Been watching the beautiful game a lot on the telly lately.
It’s World Cup time once again and it’s always a feast for football fans.
That’s “football,” as in a game in which a leather ball is propelled down a grass playing field with the foot as opposed to “football,” a game in which an inflated leather oval is propelled down a playing field with the hands (?). Football is also more commonly known in a couple of countries as soccer, as in, a game in which a ball is propelled down a playing field with your socks.
Okay, no, that’s not where the term soccer comes from.
It supposedly comes from “Association Football” which is the name that emerged from various forms of the game into the sport as it is presently constituted – i.e., 11 players on each side with only the goalkeeper allowed to handle the ball – all the rest have to use the feet. Now, this handling of the ball is an important part of the game because it forces a referee to have to decide whether or not the player intended to handle the ball deliberately. And this may be where the term association comes in because such an action causes the players on the field and the thousands in the stands to engage in an impassioned discussion about what just exactly happened when the ball struck the hand.
At that time, the players around the player struck in the hand by the ball must immediately hold up their unstruck hands and look imploringly at the referee. Upon perceiving no foul forthcoming from the referee, those players must impose aggressively on the personal space of the referee and question his intelligence.
This then inspires the players on the other team to join in on the imposition on personal space and push and shove the players from the bereaved team, questioning their social and moral values and often their biological ancestry.
If at any time a player on either team is actually touched even so lightly as a feather, the assaulted player must immediately drop to the field as if shot from the proverbial grassy knoll by a high-powered rifle. This is then usually accompanied by the player doing the allegedly-unintentional initial contacting to also drop to the field as though the encounter was initiated by the first dropper and, indeed, has injured the second party even more grievously than the first.
The players’ teammates then hold their heads in their hands or outstretch them beseechingly to the audience who by now are as enraged as the players and are making similar gestures and adding in verbal utterances that indicate their displeasure with the actions of the opposing team and even more so with the actions of the referee(s).
When an offensive player approaches the net and misses it because of the presence of a defending player, the offensive player will fling himself to the ground, clutch some convenient part of his anatomy and lay on the ground writhing in agony as if shot from the…well, you know. Subsequent to this Oscar-worthy acting performance, the shooting player – even though he’s missed the equivalent of the broad side of a barn door – is given a second, unopposed chance at shooting the ball into the vast expanse that constitutes the goal, a.k.a., the net.
Now, for some reason, the shooter’s accuracy suddenly and surprisingly returns and couldn’t miss if he tried.
Yes, football is a combination of running, kicking, jumping, leaping, acting, pain management, miraculous recovery, vehement discussion and general bedlam both on the field and in the spectator seating. The “beautiful game,” indeed.
Alistair Taylor writes for the Campbell River Mirror.