not always easy to bring together people with different personalities. "It can be a challenge at times for us as a team since we’ve got so many strong individuals, and you have to get them to work together first of all. The authors need to leave their egos in the changing rooms and work as a team."

The team currently features men only, but could there be a national team of women authors? This does not exist as yet, but who knows? Maybe in 2020 a few female writers will get together and write a new chapter in sporting and literary history…

Autonama, the German National Team of Authors
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28 Feb 2020

Autonama: Plakatankündigung Deutschland-Norwegen Picture: Courtesy of Autonama

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Autonama: Lesung zusammen mit Norwegischen Autoren bei der Buchmesse Picture: Courtesy of Autonama

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Portrait Philipp Reinartz / Copyright ® Janina Wagner

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Picture: Courtesy of Atonama

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Picture: Courtesy of Atonama

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Autonama: Lesung Deutschland Norwegen in Frankfurt Picture: Courtesy of Atonama

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Images courtesy of Autonama / Portrait von Philipp Reinartz Copyright ® Janina Wagner