As someone who tends to like all forms of sport, I think soccer is arguably the world’s most democratic game – inexpensive, simple, played everywhere.
And the World Cup is an event that electrifies the world of one type of fan, and isn’t spread around to a variety of sporting activities.
From a personal point of view, the World Cup in South Africa this year has clarified my feelings about soccer to a degree I never expected. The players are so gifted with their dribbling, control, passing, endurance. Their footwork matches the best of, say, hockey players’ stick handling.
But the overall impression from watching the World Cup is: My god, soccer has to be the world’s most boring game.
As evidence, take the game between Brazil – rated as the world’s number one team – and North Korea, 105th in the world. In other words, the best versus the worst. And what was the outcome – 2-1 for Brazil.
When the best only beats the worst 2-1, something is wrong.
And then there are games that end 0-0. In one of these (I forget which) one team had 13 shots on goal, the other had no shots on goal. Can you believe it? Ninety minutes of no scoring and one team doesn’t even get a shot on goal?
In fact, a shot on goal is signal for rejoicing.
I guess it’s a triumph when the U.S. manages a 1-1 tie with England, which has been playing soccer forever (maybe even invented the game), but it’s not much of a recommendation for the sport as a whole.
I have no problem with those who think soccer is the “beautiful” sport, but as a game it cannot compare with, say, hockey, which by any standard is the world’s fastest, most exciting, most gifted game.
All sports, when you see plays slowed down on replays, are graceful and beautiful, but few match hockey where, for starters you have to know how to skate.
Basketball and baseball, when slowed down on replays, show grace and athleticism. Soccer doesn’t need much slowing down, because not much is happening anyway.
It’s puzzling to me why soccer fans riot in some countries. Is it because there’s no scoring? Or that a goal is either a calamity or cause for rejoicing? In that sense, soccer can be lethal for fans. Heck, a three-goal lead is considered a blow-out in soccer.
Apparently South Africans feel they have arrived by hosting the World Cup. Why this is so, is also puzzling. I guess it’s an achievement of sorts to have the world attending one of the stadiums built especially for the World Cup, to be bored en masse at a 0-0 tie, when one of the teams considers it a triumph not to be scored on.
Maybe, but is it worth rioting over?
The controversy of this World Cup seems to be the vuvuzelas – the raucous horns blown by South African fans – which some people (and players) want banned. Phooey, they are about the only excitement available. And as a reflection of African ethnicity, well, maybe the vuvuzelas are the apex of cultural achievement.
Even though soccer to me is the world’s most boring game (curling and baseball are gripping and tension-ridden by comparison), I’m pleased so many relish the World Cup and am happy South Africans are so happy.
And I’m especially reassured that the Sun’s three experts predicting winners – Mike Zeisberger, Morris Dalla Costa and Gareth Wheeler – at this writing have all managed to get more incorrect than correct picks.
That takes talent, too: It’s just as hard to pick losers as winners.
Me, I’m still dazzled by the team that couldn’t manage even one shot on goal.