Sports fans are an interesting people. They appreciate sports and the spirit of competition in general, but will always have a favorite, and they’ll always valiantly explain why their sport is the best sport to ever grace this earth. People like different sports for different reasons. But today, I am a sports fan that is going to explain why soccer is simply the greatest sport in the world.
You may say I’m wrong, that it’s just a game. But soccer is so much more than just a game. It’s become a medium; a way for the poor to escape the reality of their lives, a game played by hundreds and millions people around the world. It’s a game that breaks down social boundaries like nothing else in the world can and connects people of opposite cultures.
All you need to play a game of football is a ball and a pair of shoes. You can put a net together yourself if need be. You can practice dribbling by yourself, or find a buddy to kick the ball around with. Joining a league only requires a pair of cleats and shin pads. It’s so accessible to everybody.
For an abundance of other reasons, soccer is 10 steps ahead of any other sport at all times, and generates the most fans since it’s modest beginnings. Albert Camus, a French Nobel Prize winning author once said, “everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football (soccer).”
Despite FIFA constantly giving the sport a black mark, FIFA does not embody what the sport is about. This list is all about telling you why the sport is the beautiful game and shouldn’t be judged by what FIFA is doing.
Here is why soccer is the world’s best sport.
15. Skill and technique
To play soccer, skill on the ball and great technique are absolutely necessary if you hope to play the game right. For some people, mastering the art of controlling the ball with your feet and making it move how you want it to move is extremely difficult. It requires a light yet confident touch of the ball, and assertiveness when passing in tight quarters. Soccer, when approaching the net, becomes a game of inches, and that’s when the real talent emerges.
Soccer fields are pretty big, and having the vision and ability to see the field and the passing opportunities is also a skill that many people argue people are born with. All in all, a player with this skill is amazing to watch, and watching soccer professionally is a feast of amazing skill and technique.
Like any sport, injuries in soccer happen, and they can be brutal. However, studies have found that soccer players are less prone to injury when compared to other sports. Of course, it is also less physical than sports like football and hockey, and requires less raw athleticism than sports like basketball.
In 2009, according to John Hopkins Medicine, about 88,000 children aged 5-14 were treated for soccer related injuries in the US. Nearly 110,000 were treated for baseball related injuries, 170,000 for basketball injuries, and an astounding 215,000 for football related injuries. Compared to other sports, soccer fares much better, making it a safer option for kids that want to play a sport.
13. Coaches are geniuses
Although I don’t think soccer is the only sport to boast extremely intelligent coaches, I think it’s a factor in what makes soccer so beautiful to watch. There are so many different formations one can choose, and choosing the one best for your team is a massive task in itself. Then comes positioning, changes in formation depending on where the game stands, and identifying the opposing teams weakness and adjusting.
A soccer manager is viewed as a sort of Churchillian psychologist. His job is to motivate and find a specific role for every single player. Different managers have different approaches as well, but the best managers always have the utmost respect of their players and their trust as well.
12. The best announcers in sport
If you’ve never heard a Mexican commentator comment on a Mexican League match, then you’ve never truly heard match commentating at its best. The way they hold the word GOL, screaming into the microphones and getting everybody riled up, is something people should witness at least once in their lives. To be a soccer commentator, you need to be as knowledgeable as you are passionate about the game.
Of course, great soccer commentating isn’t limited to Mexican ones. Most Arab commentators are amazing to hear, and follow the game with immense passion as well, praising God when a beautiful goal is scored. Ray Hudson, the English commentator for the Spanish League and perhaps one of my favorites ever, commentates on the game like no other.
But looking at the big picture, English commentators are some of the best in the world. Combining their knowledge, passion for the game, and their striking English charm that resonates to million of homes around the world, they make up some of the best commentators in the world of sport.
11. Normalcy in physique
A lot of sports nowadays have become so advanced and competitive, that you need to have a physique to go with that. In basketball, men and women with a height advantage have a major advantage over people that are less tall. According to the New York Times, people less than six feet tall have a one in 1.2 million chance of making the NBA. It applies for the NFL, where most players need to be physical beasts to ever dream of a career in the NFL.
Soccer is different. Agility, speed and footwork are worth more than physique. Don’t get me wrong, soccer players need to be in the best shape of their lives, but the size of their body is much less a factor than in other sports. All you need to do is look at some of the greats, including Lionel Messi, who is 5-foot-7, to realize that even smaller players have a chance of being great.
10. Easy to learn
Have you ever experienced the frustration of trying to explain the rules of a sport to someone and failing miserable while they aimlessly stare into your eyes? There’s a reason that happens; sports are complicated. They’re littered with rules and norms that can take a while to understand.
Compared to other sports, soccer is as simple as it gets. Don’t touch the ball with your hands and try to get it into the other net. Don’t foul anyone without touching the ball first. Throw the ball back in when it goes out. Once you’ve explained the offside concept, the yellow and red cards, and corners, you have yourself a game. Of course, technique and structure are a different story.
9. The rivalries
Rivalries make for exciting sports. They’re the result of a passionate history between two teams that often constantly competed for the top prize. In soccer, rivalries tend to be passionate and nasty, but also based and influenced by politics and geography of course. It’s often during these rival matches that legends are made, and where you see the true, mad passion of soccer fans.
Some of the bigger rivalries include Barcelona against Real Madrid, the two Spanish giants always competing for the top prize. It doesn’t help that they have arguably the best players in the world playing opposite each other, only accentuating the rivalry.
8. Fluid play
Let’s be honest folks, unless it’s Super Bowl Sunday, we pretty much all hate commercials. So much so that we incessantly flip through channels for the two minutes of pain we must endure before watching whatever it was we were watching. In the NFL, a game is said to last on average 3 hours and 12 minutes. In that span, it is said that the ball is only in play for an average 11 minutes, the rest littered with commercials and stoppages. Sports like hockey and basketball have a similar fate. Baseball, in general, is just a slow game.
Soccer is the only sport where the clock will run no matter what the issue. Where a foul is settled by letting the other team have the ball and letting play continue. There are no commercial breaks other than on the 15-minute halftime, and whatever time was wasted during the game is added on at the end of every half. Soccer’s fluidity and lack of stoppages give them an important edge compared to other sports.
The simplicity of soccer means that historians found early traces of similar forms of the game being played as early as the 2nd and 3rd century BC in China. It was during the Han dynasty that people would dribble with leather balls and kick them into small nets. It was also reported that the Romans and Greeks would kick the ball for fun, and in Kyoto, where kicking the ball was a popular sport.
The history of the modern game is a little more recent yet still historic. The evolution of soccer as we’ve come to know it today should rightly be given to Britain. It was in 1863 that the Football Association was established and legitimate rules were applied to the game.
6. There’s no offseason
This is perhaps one of my favorite things about the beautiful game. Most seasons in Europe go from August to May, with games running about once a week, with Champions League games and other Cup games to be played in between. If that doesn’t cut it, then there are years that fans can feast their eyes and watch their best players play internationally in major tournaments every two years. Of course, I’m talking about the Word Cup and the Euro Cup.
Other international competitions run year long as well such as the African Cup of Nations and the Copa America, as well as the CONCACAF Champions League, Major League Soccer (MLS) that runs through the summer, and also qualifications games for all the major international tournaments. Like I said, the soccer is endless.
5. International competition
Although other sports have competitive leagues that generate millions of dollars and fans, there’s nothing that compares to soccer on the international scene. Because soccer is a sport that has an international fan base, tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, the Euro Cup, and many, many more are made possible year after year. These tournaments mean a lot to the teams playing but also to the countries that are being represented. So much so that during international tournaments, countries’ flags can be seen everywhere, representing people’s passion and love of the game.
The FIFA Word Cup is the biggest of such events, and the biggest sporting event in the entire world. Brazil in 2014 generated over a billion viewers worldwide, and over 5.1 million people visited Brazil during that time. Other than FIFA, every other continent has some form of international competition, the closest one to us being the Gold Cup.
Are you a 60-year old man or a five-year old girl? No matter, what these two opposite age groups have in common is that they can both still play soccer. It’s so simple and easy to play that pretty much anyone can do it and enjoy themselves. There are organized leagues for every age group, parks with nets all over the world, and willing people that love the game in abundance.
According to a survey done by FIFA, there are over 270 million people playing soccer regularly around the world; in other words, four per cent of the world’s population. The study was also scientifically monitored by a leading social studies organization. No other sport in the world comes close to soccer’s popularity internationally and that is because anybody can play the game.
3. Poverty is not an obstacle
What is necessary to play soccer? You need two players (although you can still do many things by yourself as well), two nets, made up of anything from stones to schoolbags to shoes if you’re really desperate, and a ball. Of course, a round object that can roll and is of decent size can apply as well. Equipment is kept to bare minimum as well, as opposed to sports like hockey or football, where good equipment can cost thousands of dollars.
Soccer is played on the poorest streets of third world countries as much as it’s played in rich countries. It gives the poor hope and something that will connect them to one another, and teaches them the value of the beautiful game. A nice example of soccer’s power to ease poverty is in India, where a league gathering slum dwellers and homeless people called Slum Soccer was created.
“We start with the language of football. Values like team spirit, truthfulness, fellow feeling are given utmost priority,” explains the head of Slum Soccer and son of the organization’s founder, Abhijeet Barse.
In soccer, passion is everywhere. It engulfs you and surrounds you. It’s seen at the park next door, when someone scores the winning goal, it’s seen in leagues everywhere, and it’s seen at the biggest stage as well. Soccer burns a fiery heart in people’s souls that they can’t get enough of. There’s no sport quite like it.
That’s what passion does. It brings people together and lets them enjoy the sport they love. You feel the passion in your veins when you play and watch the game, when you watch Camp Nou bowing to Messi after scoring a spectacular goal, or when the Bernabeu salutes Ronaldo after yet another hat-trick. In soccer, passion is synonymous with the game.
1. It’s the beautiful game
Often you’ll hear soccer being referred to as the beautiful game. It’s such a phenomenon that two Harvard professors have even started a class asking students to explain why soccer is called the beautiful game. When I get asked this question, my mind immediately goes to Wavin’ Flag montages from 2010 (see link here).
A passionate commentator explains the passion of soccer, alludes to the roar of the crowd and the noise of the people. What a skilled player can do with the ball is unthinkable, impossible, making it all the more beautiful. A succession of passes leading to an easy goal is beautiful; everything about the game is simply beautiful.
But what really makes it the beautiful game is the fact that it takes people from thousands of different countries, cultures, and dialects, and brings them together under one simple language: soccer.
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