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Soccer is the most popular sport on the planet. It is a game played worldwide; even the smaller countries have their own league. It is not only fun to play and worldwide famous, but it also generates billions of dollars every year. And there is more, soccer is a very entertaining game to enjoy, whether it be in small or big groups, or even alone. Do you want to know how to get into watching soccer?
There is only a need for two things, knowing the game rules and support at least one team. The rest is secondary but definitely makes the game more interesting. Things like understanding tactics, knowing teams’ rivalry, knowing the players, having a little background of each club, national team, and tournaments.
Soccer is more of a religion than a sport in some countries. Going to the stadium every weekend or traveling to another city when their team plays away is a sacred ritual for many people. In my country, people would say it is passion; it is a feeling that they can’t describe. There’s an Uruguayan writer who says that in his country, every baby is born screaming goal.
How do you start following soccer?
As we said before, it is essential to know the rules of the game. All of them are pretty straightforward to get; the only tricky one might be the offside rule. Here’s a less than two minutes video that explains the offside rule. Or for those who prefer to read, here’s the written version.
As for the rest of the rules, field players can use everything but their hands to touch the ball, only grabbing the ball for throw-ins. The goalkeeper is the only one allowed to use their hands as long as they’re inside of the box.
The game is pretty simple to understand and follow in that regard. After we know the rules, we need to find a team to support or feel sympathy for it.
In my opinion, what makes the sport so interesting is the condiments around the game itself.
Let’s start with the teams’ rivalry. Every soccer team has its archenemy, and the best part of it is, both teams believe they’re the hero and the other the villain.
Some clubs started before, but most of the clubs we know today were founded in the early 1900s. The world was undergoing significant political, social, and economic changes.
People started gathering in different spaces according to their social status, and clubs followed the same pattern. There were clubs more identified with the upper class and vice versa, and they wanted to beat each other.
Soccer rivalry is colorful; it’s about different ways to play the game, it is about mocking the rivals when beating them.
There’s a strong relationship between soccer and superstition. A book tells the story of a Brazilian soccer fan who planted a toad in Vasco da Gama’s field and cursed the club: Vasco won’t win a title in 12 years. For years Vasco’s people looked for the toad, and they couldn’t find it.
Vasco da Gama hired the best players and put together the best teams, and still, they couldn’t win a championship. Vasco’s people were resigned. Eight years later, Vasco won a Carioca tournament. God made us a discount, the club’s president said.
Another ingredient is the team’s history between them. There are epic battles and unforgettable games that decided their fates, created nicknames, or even differentiate them even more.
After a big match, a nickname for a team might surge. That nickname will most likely last forever. Like the Brazilian club Gremio, the immortal. Or the Argentinian River Plate, the chickens.
I would suggest that to start following soccer, it would be a good idea knowing what’s around the teams, their origins, their history, their rivals—the history between them and their rivals, and the other teams in the league.
What should I look for when watching soccer?
Soccer has lots of beautiful things to offer, like well-constructed goals, nutmegs, skill moves, great saves, and much more. It is necessary to be aware that performing fine plays is extremely hard in soccer played at the highest level. That’s is why they’re so precious.
Skill moves require tremendous ball control, coordination, timing, and talent. They are the best way to eliminate a rival, although they’re riskier than a pass. These are some of the most famous skill moves.
- Elástico. This movement became famous in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico thanks to the Brazilian Rivelino. The player moves the ball outside with the boot’s outer part, then wraps the ball and brings it back abruptly inside. The ball changes its direction in mid-movement, and the defender is totally lost.
- Chip/Lob. Chipping a ball requires more technique than strength. The player uses their foot as a wedge and hists the ball underneath it. This exquisite technique is commonly used to shoot at the goal when the goalkeeper runs at the forward, giving them no space for a regular shoot.
- Bicycle kick/Scissors. The bicycle kick and its twin sister, the scissors kick, are perhaps the more spectacular soccer moves. The player flies in a backward direction generating enough momentum to hit the ball in the air. To perform this movement correctly, the player must have excellent timing and athletism.
- Rabona and rabona fake. Rabonas are perhaps as old as the game itself. It is a bold move in which the kicking leg is wrapped behind the standing leg. When the player hits the ball, the legs are crossed. It is an elegant solution for those players who don’t have enough accuracy with both legs.
- Nutmeg. The nutmeg is perhaps the most humiliant play in soccer. The player passes the ball through the opponent’s legs. During soccer games, nutmegs are often celebrated as goals.
These are only a sample of the fantastic moves soccer can offer and are very pleasant to watch. There are lots of them, like the trivela or outside of the boot kick, the hocus pocus, the Cruyff turn, body faints, and the list goes on and on.
When watching a soccer game, if any of these plays occur, you can be sure the ticket price is already paid.
How do you enjoy a soccer game?
You don’t need much to enjoy a soccer game; it is a matter of focusing on what your team can offer. If your team is full of talented and skillful players, you can expect fancy moves and cheeky plays.
If your team is less talented, you can expect big displays of heart and physical effort. Usually, when a team is aware of its limitations, they focus on fighting for each ball as it was the last ball of the game.
And that is, perhaps, one of the more exciting aspects of the game. A team with less talented players, or with lower salaries or market value, can beat a team full of superstars. Money, nor talent or individual skills can ensure a victory. It is about who wants it more.
Soccer is a game of moments, momentum, and spirit. If you pay attention, you’ll see that at some point, a team gets nervous or afraid and starts missing passes or poorly shooting the ball.
It is interesting to identify and read these different stages of a soccer game. When a team feels close to score, you can see how its players feel more comfortable and confident with the ball.
Simultaneously, the team being dominated shows its pride and tries to hurt their rivals with isolated but powerful attacks.
The fans on the stands have a prominent role, too; it is beautiful to see them pushing their team forward, giving them songs of courage and battle cries.
The Euro 2016 played in France showed the magnificent Viking war chant from the Iceland fans.
What should I bring to a soccer game?
The best advice is to travel light. Soccer games usually are crowded places where you don’t want to lose anything; it would be hard as hell to find.
Most likely, you will sing and jump a lot. It is a good idea to take old clothes, or the clothes you use to work out. In many South American countries, soccer games are almost parties where people sing for ninety minutes, and there is even some dancing.
When your team scores, you will scream and celebrate; maybe you feel like running like crazy, and you need to wear comfortable clothes for that.
If you’re watching a game at a friend’s house, snacks and beers are always welcomed. Nothing too elaborated, simple things that you can grab from a plate in front of you without looking at it, so you don’t miss any detail of the game.
Wearing your team’s shirt is also a good idea. Even if the people in the house support the other team. It creates a friendly rivalry and competitive environment that would make you feel like you are at the stadium.