Although I’m known as a fan of sport, soccer barely makes my top 10 sports to watch. For starters, I don’t understand the rules. Oh, I get the gist – the players endeavor to kick the ball into the net. Otherwise, it looks to me like a bunch of people running around a field.
Once whilst watching a match with my beloved niece, I asked her what the announcer meant when he said a player had been offsides. When she explained that the player had gone over the line, I stared at the TV, squinting to find the line. “It’s not a line drawn on the field,” she said, exasperated at my ignorance.
Another one of my issues with the sport is the lack of scoring. It’s not unusual for soccer matches to end in scoreless ties (or in soccer parlance, nil-nil). Whilst I acknowledge that football games can also end in ties, I also acknowledge my belief that players should stay out there until somebody wins.
What’s more, there’s a lot of what’s known as diving in men’s soccer. In other words, players tend to fall to the ground and flop around like death is imminent if another player so much as looks at them. They remain writhing on the field as precious game minutes expire. But as soon as the referee calls a penalty – or refuses to recognize their histrionics – they hop up and virtually skip across the field. By the way, this phenomenon doesn’t occur nearly as often in women’s soccer, but it is on the rise in the NBA.
Despite all of the above, I have a touch of low-grade World Cup fever. I check the scores and standings and keep up with matches when I can. Of course, I haven’t failed to notice that when I’m in the same room as a televised match, either performing light housekeeping, writing, or concentrating all my attention on the match, no one scores. But let me step out of the room for a bio break or to check on my cat army, and the ball will find its way into the net, unleashing pandemonium among the fans.
Indeed, fan enthusiasm is the aspect I most enjoy about the World Cup. It’s as if every match reaches the level of the NCAA championship game multiplied by they Super Bowl. In a world that can be so dark and depressing, the passion soccer fans demonstrate for their sport makes my heart smile.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.