Confessions of a Soccer Hater

FIFA

Hidden somewhere deep in dark corners and deserted alleyways amid all this soccer world cup euphoria, there exists a small band of people who hate it. They’re not courageous enough to admit it, because after all, who in their right mind would stand in front of a manic bunch of football fans and say – well, anything? If I am writing about it today it’s only because I know that most of the abuse directed at me will be verbal. I can handle verbal.

To be sure, I am not a football hater. I am more of a ‘meh’er. I will tune in if there’s nothing else to watch. If I’m reading the newspaper and World Cup news is right in front of me, I will sigh indulgently and read it. But I won’t go seeking it. I certainly won’t die of shortness of breath if the game were to disappear from the face of the Earth tomorrow.

Here are my pet peeves on the ‘beautiful game’.

1. It’s not beautiful.

Yes, I said it. If you have the right to say it’s beautiful, I have the right to say it’s not. There’s nothing beautiful about kicking a ball around. Fans say that it takes great skill to make the ball swerve and swing in the air. Well, not really. Balls swing and cut both ways in cricket, dip and swerve in tennis, spin in table tennis; that’s what balls do. For the record, tennis is way, way more beautiful than football. So is cricket.

Every time I hear a commentator or an anchor guy call it ‘the beautiful game’, I feel like hurling my remote at him.

2. It’s over before you know it.

If you’re used to the languid, lazy pace of cricket, or the narrative that unfolds with each set in tennis, soccer is done and dusted in an hour and a half. Which is great for people with short attention spans, but for those of us with a bit of sophistry in us, ninety minutes into a game, we’re just settling in with a bag of popcorn. They should introduce test matches in football and play on for at least a day. Even the shortest form of cricket is twice as long as a football match. That should give you a hint, FIFA. Roll up your socks. Make some changes.

3. India doesn’t play it

Some would say this is India’s fault because we’re not good enough to qualify (we’re ranked a respectable 154th in the world), but that’s just nitpicking. Bottom line, I watch sports because I feel like ‘my team’ is at war with ‘the other team’. When Belgium plays France, why would I care? I’ve not been to either country in my life, chances are I never will, and I know next to nothing about them. This effect is even more marked when the EPL is on. Manchester United versus Arsenal? Who cares? I don’t even know where Manchester is on England’s map. Yes, these days Indians do follow the EPL, and some of them even debate each other on ‘whose team is better’. Flash news, guys: you’re the outsider here. Manchester and Arsenal belong to each other more than you ever will to either one of them.

Here I must acknowledge the EPL’s marketing genius. If you can sell football to Indians, you can sell ice to an Eskimo. Or we’re just dumb. Yeah, probably a combination of both.

4. It’s too simple

Let’s face it, guys. Soccer is probably the simplest of all games to understand and follow. Just the other day my wife came and sat next to me during the Belgium-Algeria match and asked me ‘how it worked’. I just told her that the objective of the game is to put the ball in the opposition’s goal. Over the next ninety minutes, she had no problem – aided by commentary, of course – talking and behaving like a seasoned soccer fan. (Which is not saying much, by the way.)

In contrast, try explaining the LBW law to a cricket novice, or if you want an easier project, the tennis scoring system to the new tennis fan. (Seriously, why do they have 0, 15, 30 and 40 instead of 1, 2, 3 and 4?) It is this simplicity that is the reason for its vast popularity. If cricket is chess, then soccer is snakes and ladders. Snakes and Ladders may be more popular, but that doesn’t make it a better game than chess.

Are you a long-suffering football hater, dying to give voice to your frustration? Go ahead, vent in the comments section below. Or are you a fan who would like to shut me up? You can’t, but you’re welcome to try. But before that, boo!

Comments

  1. Nishtha says:

    Loved this post, totally agree. Although, we don’t really have Indian players in tennis either, but I guess it’s more about the player than the country he/she belongs to. And I remember teaching my friend tennis rules over a weekend when French Open was on. Mostly it was me talking, followed by, yea don’t ask me why this rule is in place, it just is.

    Like

    • What’s really funny is when Premier League fans get into an argument about whose club is better. These are usually people who have never left India and don’t know the first thing about the place. With tennis there is at least a single person you latch on to irrespective of nationality, but with a team game like soccer, it has to be the team itself. And yeah, totally understand the rule explaining thing: if only I had a coin for every time I had to explain the LBW law to a novice…
      Thanks for writing in, Nishtha. Hope to see you here more often 🙂

      Like

  2. This post was like a breath of fresh air in this testosterone and adrenaline filled world of soccer updates on Facebook and blogs 🙂

    Although I cannot bring myself to hate soccer, the fact remains that it probably is not one of my favorite sports either 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Jairam, yes, too many serious soccer conversations on Facebook and in person. I had to write this to let the steam out and say once and for all that I do not like soccer. Fine, I don’t dislike it, but I am not passionate about it. It’s almost a crime to admit that now with the World Cup on.

      Like

  3. 1. If football is not the beautiful game, cricket is not a gentleman’s game either, given how the cricketers behave these days. I am sure you feel like stabbing people when they call cricket the gentleman’s game.

    2. You watch every ball of every session of every test match I presume. Short game means short attention span is an excellent deduction. By that logic, Chess too is for those with short attention spans.

    3. So you don’t watch cricket matches which India doesn’t play? No Ashes? Good for you.

    4. So the rules of football may be simpler. So what? There is a beauty in simplicity. If complex rules meant more fun, Chess would be the most enjoyable sport. No? Golf seems to have very convoluted rules that I never really understood. Must be a great sport by your logic.

    I could go on and post reasons why football is better than cricket, but I won’t. Because that will only be my personal view and I understand that different people have different perspectives. If you don’t like football, it’s simple. Don’t watch it. If you don’t like people who talk about football, again, simple: don’t talk to them.

    It’s funny that you’re trying to portray yourself (and other football “haters”) as victims here, in a country where football hardly gets any attention and cricket fans outnumber football fans a hundred to one.

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    • Hi xyz,

      Many of my friends are football fans, and we have constant banter about which is the better sport. We sometimes set up a little debate of sorts pitting, say, tennis against cricket and have people argue for and against. This post was just a play on that theme. For full disclosure, I played soccer for my school and quite enjoyed it.

      Long story short, this was not a serious post (I thought my ‘reasons’ were over the top enough to make that clear; guess not), and it was not meant to be taken seriously. Having said that, though, we all have a right to voice our opinions. If A has the right to call a game ‘beautiful’ – and that is just an opinion – then B has the right to call it ‘not beautiful’, if not downright ugly. And yes, I happen to think cricket IS a gentleman’s game. You’re welcome to disagree and call it whatever you wish. Won’t bother me at all.

      My question, though, is this: why are you so offended by someone disliking a game that you like?

      Like

      • I stumbled across this post, and I don’t know you personally (or even from your previous posts). Such a post usually means it is sarcastic or the poster is stupid, and I owe you an apology for assuming the latter. Your replies to other comments do seem to suggest you believe in at least a couple of your reasons, but now that you have clarified I will take those replies to be light-hearted ones too.

        I don’t have any problems with someone not liking football (or even hating it, I don’t really care). If someone dislikes a sport, there must be some legit reasons too. But if someone claims to “hate” a sport as the title suggests, then there have to be strong reasons, which is why I responded to find out what exactly these reasons are.

        Still do not agree about your views: “They’re not courageous enough to admit it, because after all, who in their right mind would stand in front of a manic bunch of football fans and say – well, anything?” or “I don’t dislike it, but I am not passionate about it. It’s almost a crime to admit that now with the World Cup on.” If anything, this is true of cricket in India. Not that I care. Bringing it up just for the sake of it. So do not ask me why I am offended if someone said this about football fans in India. I am not.

        Cheers.

        Like

      • Hi xyz,

        Good to know that you don’t have problems with someone not liking football. But then you say someone has to give ‘legit’ reasons. Who decides if a given reason is legit? You? For instance, all of my reasons are actually true – soccer IS a simple game to understand, India DOESN’T play it, it IS short relative to other popular sports, etc – so if someone were to give these reasons in all seriousness for disliking the game, will you brush him off as stupid?

        I am just asking out of curiosity, because it sounds a lot like you’re saying: ‘Unless I deem something to be legit, it is wrong, and the person with the opinion is stupid.’

        Like

  4. Its the literary versus commercial debate in a different form :).

    Like

    • Hi James,

      Nice to see you here again. As you can see, I am back to blogging, but this time returned with no fanfare whatsoever, without any ‘I am back!’ posts, because every time I do that, I just don’t kick on.

      And you’re right, of course. Fine dining versus Macdonalds, literary versus commercial, cricket versus soccer – same difference 🙂

      Like

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