Soccer is supposed to be the ‘beautiful game,’ but anyone believing that statement to be true must be delusional.
Once it reaches house league and rep team levels, adult egos and winning-at-all-cost attitudes replace the exuberance and sheer joy expressed by youngsters who simply love to participate.
At that point, soccer loses all its appeal as a beautiful game and becomes the most overrated major sport in the world.
If you can overlook the near riots, street violence and burning several buses, the entire recent World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil had very few moments to justify even describing the event as exciting.
The only beautiful thing about the tournament came in the closing ceremonies when Colombian bombshell recording artist Shakira sang the hit song La La La.
I cannot understand why so many people around the world consider soccer to be the ‘beautiful game’ when you consider the violence and hooliganism which takes place at soccer games in Europe, Great Britain, South America and other international locales.
In the past, the tendency towards soccer violence in some South American countries even led to the construction of moats surrounding the soccer pitches to protect players and game officials from out-of-control fans. That surely can’t be described as beautiful by anyone in their right mind.
And soccer at the highest levels, including the recent World Cup, seems to be rife with incompetent game officials who, too frequently, make calls on phantom offenses or completely ignore the egregious behaviour of some players.
It is almost high comedy to observe a player falling down and writhing around in seeming agony, usually followed up by an umpire issuing a yellow or red card to an opposing player who didn’t come within two metres of the ‘injured’ player who, following the imposition by the umpire of the penalty, will miraculously recover and carry on unscathed.
This type of incompetence might be funny or frustrating, but it is surely not beautiful.
And just in case your memory is not that great, let me remind you of the diddling the Canadian women’s team took at the hands of inexcusably incompetent game officials during the 2012 Summer Olympics, at which the ‘beautiful game’ lost much of its luster for Canadian fans.
Nor would beauty describe the burning of buses following a defeat of Brazil and the minor riots in Argentina following that country’s loss to Germany in the final game of this summer’s World Cup.
To be allowed to host the World Cup, Brazil committed itself to spending in excess of $4 billion to upgrade or construct several stadiums.
With a total of 64 games played, the capital cost alone worked out to approximately $62 million per game, something that can only seem beautiful to contractors, politicians and other officials who were firmly entrenched at the World Cup trough.
An additional $7 billion was spent by Brazil on infrastructure to support the World Cup events and the coming 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
All of this took place in a country whose economy could be seriously jolted if the Olympic Games don’t attract much greater international support than recent polls have indicated.
Again, that is not even close to beautiful.
Many years ago, I played men’s senior soccer. We oldtimers huffed and puffed up and down the soccer pitch and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
My own children, some of their children and three of my great-grandchildren have played soccer and I love watching them play.
At this minor soccer level, the game can still be beautiful but please don’t try to tell me that what we see nowadays at the professional and world level is a ‘beautiful game’.
Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.