Sunday, June 13, 2010

Soccer: Are you educated or naive in your comments?

Those who mock the sport of soccer don't understand it and therefore cannot appreciate the beauty of the game. . .

I grew up playing this incredible sport (futbol) from the age of 4. Over the years I’ve had to listen to snide remarks about soccer being a girly man’s sport, boring, and a sport that people play who don’t have any hand eye coordination. To put some context to this, it was usually from an overweight, football player who had a hard time putting on his pads without breathing hard. My teammates in high school put this argument to bed (at least at our high school) as we scored more goals than the football team scored points in one year. I’ve heard these similar comments as the World Cup of 2010 has begun. This is mostly because of social networking that comes through Twitter and Facebook, and the uninformed comments that have been plastered all over the place.

Over the years of playing soccer through high school and college, and eventually becoming a high school coach later on in life, I have learned more and more about the beautiful game of soccer. This posting is to help educate or at least spark an interest in those of you who know little about the game and decide to mock it out of your inexperienced and maybe naive perspective.

Those of you who say soccer is boring and there is not enough scoring, are missing 95% of the game. Soccer is not for the individual driven by instant gratification . . . America. . . but rather for the individual who appreciates the detail of a beautifully executed step over or cruyff (if you don’t know what that is look it up) on the ball to blow by a defender, a perfectly precision timed run to get an opportunity on goal, or an excellently struck shot that hits the post from an impossible angle. Did I mention the horizontal dive of a goalie tipping the ball over the crossbar as 6 BILLION people in the world watch? Yes, billion, not million. Catch up with the rest of the world. According to Wikipedia, SOCCER is the most popular sport in the world. Not baseball, not basketball, and certainly not American football. Soccer is an industry worth over US $400 billion world wide. If you're bored, educate yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised. Learn the game and be patient for the upper ninety corner shot from 30 yards out, which will get your blood flowing like no other score in any other sport. Soccer is not only for the hooligans of the world, but the gentlemen of this world as well.

Watch for the magic of the footwork that is being executed as players dribble by their defenders. Watch as they make a 180 degree cut, stop on a dime, and turn to explode in another direction…all while keeping the ball within 12 inches of their next step. Watch as an outside midfielder streaks down the sideline, faking inside breaking the defender’s ankles, then going outside with the ball and delivering an unbelievable accurate cross across the goal box. Just in front of the goalie, but behind the defense to the streaking striker who drills a shot towards the side netting, just to have the goalie dive and poke it past the goal post for a corner. Tell me that was not exciting. Then on the corner kick as the ball comes across the goal box once again, two opposing players go up for the challenge, the striker wins the battle placing the header just next to the post where the outside back protecting the post has to make his own spectacular play on the ball by rising up and heading it out before the score is 1-0. Yes, the score is nil, nil, but the crowds are jumping up and down across the world at the action that just took place.

Soccer is a way of life around the world. As I mentioned earlier soccer is not only for hooligans, but the gentlemen of this world. Soccer "purists" don't flop and try to gain advantage from a fall worthy of an Oscar. They play through hard fouls and have respect for the game and its history. They study the game and the different styles that come along with it. There is the “direct play” that the Brazilians bring to the pitch with its excitement of many opportunities on goal, or the style that Spain plays by lulling its opponents to sleep with their possession game and then striking strategically on goal, which is just as much intriguing and breathtaking to watch. What about Italy and their organized defense along with the quick, effective counter attacks? My personal favorites are watching the Germans or the Netherlands and the creative pass progressions, runs off the ball, and patterns of play they put together to build the ball up the filed into a dangerous scoring opportunity.

Purists appreciate the stamina, the skill, finesse, speed, strategy and intelligence it takes to play this game. If you don’t understand any of this, then I encourage you to go out and try to play the game for 30 minutes. You’ll have a new appreciation for what is taking place on the screen in front of you, out of your own inabilities.

As purists are the gentlemen, don’t forget the global perspective and that “hooligans” play this game as well. Hooligans are the floppers, the violent players, maybe even cheap or hacks. They are disrespectful to the purity of the game and have their own version. They may look at dribbling or a kick and run style as more effective than a well planned out and dynamic passing game. The beauty of the global perspective is that soccer is an international language in which we may all have different dialects, but in which we can all communicate out of the commonality.

With that being said, America, let’s not take ourselves out of the global perspective and unity that comes with the sport of soccer. I'm fine if people don't like soccer in America, just don't mock it. Mocking is a sheltered, arrogant, and naive perspective. If you are looking to satisfy your urge for gratification, be patient and the golden goal scenario will play out, the most exciting score in all of sports. If no golden goal, then the tension filled shootout will occur. If willing to wait, you’re in for an indulgence and satisfaction like no other!