I Love Watching Soccer

In order for a spectator to really love a sport, the sport has to be enjoyable to watch. TV networks work hard at this, and succeed mostly by using a large number of cameras — sometimes as many as 30 — to broadcast a game, whether it’s a football game, or a soccer or tennis match. (The number of cameras increases, roughly, as the size of the field increases.) The essence of my love of soccer is best summed up in how it is played, of course, but also in how the game is communicated to us on the TV screen.

The players are mostly shown from a great distance, because in a matter of seconds they can move from one end of the 100-yard field to another. The majority of the field must be shown at all times. The many other cameras used in a typical broadcast can be used to zoom in on a skirmish, if necessary, but for the most part they aren’t. They’re used to capture moments that can be replayed in slow motion later: a goal, or an attempted goal; a tense cluster of five players jumping in the air to headbutt the ball toward or away from a goal; a forward screaming “Fuck!” at a missed shot; a miffed midfielder gesticulating at a referee. Perhaps there should be more action shown from these second-tier cameras: soccer footwork is an art unto itself. But the bird’s-eye view that broadcasters have always leaned on creates just enough mystery and drama to keep us intrigued. This camera in the sky shows us that the field is so vast, the distances covered so great, that we just kind of have to give ourselves over to these superhuman creatures.

It’s tempting to compare soccer to American football, based on the levels of the sports’ popularity and the fact that the fields are approximately the same size (soccer: as much as 120 yards long by 80 yards wide, with some variations from one pitch to another, football: 120 yards, including the end zones, by 53 1/3 yards). But they are so utterly different to experience from a sofa. Football players are encased in protective gear (arguably not even enough of it). We’re not able to properly read their facial expressions or appreciate all the eye contact and subtle communication that goes on between players. This is frustrating.

Football is technical — mentally technical — in a way that soccer isn’t. Sure, watch the strongest soccer teams in the world, like Germany’s current team, and you will see communication and strategizing so precise that it almost seems like the NFL: logical, cerebral, nearly choreographed. But there is a fluidity to soccer. Soccer players, so often, seem isolated out there, part of some loose system of trust, united by the same objective, but spaced dozens of yards apart from each other, constantly taking chances, constantly battling an opponent, much of the time alone. The runner in me appreciates the solitude in soccer.

Blessedly, the clock never stops and usually there is only one commercial break, during halftime. I am in complete agreement that when things do happen in football, it’s as exhilarating as any other sport, but — call it the modern ADD that we all seem to have to some degree — I would rather watch a sport that is continuously in motion: soccer, tennis, hockey, swimming — and what a luxury to also not be sensorily violated by commercials every six minutes. In soccer, tension builds from the first second and is not broken for three quarters of an hour. Then, it often seems like a gift that there are another 45 more minutes of play after that.

There is so much chance in every sport: gravitational fields, weather, and human strength and skill conspire, usually independently of one another, to create some moment of magic that will make us miserable or proud of our team or state or nation. But nothing is as thrilling as a goal in soccer. Sometimes you can feel a goal coming from a minute away: there is a swell, and the offense surges, and the players involved all seem to all understand that they have to make this one happen, that they will make this one happen. Other times it’s sheer desperation, as on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012: two lone Greek forwards, one dashing down a sopping wet field and sending the ball improbably along an almost perfectly straight line toward the center of the muddy German goal, just in front of it, the second forward not so much receiving the ball as hurtling his body at it, as if all the ball needed to get into the goal was for him to be there, to be hit by it. It wasn’t enough for them to beat Germany — not even close. But it didn’t matter. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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  • Jas

    it’s called football, not soccer

  • Adam

    “Germany’s UEFA team”
    “UEFA Cup”

    I feel like the person who wrote this doesn’t actually understand FOOTBALL…

    • og

      my thoughts exactly

    • kins

      I was thinking the same (not that the person doesn’t understand football), but I found the Uefa thing a bit.. odd.. well I’m probably just used to Euro.

    • Michael Koh

      Officially, it’s called UEFA European Football Championship.

    • Matt

      Used to be called UEFA, though, didn’t it. Makes sense to me. Maybe you’re just too young to know that.

      • Adam

        LOL what? What was used to be called UEFA? It’s still UEFA now.

        UEFA Cup was the old name of what is now called the Europa League – a competition at club level. “UEFA Cup” has never been used for the UEFA European Championship – a competition at national level.

        You should do more Googling before you reply.

  • Jamison

    YES. All of these things.

  • N Looman

    I really enjoy your writing :)

  • http://twitter.com/karlusss Karl McDonald (@karlusss)

    This is just a description of the rules of football run through TC ‘style’. Like, you are just typing “sometimes players shoot” and then going “it is poetic in a way”.

  • ADOLF HIPSTER

    What the hell is the UEFA Cup?

  • http://twitter.com/seanxcheah sean (@seanxcheah)

    Please call it football. It means alot to us fans

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathanharty Jonathan Hart

    This was really interesting to read from a English football/soccer fan’s perspective. Always wondered how the game appealed to people across the Atlantic and how it compares to their own domestic sports.

  • http://twitter.com/Amphx AnnamariaPhilippeaux (@Amphx)

    Soccer is the only sport I ever have any interest in watching on TV, and you’ve illustrated exactly why so beautifully. I really wish it was as popular in the United States as it is overseas.

  • Elliott

    This was pretty good, but had some flaws. Mainly, soccer fields are not 100×60. They are MUCH bigger than that. Please see this link. Sorry to nitpick, but it’s a big difference in size there. (joke setup?). Also, some of the terminology, ex – headbutt, isn’t really used.

    You did nail the tension bit, though. As a fan, or player for that matter, you cannot relax during the entire game. There are no timeouts, no time to regroup. Everything must be fixed on the fly, during the run of play. Once you’re subbed out, you’re out. There are no breaks. It’s physically, as well as mentally exhausting.

    Overall, I enjoyed reading it, but felt there was no conclusion. Is there a part 2 coming? I assume there will be another article coming out titled, “I Hate Watching Soccer”.

    http://www.soccerwebsite.org/soccer_field_sizes.html

  • baloo

    Pretty much summed up the best parts of the experience. Ignore the nitpicking aspies.

  • Ix

    I understand you are not really a fan of the sport. More of a fan of TV and football just a show you turned out to like. But it is still more of a sport than a TV show. It’s a lifestyle. So if you really like watching it so much, please try and learn more about it. It means a lot to us fans that the person writing an article about football actually knows something about it.

    • ben

      everybody needs to calm the fuck down.

    • http://hadf josh

      Dude, I think you’ll survive.

  • Pato

    Football

  • nishantjn

    I really think you underestimate the “mentally technical” part of soccer, maybe you’ll see it as you see more of the sport. The mentally technical part you see in american football is relegated to the coach. The players themselves only execute one play after another, with little on-field, real-time strategizing and planning. Soccer is all about that, which makes it far greater than american football in my eyes.

    • Cristina

      So agreed. I want to be as respectful as possible because I think this article came from a good place, and the writer never claimed to be an expert or soccer player; just an enthusiast. But the sport really is an incredibly strategic game. I’m surprised she chose to compare it to football, because I thought it was common knowledge that soccer requires a high amount of strategic thinking. And constantly.

      As a soccer player myself, I’ve never perceived it to be a solo sport at all. My plays on the field are so dependent on the work that everyone is doing around me, that I never feel alone out there. As a matter of fact, one of the skills that coaches develop in kids at the very beginning is to know at any given moment where your support is. They’ll freeze the play and without you being able to look around, ask “Stop. Who do you have?” It’s very team-centric Liz. And I think once you start spotting that, the game becomes that much more beautiful. Truly.

      • bret f

        I got what liz was saying which is that there are these little few-second-long episodes of tackles in which it really is one-on-one, and of course you’re looking to who you can pass to, but it’s really a battle between one guy (or woman) and another. so really there’s something for everyone in this sport: team aspects, solo aspects, strategizing, emotions. It’s all laid out there too.

        I think we often compare football to football in the US just because of the popularity level and everyone always wondering why football (soccer) can’t be as big as the nfl. That audience that could be watching soccer seems to be more interested in football and baseball.

        Soccer is just so much more emotional than the NFL. Which she kind of touches on. I like this.

  • http://www.marca.es futbol

    I’ll right away grasp your rss as I can not find your e-mail subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please permit me realize in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  • Leona

    And Germany will win this time!

  • Anonymous

    I really liked the article, but I also think the ending was a little weak. It was a kind of a sudden and jarring end. Not a very real sense of closure

  • kumon

    We should commend this man for liking soccer instead of criticizing his poor usage of soccer vocabulary. Not everyone claims to be an expert, he is just expressing his love for a game that is not loved enough. Props.

    • Sam

      ‘He’ is a woman. And it is NOT, and never will be, called soccer. It’s football.

      • kumon

        Wow, Sam, totally my bad dude. Maybe to make up for it we can go play some Soccer outside later today, or we can watch the Soccer game after that. If that doesn’t work we could probably check out the sporting goods store to see if they have any Soccer jerseys that we can wear to our favorite Soccer team’s Soccer game.

      • kumon

        but seriously sam, you little auto correct motherfucker, they mean the same thing

  • kumon

    *woman *her *she *her ^^

  • Alex

    God THIS is why I cringe for Americans.

    • amy

      troll

      • Sam

        Not really. Trolls search the Internet looking for places to put irrelevant comments. I made a comment pertaining directly to the article. It’s embarrassing and perpetuates the American stereotype of enjoying that which is ‘novel’. I believe it may possibly be you who is the troll.

  • http://www.elizabethcolville.com liz

    Sam, or Alex, or both, it’s not novel for me. I lived in England for most of my life until I went to college, and I’m Canadian. So uh, thanks for judging.

    • Alex

      It’s Alex, I blame ‘Sam’ on my autocorrect. Apologies for presuming you are American but it’s still football not soccer. And this article is still cringey, it reads like a list of rules not a genuine passion for football. Sorry but, that’s just my view.

      • bj

        Dude you are just a fjord, you don’t need to be knowledgeable to be passionate.

  • sienna

    Ignore the scumbags, Liz! They come free with every TC post!

    • Alex

      Contrary opinions don’t exactly equal ‘scumbag’. How pleasant you are.

      • Alex

        But honestly, she is a woman, she deserves all of this.

  • Sam

    Just wondering why a woman would write an article about Football (soccer). Women have no business in Football or even sports for that matter. Stop pretending to know about Football and let the men do the heavy lifting.

    • kumon

      FUCK SAM!

      • Sam

        Oh Kumon, man…NICE EFFORT! Really great, but would’ve worked so much better if anyone had actually replied to your comments as ‘me’. You pathetic fuckwit. Get out more bru.

      • jenny

        sam you are disgusting

      • Sam

        Congratulations for not realising that Kumon left comments under my name. None of my ACTUAL comments correspond with the kinds of things he said. Pretty pathetic to do that to someone just because I told him that it’s called football not soccer. Possibly even unstable.

      • christy

        How can you even say anything to Kumon when you post horrible things like that online Sam? people like you make me sick

      • Sam

        Oh gosh, it’s you again isn’t it Kumon? Seek help.

    • Kumon

      Apologies for posting comments under someone else’s name. Guess I just got a bit carried away! My therapist tells me I need to control my anger.

      • Kumon

        My therapist is awesome, constantly vent to her about how if Hilary Clinton was president, she would launch all the nukes because she was PMSing. Oh did I mention my therapist was a woman, fuck her.

      • Kumon

        Hey, Kumon, NICE ONE MAN. Way to show the world your true feelings, while I tend to agree with you on the whole woman part, I think your thinking behind Hilary being president is just you being a dumb yank. Hilary could never be elected president.

      • Sam

        Whoops, you forgot to change the name while you were trying to post a reply as me…good work.

      • Dave

        Sam, seriously stop trying to make Kumon look bad, first you post degrading things about women, then you shit on Kumon for apparently ‘posting as you’ when clearly you just forgot to change your name to Sam on one of those up there. You hypocritical bigot. Seriously leave man your just making your self look bad.

      • Sam

        What the hell is wrong with you?!? Isn’t it strange how the people who post support for you (with such generic names) do it at the exact same time as you make your own nonsensical posts? I haven’t forgotten to change anything, I said that I was Sam and that my phone autocorrected to Alex because it is use to having my bfs name typed in. The fact that I am a woman makes you look even more ridiculous for posting sexist comments as me. Finally…learn the difference between ‘your’ and you’re. I’m embarrassed for you.

      • Kumon

        Math help anyone? http://www.kumon.com/

      • Sam

        Hi all, my parents were just a little confused when I was born and gave me a sexually ambiguous name, in order to cover my insecurities I decided to date a man (i think) who also has an ambiguous name. I like to spend most of my time degrading women, even though I’m supposed to be one, because I’m a little confused about who I am. Also in my free time, I like to go to comment sections and make sure that everyone is being politically correct, sometimes ill even pretend to be someone else and post as them!! (hehe). I hate Hilary because I not only hate women, but also the gay community. We see right through you Hilary!

        -Don’t mess with Uncle Sam

      • Sam

        Do you have ANY idea how weird you are Kumon? All because I told you “it’s called football not soccer”. You are clearly unwell for taking such MASSIVE offence at this. Say what you want now but I’ve posted consistently under one email address as I’m sure you have for comments you made as me. So…good luck with your life Kumon. Please seek help.

      • Ikjot

        is this name considered generic? fuck you sam

      • eliza

        i have no time for haters like sam!

      • Sam

        Guys I promise this is all a big mistake, just check my email address that is conveniently made public for everyone to see! This all wasn’t me!!!

      • Sam

        You can’t make your email public you moron. I’m simply saying, you know what you’ve done and I pity you that you have nothing better to do than persecute people on the Internet for no reason.

      • kumon

        Lol Sam… that short for Samuel?

      • raciti

        LOL sam must be so butthurt

  • John

    The US is better at Soccer then England is at Soccer.

    • John

      Landon Donovan along with Altidore and Dempsey are probably 3 of the top 20 players in the world.

      • Richard

        Brek Shea has a big future ahead of him, I wonder if he would be good playing on the opposite flank to Ronaldo, they would compliment each other very well. I mean Brek at this point is probably a better dribbler and athlete, Ronaldo just wants it more.

      • Dave

        Incorrect.

  • Rafa

    Tim Howard > Joe Hart

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