I’m indebted to talk about soccer/football—the name of the sport is football in most countries—’cause the English Premier League kicked off the 2015/2016 season this weekend. Club soccer seasons run about as long as the school year and they are where players spend 95% of their careers (rather than at the World Cup or in other games with their countries). Basically every country in Europe has its own soccer league, plus there are cups in each country as well as one large European “Champions League,” which, in a World Cup type format, pits the top clubs from each country against one another until one team wins the final.
Anyway, soccer/football is the “Beautiful Game” and I want to explain a few reasons why so many of we humans love it (even though people from the U.S. sometimes give it some unfair criticism).
- What do you need to play soccer with your friends? No equipment or goals are necessary; you just need a ball, so you can basically play anywhere at any time. Go play with your friends next time you’re bored and you’ll see how fun soccer is to play, especially if you have goals too. (Don’t forget how much fun the FIFA video game series is too.)
- Soccer is by light-years the most global sport and it unites everybody in the world. It’s a common language. Fans in Argentina light flairs up and throw them in the stands, fans in Brazil start riots outside stadiums, fans in Spain throw pig heads at players of rival teams, fans in England make chants about their own teams and opposing players in a heartbeat- pretty much everybody on this planet has had some form of involvement with the game.
- Its rules are very simple. Just don’t be offsides or touch the ball with your hands and then your objective is to put the ball in the other’s team goal.
- On the other hand, it is also dynamically complex. Soccer is a free-flowing game that doesn’t stop too often and every player is constantly moving around (the ball is too, obviously), so strategies and plans are always shifting and all players are constantly required to use their own knowledge and creativity to adapt, make the right passes, mark the right players, be in good spots on the field, etc.
- Soccer is a natural sport (and that’s also why it doesn’t have so many frightening concussion issues and what not). No matter what type of body you have, there’s a position suitable for you; you don’t need to be tall or big to excel. Soccer is more about speed, agility, and fitness, most of which you’ll get solely from playing it often.
- It emphasizes individual flair. Anybody on the field can score a goal; the goalkeeper can score off a goal kick or penalty kick, defenders can score off through balls or corner kick headers, midfielders can dribble into the box or receive passes from forwards to score, and forwards obviously score pretty much every possible way. (Anybody can score off a penalty kick, free kick, or corner kick anyway.) There are just so many ways to score a goal and each is so unique and cool in its own way, whether it involves the 27 team passes that led up to it or just the raw 40 yard shot that drove the ball into the top left corner. Aside from goals, pulling a move on one player, making a good pass, or saving your team from getting scored on manifests enough skill in itself.
- At the same time, soccer requires so much team chemistry and effort. There’s something so beautiful about being on the field with 10 other teammates with one common goal (literally and figuratively) that I just can’t explain. Everybody is working together by passing back and forth, dribbling, producing sweet tricks, and using our understandings of one another in an attempt to unlock the opposing team’s defense.
- Less than five goals are usually scored every game. Yes, you heard me right. This is a good thing. Most people in the world, I included, get tired of watching American football and basketball because so many points are scored every game and it renders them boring and benign. There’s nothing special about all of those field goals and one-yard runs in football while there’s also nothing special about a free throw or a layup in basketball. In soccer, every goal is a huge deal because it could potentially be the one that changed the game. Plus, because there aren’t as many goals in soccer, it’s much more exciting and adrenaline-pumping when one is scored. Even then, I’ve watched 0-0 games that were much more entertaining than 110-108 basketball games.
- Soccer has Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who are the two best soccer players of all time, and they, respectively play on Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two best soccer clubs of all time. Ronaldo and Messi, combined, scored or assisted 169 goals last season, during which each played roughly 50 games. These guys score hat tricks on bad days and have together won the last seven Ballon d’Ors (the FIFA Ballon d’Or is the world player of the year award). Ronaldo’s club Real Madrid—the one I have been a hardcore fan of for years— topped the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees (and, you guessed it, Barcelona) as the most valuable sports team in the world in this year’s Forbes list—with an estimated net worth of 3.26 billion dollars! Messi’s Barcelona, on the other hand, won the Spanish league, Spanish Cup, and European Champions League this year (barely edging, you guessed it, Real Madrid in several of these). Ronaldo and Messi are also the two most followed athletes and Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two most followed teams (all on social media). This obviously is the biggest rivalry in Spain, but there are frenzied ones just as passionate as this one in multitudes of countries.
- Soccer games last less than two hours. They don’t end up lasting four hours or have constant stops of play combined with obnoxious beer commercials and weird Go Daddy advertisements.
So those are just a few reasons why I love this sport! I hope the perspectives of soccer fans now make more sense to you fans of other sports.
P.S. I apologize for making a few cynical points about basketball and American football; I made them with the sole intention to counter the points that proponents of those sports sometimes make against soccer. Hope you guys have a good Sunday.