I miss the World Cup competition. Since discovering the beautiful game over a few pints in a London pub in 2001, I’ve looked forward to it every 4 years. Other than Joyce’s son though, I really have no one to talk to about it. Nick plays and will do so at UVM beginning this Fall, but even so, I can’t help thinking that every time I open my yapper about it up he’s thinking, “Oh. My. God. I can’t believe this guy is bringing up soccer again…” Anyway, without any buddies to talk futbol, I’ll just talk to myself about it here…
Top Ten reasons Futbol (Soccer) rocks
1. The field is called “the Pitch.” – I love that! It makes more sense than “gridiron.” The pitch at Old Trafford in Manchester, England is the Yank, uh, Fenway Park of futbol in the UK. It seats 75,957 fans and has the nickname, “Theatre of Dreams.” Old Trafford has been home to the Premier Leagues legendary Manchester United since 1910, except for an 8 year span beginning in 1941 when it was BOMBED DURING WWII! That’s history.
2. Players get “carded.” – If you simply display “unsporting behaviour,” that may get you a yellow (warning) card. Be a real dick and the ref draws red from his two card deck and you are “sent off” for the duration and must leave the area and go to a local pub (OK, I made the pub part up, but I’m certain it’s happened often…). My favorite part is when the ref approaches the offending player and raises the card high above him like, “this is an official citation for your unsporting behavior!”
3. Head – You gotta use it if you want to play the world’s game. The Spain-Germany semi-final was decided by a spectacular Carles Puyol header at the 74th minute as the diminutive defender skied above bigger Germans to slam the “Jabulani” ball into the net.
4. Time Waits for No One (Except the Ref) – Once the official time expires on the stadium clock, only the ref really knows how much “extra” time (due to injuries and other delays) is left.
5. Athleticism – Soccer players have to be in superb condition, and average 6-7 miles of running during a match. You won’t see Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz out on “the pitch” for long… At the World Cup level, these are among the best athletes on the planet.
7. No timeouts! – The game has two 45 minute halves with no stoppage… That means no commercials, kids! It also means there are no 5 hour Sox-Yankee death marches.
8. Corner kicks – Of course everyone knows the corner kick was conceived under the Sheffield Rules in 1867. It is awarded to the attacking team when the ball leaves the pitch at the end (goal) line (goals are excluded from this rule… duh) after being last touched by a defending player. The attacking team then gets to kick the ball back into play from the corner closest to where the ball exited. The corner kick is a prime goal scoring opportunity and can be a very exciting moment in a match. Skilled “strikers” will often try to “bend” the ball from the corner up and down into a crowd of players fronting the goal, hoping a teammate can redirect a “header” past the keeper.
9. Drama – In the 2010 Ghana-Uruguay World Cup quarter-final, the teams battled 1-1 into a 30 minute overtime when Ghana was swarming the Uruguay goal for a sure decider. Minutes past the 30 minute “extra time” a sure goal by Ghana was denied when a Uruguayan defender stopped the shot with his hands. Ghana was awarded a penalty kick, a 12 yard unabated boot with a 77% success rate. The game, the futbol hopes of the African continent, and a lifetime of glory or infamy came down to one kick by Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan. It was a stunning and sad moment to see Gyan clang the ball off the crossbar.
10. Arts and Sciences – To watch a team work the ball down the field, ping-ponging passes that seem to be drawn by magnets from foot to foot, is sports beauty combining precise geometry, law-defying physics, and infinite artistic imagination. Every kick, every play and every game is so different… and beautiful.
Some soccer suckage:
1. Overtime penalty kicks – Teams compete hard for more than 120 minutes (90m regulation plus 30 of “extra time”), then ties are settled by 5 penalty kicks each? Me no likee.
2. Diving – Some players drop like deer in hunting season if just breathed on by an opposing player, feigning certain death to draw a penalty. They roll with contorted faces and writhe in pain like their knee, ankle or testicles have been blown apart. Moments later they’re up galloping like Bambi. That is a blight on the game that has to be addressed.
3. Vuvuzelas – I wake up sweating, nightmaring about paying for World Cup flights, accommodations and tickets, only to have some assjack blow one of those down my audio canal for 90-plus minutes. (Maybe it’s just a South Africa thing…)
Futbol is not the worlds game for nothing. Kick me your comments pro or con…