I was never really into watching ‘ball sports’. Probably because I never really played any—my life having been dominated by swimming training as a kid. It’s not like I hadn’t watched football on TV, or hadn’t enjoyed Greenstreet Hooligans, I just didn’t really get what the fuss was about. I mean I could watch my dog chasing a ball for free.
That is until I went to my first football game. And being there, taking in the atmosphere made all the difference. Here’s five things I now love about the beautiful game.
1. The Passion
A football match seems to have a more immediate, emotional impact on the spectators than anything else I’ve ever seen. People throw beer, they scream and cry and take their shirts off. At the first game I went to they even had a colour captain (sports captain) on a megaphone in charge of getting everyone fired up and chanting. And their chants are actually pretty inventive. Even if you know nothing about the game, the people watching, and the contagious excitement makes it all worth it.
2. The Skill and Stamina
Whether or not you know exactly what’s going on down on the field, there’s no denying the players ability to use their feet the way most of us use our hands. It’s like a dance. And lets not forget about the fitness that’s involved. FIFA keeps a record of the running ‘distance covered’ with Celso Borges of Costa Rica leading the way having travelled 60 kilometers over 5 matches. And most of this is not at a leisurely pace either. The top speed of 33.9km per hour means these guys are performing 100m sprints in a time of 10.7 seconds. To put this in perspective the current world record for 100m is 9.58 seconds held by Usain Bolt.
3. The Inclusiveness
Football is a sport that invites players of all different body types. You only have to look at the field to see the truth of this. According to a review conducted by the International Centre for Sports Studies in Switzerland published in 2009 the average height of players was 5”11’ with Germany’s pros being the tallest and Spain’s the shortest—and tellingly both have taken out a World Cup title.
In fact in football, while there may be theoretical ideas of the ideal body the reality of the matter is that great players have ranged from 5”6’ to 6”2’. This differs from other team sports such as professional basketball or Gridiron where the level of muscle mass and height means all but about 10% of the adult male world population would be prevented from participating in the sport at a professional level.
Football is also a sport in which women’s teams have been gaining recognition. One only has to look at the support garnered by the teams that competed in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World cup. Indeed the Women’s World Cup final was the most watched soccer game in United States History — an amazing result for women’s sport and just generally women everywhere. Bend it Like Beckham anyone?
4. The Worldwide Participation
Football is truly the world game. It’s only one sport and yet the FIFA World Cup is bigger than the Olympics. Practically every country on earth tries to get a team together to qualify for the event.
Even more importantly, football transcends financial and infrastructure barriers with millions of people, young and old playing the game all over the world—on streets, fields, refugee camps, in organised leagues and on their own. Which brings me to my fifth and final point.
5. The Way Football Brings People Together
Football truly brings people together. Whether it’s fans travelling hundreds of miles to see their favourite team compete in the World Cup, friends watching a game on TV or through programs which aim to level the playing field for disadvantaged people around the world.
Because whether you enjoy watching football or not, there’s no denying the sport plays a major role in shaping cultures all over the globe. It speaks in a universal language and the most powerful thing it can do is to translate real change for people’s lives — bringing everyone the joy and community spirit that’s synonymous with the beautiful game.
Do you remember the magic from your first game of football?
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