The Philosophers' Football Match

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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 German National Team football strip.


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[edit]

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)
Georg "Nobby" Hegel (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[edit]

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]

Match Transcript[edit]

From Monty Python's Live at the Hollywood Bowl:

Football Commentator (Michael): Good afternoon, and welcome to a packed Olympic stadium, Muenchen, {caption "INTERNATIONALE PHILOSOPHIE - Rueckspiel" (International Philospohy - Return match)} for the second leg of this exciting final. {German philosophers jog out of the dressing room.} And here come the Germans now, led by their skipper, "Nobby" Hegel. They must surely start favourites this afternoon; they've certainly attracted the most attention from the press with their team problems. And let's now see their line-up. {Caption "DEUTSCHLAND" (Germany)

  • 2 I. KANT
  • 3 HEGEL
  • 11 HEIDEGGER"}

{High shot of Germans jogging onto pitch.} The Germans playing 4-2-4, Leibnitz in goal, back four Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Schelling, front-runners Schlegel, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche and Heidegger, and the mid-field duo of Beckenbauer and Jaspers. Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there. {Greek philosophers, all in togas, jog from the dressing room.} And here come the Greeks, led out by their veteran centre-half, Heraclitus. {Caption "GRIECHENLAND" (Greece)

  • 1 PLATO
  • 6 PLOTIN
  • 7 EPIKUR

{High shot of Greeks jogging onto pitch, kicking balls about etc.} Let's look at their team. As you'd expect, it's a much more defensive line-up. Plato's in goal, Socrates a front- runner there, and Aristotle as sweeper, Aristotle very much the man in form. One surprise is the inclusion of Archimedes. {A referee, holding a large sandglass, walks down the centre line, flanked by two linesmen with haloes.} Well here comes the referee, Kung Fu Tsu Confucius, and his two linesmen, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. {Referee spots the ball and the captains shake hands.} And as the two skippers come together to shake hands, we're ready for the start of this very exciting final. The referee Mr Confucius checks his sand and... {referee blows his whistle]} they're off! {The Germans immediately turn away from the ball, hands on chins in deep contemplation.} Nietzsche and Hegel there. Karl Jaspers number seven on the outside, Wittgenstein there with him. There's Beckenbauer. Schelling's in there, Heidegger covering. Schopenhauer. {Pan to the other end, the Greeks also thinking deeply, occasionally gesticulating.} And now it's the Greeks, Epicurus, Plotinus number six. Aristotle. Empedocles of Acragus and Democratus with him. There's Archimedes. Socrates, there he is, Socrates. Socrates there, going through. {The camera follows Socrates past the ball, still on the centre spot.} There's the ball! There's the ball. And Nietzsche there. Nietzsche, number ten in this German side. {Caption "DEUTSCHLAND - GRIECHENLAND 0 : 0"} Kant moving up on the outside. Schlegel's on the left, the Germans moving very well in these opening moments.

Well right now we're going back to the Olympic stadium for the closing minutes of the Philosophy Final, and I understand that there's still no score. {On the pitch, a German is remonstrating with the referee.}

Football Commentator: Well there may be no score, but there's certainly no lack of excitement here. As you can see, Nietzsche has just been booked for arguing with the referee. He accused Confucius of having no free will, and Confucius says, "Name go in book".

And this is Nietzsche's third booking in four games. {We see a bearded figure in a track-suit is warming up on the touch-line.}

And who's that? It's Karl Marx, Karl Marx is warming up. It looks as though there's going to be a substitution in the German side. {Marx removes the track-suit, under which he is wearing a suit.}

Obviously the manager Martin Luther has decided on all- out attack, as indeed he must with only two minutes of the match to go.

And the big question is, who is he going to replace, who's going to come off. It could be Jaspers, Hegel or Schopenhauer, but it's Wittgenstein! Wittgenstein, who saw his aunty only last week, and here's Marx. {Marx begins some energetic knees-up running about.} Let's see it he can put some life into this German attack. {The referee blows his whistle; Marx stops and begins contemplating like the rest.} Evidently not. What a shame. Well now, with just over a minute left, a replay on Tuesday looks absolutely vital.

There's Archimedes, and I think he's had an idea. Archimedes (John): Eureka! {He runs towards the ball and kicks it.}

Football Commentator: Archimedes out to Socrates, Socrates back to Archimedes, Archimedes out to Heraclitus, he beats Hegel {who, like all the Germans, is still thinking}. Heraclitus a little flick, here he comes on the far post, Socrates is there, Socrates heads it in! Socrates has scored! The Greeks are going mad, the Greeks are going mad! Socrates scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it.

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 is claiming it was offside.

But Confucius has answered them with the final whistle! It's all over! Germany, having trounced England's famous midfield trio of Bentham, Locke and Hobbes in the semi-final, have been beaten by the odd goal, and let's see it again. {Replay viewed from behind the goal.} There it is, Socrates, Socrates heads in and Leibnitz doesn't have a chance. And just look at those delighted Greeks. {The Greeks jog delightedly, holding a cup aloft.} There they are, "Chopper" Sophocles, Empedocles of Acragus, what a game he had. And Epicurus is there, and Socrates the captain who scored what was probably the most important goal of his career.


  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 Baggini, Julian (28 April 2010). "Who's the thinker in the white?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 

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