Soccer is anything but mundane

a/Behind the Bench/Sports by

Let’s make one thing clear: I absolutely love sports. Whether it’s football, baseball, tennis, or even badminton, I am willing to watch just about anything. However, there is only one sport for which I have an undying passion: soccer.

I laughed when I turned on the television to read the day’s top sports headline: ‘Sidney Crosby goes on vacation amidst lockout.’ While hockey was probably my favourite sport as a child, the lockout doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, so why don’t we take this chance to explore the game of soccer and see what it has to offer, instead of grasping at straws to find some hockey related news?

My mission: To convince die-hard Canadian hockey fans—there are a few in Montreal—to branch out and embrace soccer for the beautiful game it can be.

Soccer has a reputation for being boring. Yes, it can seem so at first—the lack of goals, the seemingly endless passing back and forth. It all seems futile. However, looking more closely, there is something more to the game—something exciting.

The beauty of soccer is in its simplicity, and the idea that there is an unlimited number of ways to achieve the straightforward goal of putting the ball in the net. This lack of appreciation is common among people who have never watched hockey before, and complain about how they can’t see the puck when watching on television. Give them a few games and they will learn to follow the flow of the action. It’s the exact same with soccer.

Another unique feature of soccer is the variety of races in the standings at the end of each season in European leagues. There is more on the line than just the league championship.  By the end of the season, there are essentially three main finishes.

The first is the title race. Whoever has the most points at the end of the 38-match season wins the title, and these seasons can come down to the wire. For example, the English Premier League title was decided in stoppage time on the last game of the season. It was one of the most dramatic events in sports in 2012.

The second race is the Champions’ League qualification race. The three or four top teams in each of the best leagues in the world qualify for a European super league, where they duke it out in the hopes of being named the world’s best squad.

The third is the relegation battle—arguably the most exciting. The last placed teams in European leagues get relegated to a lower-tier domestic league, losing out on millions of dollars in potential revenue. These battles are intense and simply fun to watch because no team wants to be knocked down a tier. Unlike in other sports, such as hockey, whose worst teams tank at the end of the season to obtain a higher draft pick, the relegation battle keeps the league’s bottom feeder teams competitive, even when they don’t have a chance at the league title.

I hope these few points have successfully convinced some people to stop whining about the NHL lockout, and spend a Wednesday afternoon watching a Champions’ League match. The beautiful fluidity of the game and the exciting league finishes will get you hooked, just as I was a few years ago. Well, at least until the NHL lockout ends.