The World Cup is over. For me, anyway

There is a silver lining to Canada’s abrupt and rather humbling dismissal from the FIFA World Cup … I won’t have to watch any more soccer.

Oh, I might tune in to the odd game, just so I can feel like a member of the human race, since most of the planet is apparently tuned into this kickball festival. But I am almost entirely indifferent as to the winner. As long as the U.S. does not win, I don’t care. And now that the Netherlands has done us all a favour by eliminating the U.S,, I can safely ignore the rest of the show.

I wish I were more of a soccer fan. My three sons have all been playing soccer since they were toddlers. I even “coached” them, despite my extremely limited knowledge of the game. My coaching consisted of pointing them in the right direction and telling them to kick the ball in the hopes that the ball would, somehow, end up in the net. They overcame my “coaching” and all of them became very good players. They are in their 30s, and all still play together, outdoor and indoor. They are devoted fans of three different English soccer clubs, living and dying with their clubs. Two of them even traveled to Britain to see their teams play, which they sadly describe as the greatest day of their lives. 

Me? I’m more of a hockey and Canadian football fan. But like everyone else in Canada, I got into soccer (briefly) via Canada’s thrilling run to qualify for the World Cup. Those bitterly cold games at Commonwealth Stadium were edge-of-your-seat exciting. But now that Canada is done, all I can see are the frustrating flaws of the ‘beautiful game’ and the crooked organization that runs the big show.

The fact that the biggest spectacle in the world was awarded to an oppressive petro-dictatorship like Qatar speaks volumes about FIFA, the profoundly evil governing body of soccer. Qatar is the 165th largest country in the world, at only 11,571 sq km. (for comparison, Nova Scotia is 55,000 sq. km.) It is so oppressive, it makes Russia look like Canada. Its soccer facilities were built by what was essentially slave labour. But no matter. Money talks, and FIFA grovels.

Then there’s the game itself. Watching a game with my soccer-savvy sons is like listening to a lecture in advanced algebra when you know only elementary arithmetic. While they’re babbling about tactics, I’m puzzling over the slogans of major sponsors that flash on the sideline billboards. Coke’s is ‘Magic is Believing’. Adidas says ‘Impossible is Nothing’. And Powerade says ‘Pause is Power’. Here’s a slogan for all three companies: ‘Huh?’

But the biggest barrier to my enjoyment of soccer lies in the game’s acceptance, even pride, in faking injuries. In a game last week between Argentina and Mexico, so many players went down in screaming agony I assumed there was a sniper in the stands. But no. No other sport allows, even celebrates, such egregious, unmanly conduct. 

And then there’s the time-killing. And surrounding the referee to whine about calls. And the little tiffs that break out where the players push each other like children on the playground. And the over-the-top celebrations for goals. Hey, you kicked a ball into a net, you didn’t cure cancer.

My complaints, of course, will mean nothing to fans of ‘the beautiful game’. But as the saying goes … beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Give me a good ol’ hockey game anytime. 

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By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

1 comment

  1. When I read what you’ve got to say about the game, I felt that I could have been listening to my late brother, Rick. He had played organized hockey as a teenager, and semi-pro baseball until he was about eighteen. He was a power hitter and had been looked at by the Pirates back in the late ’60s. He was very critical of the flopping you described. He thought the game was a joke. I remember telling him that it was the most popular game, and was played in almost every nation, in the world. He had the quick answer: “Right. And those countries don’t have hockey, baseball or the CFL. Do they or what?”

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