In the UK, soccer (or “football,” but that debate is for a different article) is by far the biggest and most watched sport. In fact, it’s the most watched sport in the world. As discussed on the some recent episodes of Laser Time, Bonus Time, and Thirty Twenty Ten, it has yet to truly take off in America. Well, I’m here to tell you why you need to be watching the greatest sport in the world!
When played right, it’s breathtaking to watch.
When people rationalize why they don’t watch soccer, they usually say things like “it’s slow and boring,” “there aren’t enough goals,” or “sometimes it’s a draw!” But it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?
Goals in soccer can be sporting porn. Counter attacking goals at their top velocity eviscerate teams in a matter of seconds. Individual players can beat whole teams seemingly out of nowhere, and goals can be incredible moments of beauty: the bicycle kick, the volley, the header. I could write 10,000 words on all the incredible ways you can score.
Everything that makes up the game is so entertaining: a sliding tackle, a last ditch piece of defending to stop a goal or halt an attack, amazing dribbling. And a pass is like a stroke of a paintbrush on canvas.
When watching a game at any particular moment, you know that you are always seconds away from something magical. It’s those moments that make any game worthwhile. Any game at any time can become the greatest game of all time.
The stories around each match make games even better.
Soccer has really embraced the 24-hour news cycle, so every game is now loaded with what journalists in the UK call “narrative.” I’ll choose the first game of the Premier League season and lay it out.
Hull vs Leicester City is that game. Leicester were the surprise champions last season, coming from absolutely nowhere, yet they romped to the title. Now they have lost one of their best players from last season, and many are wondering how they’ll fare this year.
Hull, on the other hand, have just have their manager resign for unclear reasons. They are yet to sign any new players after getting promoted, and are currently in the midst of a heavy injury crisis. This is a game between two teams that are likely to finish upper mid-table and bottom, but there is so much going on. Like I said before, every game is like this. Yay, narrative!
This is the best time in history to be a fan (unless you want to go to the games).
Expensive tickets have made going to matches a restrictive experience, but that debacle is for another article. If you want to be a fan who’s happy to miss out on the (vital) experience of watching a match live, it’s a great time for it! There’s a real sea change happening in soccer coverage: the old fashion fat skinhead, glugging pints of Carlsberg while pining for the days of Vinnie Jones, is no longer being pandered to. This is the time of the football nerd — people who obsess over the sport, dive into the stats, and spend all day monitoring Twitter to ensure they don’t miss anything (me).
Every single game is live (if you know where to look), and the quality of the analysis around each game is steadily rising. That said, it’s got a long way to catch up to the online and newspaper (yes, we still have those in the UK) analysis, which are on a different level of quality. But there’s so much out there. you can definitely find a medium that suits you: long reads, short reads, podcasts, videos, etc. You can spend all week milling over the “5 things you learned” and the “5 things to look out for.”
The two best players of all time are playing right now.
The debate over who is “the best player of all time” will rage on until we are engulfed by an exploding sun, but arguably the two best players of all time are playing right now… in the same league… each on a team that hates the other… so much they want to throw animal carcasses at each other.
I’m talking of course about world-famous tax avoider Lionel Messi and global superstar naked torso Cristiano Ronaldo. The list of records these two have broken is phenomenal, and people have and are writing entire books about them. Other than their unparalleled skill, what’s most intriguing about their battle to be the best (and the subsequent debate that surrounds them) is that they represent two philosophical views of the game.
Messi came through the youth ranks at Barcelona, born with the skill of a footballing god, and with little effort, he has risen to the top of the sport. He seems to be so fine-tuned that he knows the perfect piece of skill to do at any given moment to result in the best possible outcome for himself or the team. Ronaldo, meanwhile, moved to Manchester United at the age of 18, and after enduring a difficult start, worked so hard that he became the best player in the world. Seemingly sculpted out of marble, Ronaldo is the perfect physical specimen who is far more individually minded than Messi, and almost drags in goal after goal after goal.
As a new fan, you’ll need to make up your own mind about who is the best.
This could be the most competitive Premier League season ever.
In the Premier League, there’s a huge TV rights deal that’s closing the gap between the “elite” teams who traditionally top the table and the mid-table teams. It’s a cliché to say that there are no easy games, but it is increasingly looking like that may become a truism.
Massive squad overhauls and big managerial changes also mean that as many as 5 or 6 teams look like they could win it. Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea have all added superstar players and managers to try to make up for disastrous seasons last year, propelling all three teams to possible champions. Tottenham were impressive last year, and have improved on their squad, while champions Leicester have managed to hold on to most of their players from last season. I really cannot stress how strong the top of the league is, and as of the time of writing, the middle- and lower-table teams are spunking huge sums of cash on quality players. The league is slowly evening out. As Leicester proved last year, anybody can win it if they have an ironclad plan and players to fit it. Maybe this is Crystal Palace’s year! (Spoiler: it isn’t).
Hopefully I’ve managed to convince you to throw yourself into the greatest sport on the planet. Put on your team’s shirt, learn the chants, and scream hate speech at the ref — it’s soccer time!
If you ever need a soccer question answered, come to me on Twitter @BobJPriestley!