Do You Believe in the Bolivian Soccer Ghost?

I do. I believe.

I’ve seen the weightless, shadowy football fan that hang glided at zero altitude through the stands of a match in La Paz. I’ve seen that rad Rollerblading ghost, like if Brink! were remade with silhouettes. Watch the video. Enhance. Enhance. ENHANCE. The Bolivian Soccer Ghost is real, and you don’t even want to know how many bolivianos it lost on the outcome of that game.

[Posts in a comment thread about whether ghosts have civil rights.]

In case you hadn’t guessed, the Bolivian Soccer Ghost comes to us via the Daily Mail, that trusty purveyor of all things suspect and hysterical. (Next recommended story: “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Negroes in the house! Negroes in the house!’ Oprah shouted as her parents arrived for a visit.” OK!) The Daily Mail informs us that this isn’t the first soccer ghost in South American history: “Some Venezuelans believe the ‘ghost’ of their deceased President Hugo Chaves was responsible for saving an otherwise certain goal during an international match against Colombia.” Here is video of that ghost; it’s even more amazing than you would’ve assumed:

But the Bolivian Soccer Ghost, and his close cousin the Venezuelan Presidential Soccer Ghost, have a significance greater than what they tell us about the supernatural’s taste in sports. They shine a light on how impossibly lame U.S. sporting culture is in comparison.

Imagine an NBA or an NFL or an MLB ghost. You can’t. Do you know why you can’t? Because we have no sense of wonder when it comes to sports. Every win, loss, and additional inch of recession in LeBron’s hairline has a transactional significance; we need to weigh and measure their impact on everything they could affect. We, as a culture, are very literal. That’s why we go into hysterics over scenes in television shows or a brand tweeting like it’s drunk or refs seeming to work against the team we support. We’d rather be sad than uncertain. There’s no emotional or sociological space in which a ghost can exist, unless the ghost has something to do with Russell Westbrook’s shot selection, in which case that ghost is a me-first ghost.

The Venezuelan Presidential Soccer Ghost may have altered the outcome of a game, but the beautiful thing about the Bolivian Soccer Ghost is that it had no impact on the result of its match. It just came, hung out in the stands a bit, moved in a manner defying known laws of physics, and then got the hell out. That rules. Bolivian Soccer Ghost is a model for how we should approach sports, how we should treasure the splendid weirdness of these games and worry a little less about who ends up winning or losing, or whether players deserve every cent of the contracts they were arbitrarily given. We should allow ourselves to be surprised every so often.

Apart from it being just complete cultural tourism, maybe we — and I’m saying “we” here to mean “us,” as in those who accept into our hearts the Bolivian Soccer Ghost — should all really get into Bolivian soccer, or, like, English League Two. It would help realign our senses of what we actually come to these games for, the things that we really want from watching sports; all the bunting and infrastructure would be learned anew. It would be pure spectating.

We won’t do that, because U.S. sports are pretty cool and, honestly, it’s a bit impractical. But Bolivian Soccer Ghost reminds us that there are still leagues out there we don’t know anything about, operating under their own strange logic. And if we ever get tired or frustrated, Bolivian Soccer Ghost is waiting with open arms.

Kevin Lincoln (@KTLincoln) is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

Filed Under: Soccer, Ghosts, Bolivia