Watching World Cup

I’m always surprised at how easy I’m pulled into soccer every four years, when the world cup rolls around.

Certainly qualify as a “fake soccer fan”, I don’t follow any other soccer games, have no idea how each team was doing prior, and not ware who is the star for each team. None of that seems to matter. All it took is one game. Just watching one game starting from the initial group competition, during which I can get myself reoriented with the rules, get excited, start taking sides, start checking group standings, start to keep an eye for match schedules; next thing you know, I would be debating about team merits in the cafeteria and giving out opinions at how Korea might still save the day by coming back in the second half.

Soccer is really such an accessible game. With very simple rules, the game could be so complicated and dynamic. No one can tell how the tide would turn in an instance. Audience can appreciate a soccer game regardless of his/her savyiness in soccer. For me, I couldn’t tell when if one teammate is showing respect by giving the opportunity to his teammate, nor can i tell if a particular strategy of the team is lousy; but what i could see is intriguing enough.

In the US versus Italy game, I could tell the Italian team as a whole is a lot more superior in their possession of the ball, their masterful control of the field, their beautiful cooperation in advancing toward the US’s gate, and how effortless it was to the Italians. They played fluidly. The US, on the other hand, has plenty of energy and optimistic attitude. What they lacked in technique, they made up with energy and a sense of fun.

In the France versus Korea game, I could tell how impeccably France played the first half. It looked as if there were simply more French players on the field because they were everywhere regardless in defense or in offense. But in the second half, it was so obviously differently. France was careless and sloppy. Korea made a comeback because they kept at it relentlessly and tied the game before France had any chance to redeem themselves. Later, France had to fight with tooth and nail with Togo to gain their entrance ticket to the round of 16.

Then there is Brazil versus Japan. How determined the Japanese were at the beginning of the game. And how beaten up at the end with Brazil started succeeding in scoring goals left and right.

Today’s match between Mexico and Argentina was especially thrilling. Even though both team scored a goal within the first ten minutes of the game, the subsequent 110 minutes wasn’t any less interesting. The tide kept on shifting from one end to another, it was easy to see that Mexico was on fire, they were playing with all their might and they were confident. Argentina seemed a lot more relaxed but with a quieter zeal. Pretty soon the audience were star struck by Argentina’s young star Messi.

Even though I might get all the jargon right, it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the game. It didn’t prevent me from observing the vastly different styles from one team to another. European teams tend to be brutal, while South American teams are generally masters of finesse, and last but not the least, Eastern Asian Teams’ dedication and persistence are there for all to see.

I couldn’t think of any other game that better illustrates the metaphor of “qi”, the “trend” or “flow” of an situation. The players motion, their quick adaptation to the situation, their cooperation, when well done, it was fluid and smooth. Pleasing to the eyes, reminds one how a jazz band could have an amazing night because the musicians seem to read each other’s mind. Soccer players played jazz using their feet and their running. When a beautiful goal happened after a few dazzling passing, and every teammate was at the right spot at the right instance, and eventually the final kick nailed the goal. It was symphonic, really. How could one not cheer for each climax? How could one not be saddened by each mistake?

And all these are understood without translation. Understood by the world over. It is better than Olympics, because there is not much silly patriotism going on. Most of it was about the beauty of sports, about the excellence of a team, about a perfect moment born out of all that running and foul.

So every four years, my love for soccer is rekindled. It burns for a month and then is quietly put away, waiting for the next world cup comes knocking…