I really enjoy watching and playing soccer. I’ve been looking forward to the World Cup ever since the last one. And it’s nice to see that soccer has developed more of a following in America, and there seems to be more excitement this year. However, when you look at some of the things that has already happened in South Africa, you start understanding more why professional soccer still hasn’t taken a foothold (pardon the pun) here. In no particular order, here are reasons that can make a fan flabbergasted at soccer.
1. Vuvuzelas – Ok, seriously… I understand that if it’s part of a long tradition in South Africa, it’s fine, but it’s just not true. They became only popular in the 1980s, and introduce in the past couple years to international soccer play. It would be fine too, if it was a few vuvuzelas that provided added excitement and atmosphere, but it is soo loud that players have complained about how it affects their communication and concentration on the pitch. Watching on TV, I can’t even hear the typical sounds of competition, such as cheering, yelling, chanting, ref whistles, etc. It’s a continuous annoying buzz that drowns out all other noise. How is that a respect for the game? If you want to talk about African tradition, how about some drums or African music? That would a really nice atmosphere.
2. Low scoring games and draws – There’s nothing specifically wrong about low scores, but when clean sheets (shutouts) are more the norm than not, it gets a bit boring. Look at these stats for the first round of the knockout phase
– Only 25 goals were scored in the 16 games.
– An average of 1.56 goals per game.
– Thirteen times a team did not score, 15 times a team scored only 1 goal, 3 times – 2 goals and Germany scored four goals in their game.
Which leads to the abundance or high chance of a draw. Of the 16 games in the first round, six ended in a draw (two 0-0, four 1-1). That means 37.5% of the games ended in a draw.
3. Subjective refereeing – Due to the low scores of soccer games, so many issues that normally would be minor are magnified because they can affect the outcome of the game. There have been so many bad calls by referees it’s hard to really appreciate the game. Two that already stand out are the denied US go-ahead goal in the Slovenia game (not to mention all the other bad calls in that game), and the two missed handball fouls (on the same play) on Brazil’s second goal against Ivory Coast.
Bob Bradley – “There are times when a referee blows a foul and now thinks either he didn’t make the correct call on the foul or a previous play,” Bradley said. “Then literally, as soon as the free kick’s taken, he blows his whistle.”
Since writing this post, there’s been two other obviously bad calls by referees that have impacted the game. The phantom off-sides call on Clint Dempsey’s goal against Algeria and the disallowed goal off the crossbar against England’s game tying goal against Germany. Unbelievable.
4. Jabulani – The controversy over the playability of the ball every single World Cup is absurd. Just play the game! Imagine hockey players complaining about the puck, or NBA players complaining about the ball (ok, it did happen once), but stop being so sensitive. Either that, or FIFA needs to establish a standard ball, like in the NFL, and stop making everything a marketing campaign.
5. Orange mini-skirts – Ok, I had to throw this in there, even though I understand FIFA’s reasoning in protecting sponsors and making sure guerilla advertising campaigns don’t occur, but still, who arrests beautiful girls in miniskirts at a sports game?? Kick them out if you have to, but arrest? Go after the beer company if you have to, but to arrest the pawns of the campaign? All FIFA did was bring more attention to the guerilla advertising campaign, and show more the heavy-handedness of FIFA.
6. FIFA – The FIFA governing body reminds me too much of the International Olympic Committee – business suits with big egos and a lack of understanding and sensitivity to its fanbase. FIFA has always enjoyed the subjectivity of soccer because it believes controversy increases awareness and passion for the game. Well, not really. Not if you are trying to break into the United States market. Americans want fairness and want calls to be called right. The controversy surrounding USA’s third goal in the Slovenia game does not make casual fans follow soccer more, it makes them more skeptical of soccer’s fairness. FIFA needs to get off its high horse.
FIFA also hates technology in the game, but when the entire stadium sees the ball cross the goal line in the England-Germany game and the refs disallow it, it’s obvious that simple replay to determine if the ball crossed the goal line must be added. All these horrible calls by refs are ruining the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.
7. Penalty kicks – Penalty kicks are fine, if they were rewarded similarly to penalty shots in hockey, but they are not. They are given for hand balls in the penalty box, if the ref thinks there is any hint of intention. And the subjectivity of whether the hand ball denied a scoring chance is absurd. Even if there was going to be a scoring chance, the chance of a goal is so small. Usually a penalty shot in hockey is only awarded on an obvious breakaway. Of the 28 games through Sunday, June 20, five penalty kicks were given out (4 scored, 1 missed). Two of the five had an impact in the game, whether it was the winning or tying goal. Considering how low scoring the games are, it’s somewhat unfair that penalty kicks play such a big part in a soccer game.
8. Inaccuracy – Sometimes you wonder if the players are kicking a soccer ball for the first time in their lives. These guys are professionals and they practice kicking a soccer ball in all possible scenarios so often, whether it’s at the goal in or outside the penalty box, or a through ball to the striker. So why do so many balls sail waaaaay high over the crossbar or to the side of the goal? Why do so many corner kicks go so far to the other side and out? Why so many through kicks go either too far or too fast? I understand that many times players are trying to be too perfect or they are under too much duress, but seriously? So many of them are just pathetic.
When you look at the precision of other sports, such as Kobe draining a perimeter shot at the buzzer, or Ovechkin putting on evasive maneuvers to score a late winning goal, or Alex Rodriguez crushing a 96mph fastball into the seats for a walk-off homer or many other sports, it just makes soccer look somewhat random regardless of skill and experience. Especially to the casual observer.
9. Two yellows -> red card -> missed match – Just like the handball-penalty kicks, the way soccer handles yellow cards, red cards and automatic missed match has hints of unfairness. Once again the penalty is too severe for the foul. Not only do you get kicked out of the current match, but you also cannot play in the next game. Since yellow cards are already subjective, it seems so unfair if someone was to get a second yellow early in the game (the first one from the last game), that means an automatic red card, which means he’s ejected from the current game and the next game. For all intents and purposes, a foul in two separate games has cost him and his team two matches.
Oh, and not to forget, when he gets ejected, his team cannot replace his position in the game, which means his team must play a man down! Three penalties for two yellows on a player, and we know some yellows are pretty minor fouls. For reference, if you get a game misconduct in hockey, the other team gets a power play (man advantage) for a few minutes, and the player is ejected only for the current game. Umm, soccer might want to adopt a similar penalty system.
10. Racism – Unfortunately because of the passion, alcohol and whatever other reason, we still hear stories of players having to deal with raucous fans shouting racial and derogatory phrases at opposing players. There’s no place for racism in sports, especially in this day and age. Sports in the United States are more integrated and the population is more diverse than most international cultures. To read about this in soccer, the supposedly most popular sport in the world, it simply turns us off from the sport.
11. Too much passion – Americans are passionate about their sports, especially their football, but we don’t kill a player simply because they messed up. We might affect them psychologically to the point their careers and lives are destroyed, but we won’t take their lives away. There’s already been a couple instances of this occurring in soccer, and it just seems like the sport is a little over the top.
12. Egos – Players not wanting to train (French team this World Cup)? Player getting kicked off the team in the World Cup for cursing out the coach (Anelka of the French team)? That’s just the most obvious in this World Cup, but because the players are national and international heroes and they are one of the highest paid athletes in the world, their egos are also the size of, well, the world. Some of the players have more loyalty to their club team or themselves than their national teams. For example, there were so many questions of the Brazil national team because most of them play on the European club teams now.
13. Lack of sportsmanship – When flopping and diving is considered an art, something is wrong with the sport and the sportsmanship the players exude. Because the players know they can get away with it, sportsmanship goes out the window and they want that instant unfair advantage. What about the Ivory Coast player getting elbowed in the chest by Brazil’s Kaka, only to fall and cover his face as if his face is in pain? Seriously, is this sportsmanship? What about players diving in the ending minutes of a game to waste time only to see the other team drag him off the pitch? Sportsmanship, guys!! Have some! In football, if you waste time, you get a 15-yard penalty. No one wants to see that. Oh yeah, not to mention Zidane’s headbutt from the last World Cup.
14. Soccer is 90 min + ? – Another referee subjectivity. They determine how much injury time to add to each half, but they only have to tell the rest of the world roughly how many minutes it is. Only he knows the exact time the half or game ends. What the…
It’s unfortunate because the game is actually very tactical and requires a lot of teamwork and skill. However, because of the subjectivity, the rules and the commercialization of the sport, it has turned off the big casual market in America.
What other reasons do you guys think can turn off the casual fan from soccer?