So lange der Ball rollt (As Long as the Ball Keeps Rolling), Study, 2010/2011
Various media on paper, 4-part series, 36 x 48 cm each
© (Marcel Odenbach) VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010
Photo: Marcus Schneider
Football is a medium of integration, inspiring people from a wide range of backgrounds. But it is also a site of exclusion and competition between regions and nations, an arena where there are winners and losers. The four-part work So lange der Ball rollt varies the motif of duelling footballers’ legs in different colours and before a variety of backdrops: two versions focus entirely on the legs, another, on the motif of the lawn, and the fourth, on the spectators. In each of these versions, however, the narrow focus on the two pairs of legs is the defining feature. The collage is based on a newspaper photograph showing a scene during the final match of the 1998 World Cup, France against Brazil, which France won 3–0. The number 15 indicates whose legs we see: they belong to Lilian Thuram, one of the French national team’s centre-back players. A world football championship delegates international competition to the immediate and thoroughly physical rivalry among twenty-two male bodies. In Odenbach’s work, this competition is envisioned even more starkly as a duel between two players, reduced to the physical essence of two de-individualized pairs of legs that are the central objects of football, propelling the bodies and the ball. Who runs faster, who will prevail?