Soccer Punch

So, about soccer. I’ve never been a big soccer fan. As I said before, I watched the World Cup of 1990 and I loved it. But I was 10 then and easier to impress. I watched most of the major cups every two years but that’s about it. I often don’t know most players’ names, I don’t read or watch any after-game evaluation or pre-game analysis and I don’t collect sticker albums. I find it entertaining to watch, mostly in the background while I’m working, not more or less than a good TV series.

But at least since 2006, since the World Cup took place in my home country of Germany, I started to have some issues with the way other people acted during the World Cup. And now, at a time where I’m as sceptical of the whole football spectacle as never before (because of the whole ‘football instead of food’ thing), it’s the way people talk about and deal with it that irritates me more than ever.

First of all, people talk. Yes, they do. After every game, especially after the German games, they talk about nothing else the next day. Teachers, students, everyone offers some insight. Which annoys me enough because suddenly everyone’s an expert on soccer. Except they’re not. How many of those people actually know something about football? How many of them care about football outside of the World Cup? Exactly. And where do they have their knowledge from to talk about goals and fouls and players? From the commentators, from the newspaper, from people who actually know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure why this makes me so aggressive sometimes but I guess it’s because people are so willing to throw themselves into that soccer stream that’s going on right now, regardless of whether they really care. And look how the media plays into that. The news is full of soccer reports and once a German game is about to start, it becomes crazy. On Monday a news reporter was standing in front of the German players’ quarters, talking about how they feel right now. That’s not news! A colleague asked me if I was ready for the game tonight. As if I had to prepare for it in some mystical way. I wanted to remind her that I wouldn’t actually be playing.

I guess it is about wanting to belong to something, to find something that unites everyone which I can understand. Our culture is very good at isolating people from each other (through work, through grades in school, through class divisions) while at the same time giving them the superficial feeling of belonging to a community. Soccer is a very powerful tool for that. Some people call it ‘patriotism’ and that’s a word that fits in certain contexts but I don’t think that’s the real issue. People don’t root for the German team because they love their country so much. Everyone complains about their country all the time but the prospect of rooting for the same team as everyone else at the same time is very comforting. It creates a feeling of “We are one” and putting flags on your house and every inch of your car is a symbol for that. Again, I somehow understand that. But I still think it’s superficial. We are not actually connected by something. The players belong more to the 1% than to the 99% who cheer for them. FIFA does not host those games to bring people closer to each other but to earn shitloads of money. It does not actually mean anything if Germany scores a goal, it does not make a difference outside this tournament. When the whole spectacle is over, the world will still be in the same dismal state it was before, arguably even worse (at the very least in Brazil).

I don’t want to sound arrogant and I don’t want anyone to give anyone a bad conscience. I just think it’s worth reflecting on everyone’s temporary extreme fandom. Again, I’m still watching games myself and I’m also rooting a little bit more for Germany than for the others. But not because of the love for my country and not because everyone roots for them. They won my first World Cup, so they have a special place in my heart. And believe me, whenever I feel like happy that they actually score a goal or win a game, I also feel a bit weird about it. And then I ask myself why. And then I start writing long and probably pointless posts.

How do you feel about this?