Obligatory Soccer Blog

Published: June 12th 2009
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Soccer plays many roles in society, enough to fill entire journals and far too many to outline in just one blog, but I feel that an underrepresented concept is that soccer is fun. Yes, its true that, as Marcos Natali put it, soccer “is both an opium and a revolution,” but on a more basic level, there is perhaps no other activity with such a wide appeal to people. Be they boys playing on the beach or fans at the monolithic Bombonera, everyone enjoys themselves with a soccer game.
There are many reasons that soccer is significant; soccer creates nationalism, social interaction, and diversion for the masses, but so do many other activities; the reason that soccer is exceptional is that nearly everyone has a good time playing it or watching it be played. The sociological effects are secondary (if perceived at all) for the fans, who just love the game.
No matter how simple, whether on the beach or in the street, we have an idyllic image of smiling children associated with soccer games; I saw children in Buzios playing with a water bottle and gateposts as a goal.
We play the game because we love to compete, to work in teams, and to exert our minds and bodies. We watch the game because it represents our own struggles. Understanding this inherent joy of soccer is essential for comprehending its social dynamics. Artistic soccer is so important in Brazil that the World Cup-winning 1994 Seleção-and to a certain extent the current team-are vilified for their style more than praised for their success. Despite what the purists claim, the reason people love artistic soccer is simply that it is more fun to watch. We watch to be entertained, and that is what artistic soccer provides. Likewise, we like to watch players that have fun on the pitch, that are playing for love of the game, as is clear with the most artistic players. This reasoning is why the raça is sought for by fans—they want the same loyalty and passion that they have--and also why Romário was the most beloved player on the 1994 Seleçao, even though he was the least disciplined.
This phenomenon is also why soccer institutions like FIFA are so powerful. Soccer is often the most beloved and occasionally the only good thing in the lives of its fans; taking this away from the people would leave them without their closest comfort. Soccer is art for the common man, and the joy I have seen it spread on the faces of hundreds during my time in South America is evidence enough that soccer is The Beautiful Game.


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