I know very little about soccer. My son played when he was six but that foray into the so-called “beautiful game” didn’t give me much insight into the rules or intricacies of the game. That experience taught me that if you put a bunch of five and six year old kids on a patch of grass(and a fair amount of dirt) along with a soccer ball that the result will look a lot like your typical t-ball game. A mass of short human-beings running around somewhat aimlessly, occasionally fighting over the ball, with some intermittent crying thrown in for good measure. In a word, chaotic. Outside of that, my most memorable experience with soccer was the time there were about fifty of us playing on the football field in high school. I got to see up close what it looks like when someone is hit in the side of the head with the ball because they were too busy talking instead of paying attention to the game. The ball, which was traveling somewhere in the vicinity of 211 mph, hit the guy so hard that he was actually in the air for a couple of seconds before he hit the ground with a thud. Memorable, to say the least. I know you can’t touch the ball with your hands unless you’re the goalie and you have to kick it into the net to score. That, in a nutshell, is the full breadth of my knowledge of soccer.
That is why it is so strange that I continue to find myself watching the FIFA World Cup matches taking place in South Africa over the next few weeks. I’m as patriotic as anyone and watched most of the USA vs. England match last Saturday which, judging from news reports, the USA won by a score of 1-1. Nothing unusual about wanting to see how the Americans stack up against the rest of the world in the rest of the world’s version of football. Yes, I know, I’m an arrogant American who thinks that American football is superior to the older, more widely played and watched soccer or futbol or whatever it is you want to call it. It is unusual, for me at least, to find myself firmly planted on the couch in my living room watching a match between Algeria and Slovenia, two countries I’m not sure I could easily locate on a map. Then, this morning as I walked into work, I picked up the remote and went straight to ESPN2 which was airing a match between Cameroon and Japan. Have I somehow been secretly brainwashed into becoming a fan of soccer? Does it have something to do with the constant drone present at every match that sounds like a giant swarm of killer bees has set up shop in the stadium? Hey guys, can we put the plastic horns away for just a minute? Dang.
I will admit that soccer does look like it would be a lot of fun to play. I get incredibly anxious when one team gets the ball close to the goal, inside that big box, and then kicks it around to each other looking for a shot. If I were the goalie I guess I’d probably pass out from the stress of wondering when the shot is coming and from which direction. The action appears to be almost non-stop though it does tend to be a bit boring when the action stays in the middle of the field. Speaking of the field. Is it just me or does a soccer field seem to be roughly the same size as Rhode Island? I’d like to give the sport a try but to my knowledge there isn’t a local over-40-never-played-the-game-before-in-my-life church league for soccer. I’m not even sure it would be okay for a church to have a soccer team. There may be something in Levitical law regarding a sport in which you can’t touch the ball with your hands. I’d have to check the rulebook on that. Considering the fact that church softball exists, though, it would probably be okay. I can’t think of anything that’s tougher on someone’s Christian witness than playing church softball. Even a handless, politically correct, “beautiful” sport.
I have a lot more I’d like to say on this topic but it will have to wait until later. Italy just scored in the sixty-third minute to pull into a tie with Paraguay and yet another player is pretending to be badly injured. Gotta go…oh, and GO USA!!!