Buenos Aires – There was much yelling and shouting going out outside yesterday morning – obviously the start of the much ballyhooed Argentina versus Germany soccer, or rather futbol, match. I know nothing about soccer other than men in short shorts and round ball with alternating white hexagons and black pentagons. Now it turns out they’ve changed the ball to have some sort of vaguely figure-eight-ish pattern with Adidas advertising. Friends have been assuring me that it’s quite exciting and besides, all Argentina would be glued to their TVs during the match, so there’d be little else to do. So, with all the hype and such I figured I ought to at least pay attention to part of this World Cup thingie that’s going on and I turned the game on in the background while working. I even stopped at moments to watch, including the entire overtime period.
My viewpoint is necessarily a completely uninformed one. I’ve never watched a match before. I’m an “American football” fan, having grown up in a Big 10 city. I don’t know the rules, I don’t know how one plays. Nor am I all that interested, so please don’t send me links to websites that explain it all, nor attempt to convince me that I must understand it. Even if it will give me some deep insight into local culture, it’s unlikely that I’ll take that route. I also dislike watching any sport on TV, whether it’s curling, golf, baseball, or what have you, I just find it boring – so maybe one day I’ll go to a game, live, with someone who understands it, and see if I find it more interesting.
What I saw was much running about, seemingly quite chaotic. For all the moving to and fro there seems to be little in the way of scoring goals. With all that activity I’d have predicted scores like a basketball game, maybe a little lower because of the distances involved. Much of the game seems to involve passing the ball between players, however it seems that one passes the ball to members of the opposing team almost as often as one’s own teammates. There’s a lot of emotion involved, and not just from the fans in the stands. Players tear at their hair, throw their arms up into the air beseaching the powers that be, pound the grass with their fists, and do a lot of “who me?” trying to look innocent every time they commit a foul. There’s a lot of foul committing – elbows thrown into faces, foot sweeps, and even scissor locks reminiscent of martial arts takedowns. Always followed by that who me look.
There’s not a lot of attempting at scoring. I’m sure that the players know what they’re doing, but from an outside perspective it seems like they pass up multiple chances to kick the ball into the nets, which, I believe, is the way to win the game. When an attempt is made, it seems to be made from a near impossible angle, at silly distances, and invariably with a powerful kick of some sort guaranteed to send the ball flying far over or wide of the net. Showing off seems to be more important than actually scoring.
Now, in the end, the game, as probably everyone who has any interest in the subject knows, the game went into an overtime period. Well, three actually, of sorts. First, the time ran out, but they continued to play for about 4-5 minutes, some sort of automatic extension I guess. Then when the score remained at 1-1, they took a break, and then went into a half hour overtime. At the end of that, with no change, they took another break and then lined up mano a mano to take turns trying to kick the ball into the net from a very close distance, with only the goalie to stop the ball. For some reason, Argentina’s goalie, on three of the kicks from the German team, dove the opposite direction from the side the ball was kicked to – looking for all the world like he was trying to get out of the way if at all possible. The German goalie seemed to take the other tack and dive in front of the ball and stop it – which I believe was the point. At the end, it then seemed as if the Argentinian players were trying to attack the German players and get into a bit of fisticuffs, as if somehow the Germans had done something innately wrong. How odd.
Now, of course, this is all based on a single game, with no knowledge of how it’s supposed to be played, and you can take from my point of view what you will, or not.