The Finer Points of Soccer Tend to Elude Him

I am of that generation that didn’t play or watch soccer.  I mean, if back when I was, say, 10 years old, someone would have suggested that my school should form a soccer team, I imagine our first reaction would have been, “Whhaaaat?”

We probably would have thought it had something to do with boxing because people got “socked” in boxing, didn’t they.  To an American boy in the 1950s, there was baseball.  You know, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, those guys. We had every baseball card we could get our hands on and everybody wanted to grow up to play centerfield for the Yankees.

Football was interesting too, of course, but a lot of folks didn’t pay too much attention to pro or college basketball, at least in Baton Rouge they didn’t.

And soccer, or football as the rest of the world calls it, was simply unknown and un-thought of.

I know, of course, that younger folks today know very much about it and many play it.  After all, one of the more cliched terms in our society now is “soccer mom.”

But me, well this old geezer still doesn’t watch it.  I’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a bunch of guys — or gals — kick the ball back and forth, back and forth, up and down the field and once every 30 or 40 minutes or so, finally kick it into the net.  I mean, a runaway score in soccer is like 3-0, right?

However, this is, of course, World Cup year, that special tournament held every four years that drives the rest of the planet fairly bonkers over who will win  the championship.

So the other day, I used my TiVo to see what sports were on the air and I saw Russia vs. Croatia, World Cup Soccer.  Out of curiosity,  I began watching the game.  Naturally, I immediately started pulling for little Croatia.  Everybody likes the underdog and besides, what American would want an outcome that would make Vladimir Putin happy?

It was more interesting than I expected, but I must say I was bewildered by the free kicks, penalty kicks and other arcane rules that totally confused me.  But, just as someone who doesn’t understand the fine points of the infield fly rule could still enjoy a baseball game, I kept watching until the end.

And what and end it was, too. They went into overtime but the game was still tied, 2-2, as it had been at the end of regulation time.  I didn’t understand how their overtimes work, either, I must say.  But the climax was reached when each team got five shots at kicking a goal and Croatia kicked one more than Russia did.  And won the game.

The cameras showed the fans in the stands.  The Croatians were ecstatic and the Russians were in tears — just like Yankee and Red Sox fans are after a big playoff game.  I mean they took this really seriously.  And I can understand that.  After all, it’s not just your college team or your hometown pro team that’s competing, it’s your nation, for goodness’ sake.  So, yeah, you’re going to take it seriously, I’m sure.

But this doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching soccer on TV as a habit.  At least not until I learn more about penalty kicks and how those crazy overtimes are set up.



3 thoughts on “The Finer Points of Soccer Tend to Elude Him

  1. Joe, that is “added” time. The clock does not stop like it does in other sports. So the referee, together with his assistants, track non-playing time and add that to the end of the period. For instance, if a player gets hurt and the game stops for about 3 minutes while that player is attended to, those 3 mins are added back in. That’s called “stoppage” time. It’s an attempt to assure the teams have the full amount of time to actually play.

  2. Actually the rules in soccer are fairly simple, especially in comparison to other sports, like American football. Probably the least understood rule, by non-soccer fans, is the offside rule. But it too is very simple: you have to have two opposing players, or the ball, between you and the opposing goal line at the time the pass is made. Violating this condition puts that player in an offside position, but the rule is only enforced if that player participates in that play. There are two exceptions: on throw-ins and you can’t be offside on your half of the field.

    The overtime rule is very simple. It’s like basketball, in that it is a set time period (in basketball it’s 5 minutes). In soccer at this level, it is 30 minutes divided into two-15 minute halves. If a team has scored and is ahead when the 30 minutes ends, that team wins. That’s what Croatia did to England yesterday.

    Keep watching! You will come to love this sport. They are amazing athletes. It combines athletic skills with endurance. The average player will run about 10 miles during a 90-minute match.

    • Thanks, Jim. One thing that confused me on the overtimes was that the announcers said a certain amount of time was remaining, say 4 minutes, 10 seconds, but when that time expired, the clock kept running. Perhaps the announcers had the time wrong, I don’t know. I certainly agree they are tremendous athletes. It’s quite a rough game, too, with lots of bumps and bruises.

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