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!