Why my boys don’t play soccer

Soccer is not in my blood.  For the most part I have an ambivalence to it that is interrupted every four years by the World Cup Finals (or occasionally when the team I nominally support, Arsenal, make a game of note).

And every four years I find watching the occasional game over the month-long tournament is more than enough to reinforce that ambivalence for the game that perhaps borders on disdain.

On Sunday I publicly pondered in my Facebook news feed whether I should stay up late to watch the first of the critical mountain stages of the 2010 Tour de France or wake up early for the World Cup Final.

My brother-in-law posted in response:

cycling is for soft cocks, watch the world cup”.

It wouldn’t take long to make lie of that statement.  On the basis there are 20 stages of the Tour and a World Cup Final only comes around once every four years, I took the wake up early option.

Only to endure 120 minutes of theatrics and histrionics every time a player felt a gust of wind from an opposing player close to a limb.  The culture of dishonesty evident in the constant diving to milk a penalty in soccer has become endemic and borders on ridiculous and galling to the impartial observer.

Combine this with the disgraceful manhandling, gesticulating and yelling at officialdom when they don’t buy the con and it’s a terrible look.  Who’d be a referee?  Paid a pittance to be abused by pampered millionaires owning a garage bristling with Ferraris and little talent or qualification in life other than the ability to chase leather.

Hours earlier the Tour de France riders had shown significantly more fortitude than their elite soccer counterparts.  The first week of Le Tour has been carnage with massive pile-ups on most stages, particularly on the rough cobblestones of Flanders (as if enough blood hasn’t been shed into that soil).

Robbie McEwen's elbow

On the first Stage Adam Hansen had ridden for more than 100km at the front of the peloton with a broken collarbone, burning himself up for his team knowing he’d be unable to continue the next day.  Robbie McEwan continues in the race despite a hole in his elbow that saw him lose half a litre of blood on one stage, and a 60kmh collision with a cameraman over the weekend.

On the day of the World Cup Final Cadel Evans crashed early but quickly remounted to claim the leader’s yellow jersey late in the day.

But most significantly, the biggest name in the sport, Lance Armstrong crashed three times on the Stage, including spilling off the edge of a roundabout at 60kmh.  His hopes of winning the race shattered, Armstrong still climbed back on his bike and rode up a mountain in agony to finish the Stage at an altitude over 2000m.

It’s as well these cyclists don’t succumb to the powder puff antics of the soccer players or there’d be no one left to continue the race.

Of course, cycling has had its problems, particularly with doping, reaching its nadir in 2006 with the disqualification of Floyd Landis from the yellow jersey.  But to cycling’s credit it has taken these issues head on.  No sport is now more scrutinised for doping and as quick to impose lengthy suspensions on those caught cheating.

It stands in stark contrast to soccer where its leadership seems quite content to turn a blind eye to the on-field cheating and whispered suggestions of fixed games and endemic corruption.

For mine everything that was wrong in soccer was displayed in two incidents during this World Cup.  In the quarter finals Ghana were denied their semi-final place a by a cynical hand ball from Luis Suarez.  He stopped a certain goal with both hands and Ghana missed the subsequent penalty, the last kick of extra time.  It should never have come to that.  In either rugby code the score would have been automatically awarded (a penalty try is given when a certain score is denied by foul play).

Suarez didn’t help matters by claiming his was the “hand of God”.  For the impartial supporter the wrong team was progressing, rewarded for their cynicism and justice denied.  Another turn-off for the “sport”.  Imagine the outcry if it had been Italy or Brazil robbed in this way, not minnows from the third world.

The second foul incident occurred in the Final itself.  Netherlands player Robben was played through by Wesley Sneijder. TV replays clearly showed Spaniard Carles Puyol tugging Robben back, denying him an opportunity for a one-on-one shot at goal.  Ironically it was just about the only time in the match where a player tried to remain on his feet, despite an obvious foul.  And subsequently the Spanish goalkeeper was able to take the ball off the impeded player.  How different history might have been had Robben taken soccer’s preferred route and collapsed in a screaming heap.  Spain would have been down to ten men and Netherlands would have had the upper hand and a free kick on the goals.

Again, there is no reward without cynical theatre.

It leaves me with the impression that the top level of the game is blighted by professional cynicism and gross dishonesty, and it’s inevitable that some of this corruption must filter down into the grass roots of the game at all levels (a little bit like applying round-up to the leaves of a plant will kill the whole structure eventually).

I find nothing in the game at the top level that I’d wish for my boys to aspire to.

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2 Responses to Why my boys don’t play soccer

  1. Ben Cann says:

    Nice!

  2. mzilikazi says:

    Plus Ben, can you imagine a soccer field containing Tim?

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