Hands, Feet, Eyes, and the Object a: A Lacanian Anatomy of Football

Sandra Meeuwsen*, Hub Zwart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


In this paper, we present a Lacanian perspective on football, while notably fathoming its normative dimension. Starting with a defining imperative, the prohibition against ‘handling’ or touching the ball with your hands, diverging football historically from rugby, we will subsequently focus our attention on the role of the foot, the eye (notably the eyes of the audience) and the ‘object a’ (in the context of gender). Against this backdrop, we will address pressing issues such as the troubled position of the referee (as an ‘impossible profession’), the commercialisation of football, and the rising tides of violence, match—fixing and other instances of systemic deviance. As we will argue, football exemplifies modern sport as an arena defined by prohibitions and desire, by inclusion and exclusion, by purity and abuse, culminating in recent challenges involved in gender trouble. Symbolical practices, like modern football, are based on in- and exclusion. Instead of more regulations and dichotomies, we advocate careful attention to the delicate art of handling desire in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalSport, Ethics and Philosophy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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