OPINION

The good game

Soccer is an exciting sport, and there are many reasons why it is loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The game is played and watched by men (and women) of all social classes. Played in a big, often grandiose setting, a soccer match can evoke bitter and heroic, individual and collective struggles, even wars. A match tells a one-and-a-half-hour story. On the pitch, the teams display their different strategic and tactical maneuvers – both defensive and offensive – as well as the individual qualities and the weak points of the fighters (players). In the stands, thousands of fans cheer their squad, sing hymns, wave colorful banners. The crowds are anxious when their teams comes under pressure; they celebrate success; they are irked with bad luck or a wrong decision by the referee. They don’t care what happens to their opponent as long as they win the battle. Is soccer then tough combat that teaches violence? Not at all. These «wars» and the «battles» involve 22 adults, split into two sides, running after a ball. The enemy is hit when the ball is knocked into the net. Chasing the ball using one’s feet, body and head in open space, susceptible to strong wind, rain, mud, heat or extreme cold, can have unpredictable results. Even the most skilled players can have problems mastering the ball. Surprise, uncertainty, the acceptance of a bizarre result, of injustice and of big blunders along with the enjoyment and the reward of watching a nice collective performance or the classy play of a top-notch player appeal to millions of soccer fans across the world. Those who see in soccer a chance to express their personal frustrations, anger, or racist-nationalist angst only punish themselves by shutting their eyes to the pleasures of this beautiful game.