Author John Green talks about the World Cup, soccer and TikTok

For some, soccer is just a sport. For others, like “The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green, soccer is an art form, a wonderfully tactical and poetic dance.

“Soccer is the kind of theater where the audience doesn’t know the script and neither do the players,” Green said in an interview with The Times on Thursday.

The novelist, who is a lifelong soccer fan, has been closely following the 2022 World Cup and has shared his witty observations of plays, rivalries and circumstances that have unfolded during the tournament with his 2.4 million followers. followers on TikTok.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever loved someone who let you down and betrayed your trust over and over again, but I have. That someone is the US Men’s National Soccer Team,” Green said in a TikTok celebrating USMNT’s advancement to the Round of 16.

“For most of my life I have given the United States men’s soccer team a lot of my love and in return they have given me very little…they have been disappointments until today when Christian Pulisic scored a goal to defeat Iran and send the US men’s national team to the knockout stages of the World Cup.”

In another TikTok, he discussed the unimaginable pressure that comes with taking penalty kicks.

“I really don’t like it when people say, ‘Those players can’t take the pressure to take a penalty in the World Cup.’ You couldn’t either, and neither could any of us,” she shared. “I want to say that no one can handle even the normal, everyday pressures that we are all subjected to. Certainly no one can handle the pressure of taking a penalty kick while literally half of all humans are watching.”

Green’s love affair with football dates back many decades, when he played the sport in high school. Despite being a self-described “terrible” player, Green, 45, has always harbored a deep passion for the game he has seen on most days for the past 20 years.

“I loved it when I was in high school. I was by far the biggest fan of my high school football team,” Green said. “I love the game. I always thought it was beautiful and very metaphorically resonant to me.”

The “Looking for Alaska” author noted that while the similarities between his line of work and the art of soccer don’t seem obvious, they are definitely present.

“I don’t think soccer is that different from writing novels. A lot of it is about trying to open up space in unexpected ways,” she said. “The clear line that I drew as a child between jocks and nerds, between art and sports, of course, is a completely false dichotomy. And there are a lot of beautiful things in football, so I often try to bring that to the table.”

In another set of TikToks, which have since been removed by FIFA because, according to Green, they are “the thieves of joy,” the “Paper Towns” writer showed off the highlights, praising the patience it takes to create a perfect play. on the pitch during the Argentina-Poland match. Afterwards, he celebrated Japan’s uninterrupted effort against Spain that led to an improbable goal that allowed them to advance as Group E champions.

“I was trying to find plays that were accessible enough that I could explain to people who don’t care about football why I find those plays so beautiful, but still be able to talk about them in a minute or a minute and a half,” Green said.

As for whom he will root for in Sunday’s final between Argentina and France, Green’s heart can’t help but root for Lionel Messi and Argentina, even if his head tells him that France has the most complete team.

Speaking about Messi’s impressive run to set up teammate Julián Álvarez for Argentina’s third goal against Croatia in the semi-finals this week, Green spoke about his love for Messi’s style of play.

“It took a level of creativity and ability to understand space and navigate space that is really unusual,” he said. “You see a player like [Messi]Luka Modrić or Roberto Firmino and for me their game is so beautiful, creative and unexpected…those are the moments for me that are so full of joy”.

Although Green’s love for the game is unwavering, it is not uncritical.

Off the pitch, this year’s World Cup has been mired in controversy, not least because of the working conditions of the migrant workers who built the stadiums for the tournament. Green has dealt with the inner conflict many have felt by supporting the game he loves while being mindful and proactive about speaking out against injustice.

“I think it’s important to say that it’s not just Qatar, it’s not just the World Cup, it’s not just FIFA, it’s also the Premier League and many other leagues around the world and football has historically often been used as a means of oppression and as a way to reinforce unjust systems,” Green said.

“I think, to me, the way we call attention to these things is by calling attention to them. That’s something that I really admired about the work that Grant Wahl did in Qatar, and throughout his career, it was that he loved football, and part of loving football was criticizing football. And, you know, pay critical attention, not just attention.”

When asked if he sees himself as some kind of ambassador for a sport that has been the future sport of the US for decades, Green rejected the label wholeheartedly.

“I don’t really feel like a football ambassador. I don’t think football needs an ambassador,” he said. “To be honest with you, I think the game itself is beautiful on its own terms and has a lot of fans in the US. It needs me.”

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