Why I don’t like watching soccer

August 6, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Fitness

If you don’t mind my indulging in sharing a pet peeve of mine perhaps unrelated to leadership and my other usual topics, playing Ultimate again this summer combined with being outside the U.S. during a major soccer event (I think the European cup was major), I got to think about soccer and values. I find soccer players often shameful and occasionally repulsive. Just my opinion, of course, but I already mentioned I’m indulging myself today.

People speculate Americans don’t like soccer as much as the rest of the world because it doesn’t score as much or doesn’t allow for easy commercial breaks. If only those were the problems I had with the sport I wouldn’t mention anything. Sports are more important to me than just watching highlights or for business. For me the problem is in the ethos of the players.

Ultimate has a clause called the Spirit of the Game, which creates such a community among all the players I’ve ever played with, no matter how competitive — and I’ve played with the most competitive — that it’s spoiled me for other sports.

Here is Ultimate’s Spirit of the Game clause, almost rule number one in the rule book.

Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate adverse conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting of opposing players, dangerous aggression, intentional fouling, or other ‘win-at-all-costs’ behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players.

Soccer players, on the other hand, at the top levels of play, at least as I observe them, blatantly cheat and lie. Not just cheating and lying in trying to get away with what the referee doesn’t see — I don’t mind that, which is part of most sports. Soccer players cheat and lie about things only they know about — they fake injuries. At the highest levels. Soccer players — not all of them, but plenty — lie to act like victims.

In Ultimate such behavior contradicts the Spirit of the Game. If you act injured and then play again, your own team will discipline you before the other team does. Fake injuries a few times and you may not be able to find any team to take you. Even in many games without spirit clauses such cheating doesn’t happen or is taken care of by rules. You can foul out of basketball, for example. Red and yellow cards in soccer don’t match that effectiveness.

The cheating and lying prevalent in soccer are against what I consider the core values of sport and athleticism — winning by competing on agreed-upon rules.

How can you like a sport where lying to act like a victim can make you a champion? Maybe a few bad apples make everyone else look like them, but I see it in nearly every game I see.

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2 responses on “Why I don’t like watching soccer

  1. Hi Josh,
    been a long time. I had no idea you continued to play ultimate for so long. I retired from Ultimate in 1994 or 5 and then started up again in 2002, when I moved to Singapore. I finally gave it up in 2006.

    Hope all is well with you.

    I do like watching Soccer – perhaps because I have spent so much time outside the US, and there really was no sport to watch until Internet became a viable outlet. I have an appreciation for the fluidity and the need to create space for each other etc. Additionally, some of the players have magical skills that must be observed (e.g. Messi etc.).

    In any case, I just read an article that seems to relate to the topic and thought you would find it interesting. Stay well and give me a shout next time you are in Asia. Else, I am in NYC from time to time, so maybe we could catch up…http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1075469/

    • Tom,

      Great to hear from you. I wish I’d known to find you when I was in Singapore twice last year. I’ll find you next time I’m there and see you next time you’re in New York.

      As for soccer, I know I’m in a global minority for the sport. When played honestly it looks great. Basketball I love. It’s just soccer’s culture of cheating — and not just cheating, but cheating where you can only take the player’s word. I have no problem with fouling in any sport. The rules are there to handle fouls. Trying to fool the ref seems part of the game.

      Looking the ref, your opponents, and your own teammates in the eye and saying you’re injured when you’re not and the only possible way anyone could know is what you say? I don’t see the sport in that.

      I’d probably enjoy watching soccer live, though, which I never have.

      Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen me playing in the first ever tournament in Pyongyang, check it out — http://joshuaspodek.com/?s=ultimate%20pyongyang — keeping in mind I’m an old man.


      P.S. For those who don’t know, Tom was my coach and teammate for a few years about fifteen or twenty years ago. He competed at a higher level then me and I learned a lot from him. Also one of the funnier people I’ve met.

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