Why You Should Watch Soccer (Even as an American)
When people think of popular sports in America, the usual suspects are football, baseball, and basketball. Don't get me wrong, I adore football and a bit of basketball, but there is something about soccer that holds a special place in my heart. The common complaints about soccer are that it is boring, low-scoring, and is full of flops but that couldn't be further from the truth. The similarities between more popular American sports—such as American football and basketball—and soccer are endless.
A touchdown pass is like a long free-kick goal, a hard foul is like a tackle on defense, and a home run with bases loaded is like the sweet sensation of a scored penalty kick. The point is that soccer can be just as enjoyable, if not more so, as other sports. It is, in my opinion, one of the only sports that can connect the whole world no matter what race, gender, or, nationality someone is.
Why I Love the Beautiful Game
My own history with soccer began when I was a young child, probably 5 or 6. I would watch games with my dad every Sunday morning and afternoon as I tried to understand how the game was played. It was the 2006 World Cup, however, that made me want more soccer than I could imagine. It was my first World Cup and my family and I supported the Italian national team, the underdogs. After several knockout games against tougher opponents and comeback wins, Italy made it to the final. I remember it like it was yesterday, Italy vs. France; the perfect game.
It contained goals, the infamous headbutt by Zidanne, dramatic extra time, and, last but not least, a penalty shootout with the some of the greatest players of all time. Italy won and I never looked back. Not every game is the World Cup final, but I promise you that anyone who watches a match is guaranteed to feel something, be it anger, passion, happiness, even a sense of bewilderment.
What to Watch
Every fan of soccer loves it for many different reasons. Some watch it for the skilled attacking styles and firepower of some teams, hardcore and passionate defending, or possessive passing. I think the issue is that Americans, overall, have watched the United States Men's National Team play or even some teams from Major League Soccer.
Quite frankly, these teams would not really entice any new viewers. The issue is the lack of stars and the lack of an exciting play style. This is in contrast with the Women's National Team, who won the 2015 World Cup with many recognizable stars such as Alex Morgan and Hope Solo. The Women's National Team was far more exciting to watch and hopefully gained more viewers.
If international teams don't catch your interest, there are always leagues such as the Barclays Premier League (English), Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain), etc. The Premier League is perhaps the most popular internationally, boasting stars such as Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney. However, La Liga has Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, who face off twice a year in an exhilerating match called El Classico.
If you really want action though, look no further than the UEFA Champions League, and yes it is as good as it sounds. The Champions League is the World Cup of European club teams, the best of the best facing off in dramatic games filled with action. Teams such as Juventus, PSG, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Barcelona are featured almost every year, competing to win the most coveted prize in all of European soccer.
Soccer Is a Journey
Soccer is like a good movie; if you start in the middle or near the end, the movie is not nearly as entertaining as watching from start to finish. It sounds a bit cliché, but a soccer game truly is a journey. If you start from the beginning, like a boxing match, teams will feel each other out until someone throws that first punch—a shot on goal, or dangerous free-kick. Your emotions start at zero and with every referee decision, with every shot saved, with every hard tackle and yellow card, with every goal scored or penalty missed, your emotions go up and down so much that even if the final score is 0-0 you'll feel as if the game was still amazing.
You will enjoy soccer by being invested in it—when you care about the players, the storylines surrounding it, and the game itself, you'll get an experience like no other. This is why no other sport can truly claim the description of "The Beautiful Game." So trust me, give it a shot. If you still don't like it, that is okay too.