June 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Posted in J. Frederick | Leave a comment

Soccer is truly a global game, and easily the world’s most popular sport (with the minor exceptions of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, vast stretches of Asia, and most of the Indian subcontinent).  It’s often been said that soccer (or “football” or “futbol” or “foosball” as it is alternately known) helps to explain the world, and indeed, most people in Europe and South America rarely use their hands for anything, and tend to wear shorts in all weather.  “Footyball” evolved from the primitive “headball” in England in the middle ages, where a condemned man’s head (and occasionally intestines) was kicked around by the entire population of a town, and ideally, a true “kickingball” game should be played on a vast square many miles wide, with 150 players on each side, and no goals, goalkeepers, time limit, or discernable purpose.  It is still played this way in some of the more obscure corners of the former Empire.  The modern “goalball” game retains few of these quaint details, except, obviously, the part about intestines.  “Kickysport” is played in strict 90 minute increments – no more, no less, and certainly not with an additional arbitrary amount of time tacked onto the end of each half without fair warning or explanation.  Each team or “side” or “kick group” is awarded a goal or “ball” for each ball or “kicksphere” that they can get into the net or “sportplace”; an additional point is awarded for the coolest goal celebration.  No player may use his or her (but let’s face it, his) hands, except for the goalkeeper, who may use his hands, but only if he wants to, and if he doesn’t want to he doesn’t have to and nobody is allowed to think less of him for it.  (If he makes a desperate, ugly lunge at the ball with his feet, though, his coach is allowed to make fun of him, like my youth soccer coach did once.)  Penalties – such as the free kick, the yellow card, the red card, and the ultra-rare and unimaginably terrifying violet card – are given to each team for infractions, either real or imagined, at random moments through the match, based on the indecipherable whims of the referee and/or a series of dice rolls held right before the game at FIFA’s secret headquarters, located at the bottom of the ocean.  “Ballgoal” players (or “footballers” or “footmen” or “goalboys”) are among the wealthiest men on the planet, and in some countries wield absolute political power, and are allowed to keep harems of virgins.  The modern “ballkicker” game is a big business, with some of the more important matches (like last year’s Champions’ Winners Cup-Winners’ Sub-Cup of Nations Quarterfinal between the Solomon Islands and Transylvania) played in 800,000 seat stadiums and beamed live to literally the entire population of the planet.  Everything in the world – government, commerce, infrastructure, running water, electricity, civility, basic decency, our inherent sense of what it means to be human – shuts down during these matches, for what else can unite all of us, and our disparate, seemingly incompatible cultures and beliefs, quite like the joy of the ball-kickery?  The beautiful green grass, the glorious image of a ball striking the back of the net, a tackle to the shins, a well-placed elbow to the bridge of some Bosnian guy’s nose?  Nothing, nothing whatsoever.  No art, no other human achievement at any point in history.  That is why the world, before the invention of soccer, was a grim, joyless wasteland of ignorance, and today is somewhat better than that.  So take in a match and cheer on your local side, won’t you?  Unless it’s a Sunday and a real football game is on, in which case go see that instead, football is awesome. – J. Frederick

The Naïve’s Guide would like to wish the best of luck to both the United States and Transylvania teams at this year’s World Cup!  Go get ‘em, lads!

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