Soccer, on a basic level, only requires a few good-spirited souls, a ball, and something to resemble or signify a goal. This removes all economic barriers that other sports present. You don’t need a special glove, bat, helmet, or stick. There are also no real geographic parameters either. Topography, like mountains or ice, isn’t a means to play the sport, and while a well-groomed pitch is ideal, soccer can be played or practiced almost anywhere. Except for technicalities, the rules of the game are almost intuitive.
Every sport has a defining play that puts one team ahead for good or steals momentum and changes the game completely for the underdog. They say the game is not played on paper for a reason. Costa Rica, for example, just showed the whole world why you play the game on the pitch. You cannot measure will and heart like you can speed and vertical leap. Soccer has the same defining plays that come down to inches and fractions of a second, but they also come down to effort. The World Cup games illustrate a level of effort far above that of a normal game. In fact, these games are magnified to an un-measurable amount, with the weight of a country on your back, each pass and each shot means so much more. The ball can hit the post or crossbar and bounce in for a goal or out for nothing more than a close chance. Depending on which side of the bounce you’re on, it can define you as a player. Indeed, when a player scores a big goal for his/her country in these games, they may erect statues in the player’s honor, propelling him/her to stardom and beyond, to leave behind a legacy. So, right there is a significant factor for the magnetism and allure of the sport, worldwide. Who wouldn’t want to be considered a hero in their own country?
A great example to highlight this point is the team from Costa Rica. They took down powerhouses Uruguay,and Italy and tied England in group play. They went on to beat Greece in the knockout rounds moving on to face Netherlands. They ultimately lost to the Dutch after a 0-0 tie and they were eliminated on the dreaded penalty kick shootout 4-3. Again inches away from moving onto the semi finals of the World Cup. Costa Rica is relatively small in comparison to the countries they faced, not to mention economically disadvantaged, yet their success can be traced back to the effort the players put in as a team, and the dream of stardom and passion for the sport which the individual team members have shared, likely since childhood.
Like any sport the outcome of the game comes down to the ability of the players to perform both individually and ultimately as a team over the ninety minute match. Soccer is truly a sport that is founded upon skill and fitness. While there are certain soccer training tools that can help fine-tune performance at a professional level, when it comes down to it, natural skill and ability can’t be bought. It is earned over hours of training and it can take a naturally gifted good player to greatness and a great player to fame. If a team wins, it’s because they’re a better team than the other. It’s not because a team was able to buy better players (i.e. Players must play for their own country in the World Cub, unlike international soccer clubs brackets) or could afford the most current equipment. This levels the playing field (no pun intended). Every country has the ability to represent themselves on the same level as every other country regardless of economic constraints.
Soccer truly is the world’s sport. A country’s team is a representation of their soccer ability, and nothing else. If your team loses, it’s not because the other team bought their way to the top, it’s because the other team worked harder. True soccer lovers aren’t ashamed to lose a fair game. So, as the World Cup memories pass and lead into the next edition, wear your country’s colors with honor, and be proud of the representation your team brings, regardless of the rank.
Brian Farber Brian Farber is an Oregon State University grad and the SKLZ Category Manager for Soccer. His professional soccer career started in indoor with the MISL and PASL. He then moved to outdoor and played in the USL, NASL and MSL where he played for the Portland Timbers. During his 10-year pro career tenure, Farber earned five rings, seven league titles, six league selections and a league MVP. View all posts by Brian Farber