Soccer Madness

Soccer Madness

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I really don’t know this game very well but the Italians are absolutely mad about soccer (calcio is the word here). They talk about it all the time, read about it, have daily newspapers largely devoted to it and even the women follow it regularly. I’ve watched it some here and indeed went to the stadium in Bologna to watch Bologna (next to last in their division ) get trashed by Inter, the Milan team (squadra) that is one of the better ones in Italy. Last night I watched the first half of a game (partita) between AC Milan and a Czech team on TV. The Bologna-Inter team was at best boring. It moved slowly and indeed it would have been an incredible upset had Bologna won. The Milan-Czech game had much more action and many moments of real excitement. Still it seems to me a curious game, especially compared to all of the other sports that I’m more familiar with. I think that the closest equivalent is hockey – which I don’t understand very well either. In most american sports one team or the other almost always controls the ball but not in soccer. Unlike american football which seems to be a game of maximum precision (as well as brutality) what strikes me the most about soccer is the sense of randomness about the game.The ball is kicked downfield and often kicked aloft again or two players rise to butt the ball with their heads to further lift it into the air. So it seems that the strategy is to generally control the ball as much as possible and keep it in the opponents area of the playing field to provide potential opportunities to score a goal. As I said, in a good game there can be a lot of action and tension in the game. Of course part of what leaves me scratching my head is that I don’t know the rules well. Why did they kick the ball from the corner? What happened to make that possible. It must be a really severe penalty that results in the one-to-one situation where a player faces only the goal keeper and can kick the ball into the goal. That is a really tough situation for the goal keeper because the ball goes fast and the goal is wide – probably almost always it results in a goal. I have no idea what happens to cause such a severe penalty.

I am always quite impressed with the ability of the players to move the ball with only their feet. While football brutalizes the players generally there must be a lot of career ending knee and ankle injuries in soccer. Players are always starting and abruptly stopping and getting their legs tangles up with other players when moving the ball. There are also possibilities of being kicked accidentally during frantic attempts to gain possession of the ball. The photos below are examples. I found others that really made me cringe.

I can also see the appeal of the game as something available to everyone. After all the only thing that is really necessary to play the game is one thing – a ball. No gloves or bats or significant space in which to play like baseball. Certainly nothing like all of the equipment required for football. Probably basketball comes closes with a ball but also requires baskets which you don’t find everywhere. Here I see kids playing in almost any available space. There’s really no need for goals to practice the essential skills and the area required can be quite small.

And now for your viewing pleasure some highlights of a World Cup series of games

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