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The Philosophers' Football Match

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Title: The Philosophers' Football Match  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, Monty Python, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 1972 Summer Olympics, Philosophy and culture
Collection: 1972 Summer Olympics, Monty Python Sketches, Philosophy and Culture
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Philosophers' Football Match

The Philosophers' Football Match is a Monty Python sketch depicting a football match in the Olympiastadion at the 1972 Munich Olympics between philosophers representing Greece and Germany. Starring in the sketch are Archimedes (John Cleese), Socrates (Eric Idle), Hegel (Graham Chapman), Nietzsche (Michael Palin), Marx (Terry Jones) and Kant (Terry Gilliam). Palin also provides the match television commentary.

The footage opens with the banner headline "International Philosophy", and Palin providing the narrative. Confucius is the referee and keeps times with an hourglass. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine (sporting haloes) serve as linesmen.[1] The German manager is Martin Luther. As play begins, the philosophers break from their proper football positions only to walk around on the pitch as if deeply pondering, and in some cases declaiming, their theories.[1] Franz Beckenbauer, the sole genuine footballer on the pitch and a "surprise inclusion" in the German team, is left more than a little confused.

The sketch was performed in the Grünwalder Stadion.[2] It originally featured in the second Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus episode broadcast on 5 December 1974 and was later included in Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982).[3]

The Greek players, mostly with long gray beards and hair, play in togas, while the Germans sport a variety of period dress including Victorian frock coats and breeches. "Nobby" Hegel carries a grey top hat, while Beckenbauer wears modern Bayern Munich football strip.


  • Outcome 1
  • Match details 2
  • Line-ups 3
  • Philosophers Football Match 2010 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Nietzsche receives a yellow card after claiming that Confucius has no free will. Confucius replies, "Name go in book".

In the second half, with nothing being accomplished on the field other than contemplation, Karl Marx is noticed warming up vigorously on the German sidelines. Marx soon races onto the field to substitute Ludwig Wittgenstein, his energy appearing as an obvious game-changer. Upon the referee's restart, Marx simply pulls up and starts meandering in deep thought like the rest.

With just over a minute of the match remaining Archimedes cries out "Eureka!", takes the first kick of the ball and rushes towards the German goal. After several passes through a perplexed German defence, Socrates scores the only goal of the match in a diving header off a cross from Archimedes.

As the sketch closes, the Germans dispute the call; "Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx claims it was offside."

(The replay proves that, according to the offside rule, Socrates was indeed offside, but the sketch, nevertheless, states that the Greeks have won.)

Match details

10 September 1972
20:00 UTC+2
 Greece 1–0 Germany 
Socrates Goal 89' Report


The names of the Greek philosophers in the line-up are displayed in German in the sketch.

Germany Greece Referees (main and assistants)
Gottfried Leibniz (goalkeeper) Plato (goalkeeper) K'ung Fu-tzu (Confucius) (main)
Immanuel Kant Epictetus St Augustine (linesman)
(capt) Aristotle St Thomas Aquinas (linesman)
Arthur Schopenhauer "Chopper" Sophocles
Friedrich Schelling Empedocles of Acragas
Franz Beckenbauer Plotinus
Karl Jaspers Epicurus
Karl Schlegel Heraklitus
Ludwig Wittgenstein Democritus
Friedrich Nietzsche Socrates (capt)
Martin Heidegger Archimedes
Karl Marx - substituting
Wittgenstein in the 2nd half

(Wittgenstein was, in fact, Austrian.)

Philosophers Football Match 2010

Inspired by the famous Monty Python sketch, and with the full backing of the surviving Pythons, a tribute/replay of The Philosophers' Football Match was held in North London, at Wingate & Finchley’s Harry Abrahams Stadium, Finchley on 9 May 2010.[4]

This tongue-in-cheek re-staging – on a real London pitch – of the original sketch, was the idea of The Philosophy Shop, a specialist provider of education and training for primary school children. The group works to enable Philosophy graduates at University level to conduct practical philosophy sessions for children aged 5 to 11 as part of a drive to boost their reasoning skills from their first days in the school environment.[4]

Philosophers A.C. Grayling and former England Manager Graham Taylor had been appointed as managers for the event, and players included comedians Mark Steel, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith and Ariane Sherine, as well as philosophers Julian Baggini, Nigel Warburton, Simon Glendinning, Stephen Law, Angie Hobbs and Mark Vernon, plus other academics from Universities nationwide. Match supporters included sociologist and BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed presenter Laurie Taylor, the BBC’s John Humphrys and educationalist and author Anthony Seldon.[4]


  1. ^ a b Gener, Randy. (May 1, 2006) American Theatre The French Misconnection, or What Makes a Writer French. Volume 23; Issue 5; Page 42.
  2. ^ Beer, Roman. (2011) Kultstätte an der Grünwalder Straße. Die Geschichte eines Stadions Page 129, Publisher: Die Werkstatt. ISBN 978-3-89533-780-2
  3. ^ Larsen, Darl. (2003) Monty Python, Shakespeare and English Renaissance Drama. Page 45, Publisher: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1504-5
  4. ^ a b c

External links

  • International Philosophy Sketch (Script to the sketch) at the Wayback Machine (archived June 6, 2011)
  • Philosophers Football (Match 2010) at the Wayback Machine (archived August 29, 2011)
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