Soccer Intelligence: How To Watch Soccer

Soccer appears to be a deceptively simple and easy game and that to a large extent, is it’s beauty. Spectators and fans all over the world tend to feel and some claim that they can do a better job on the field. After all, what could be easier than kicking and heading that round ball a few meters forward or sideways? Most supporters find it hard to fathom that a player may have difficulty in bringing the ball under control with one swift movement and still manage to bank over 100K per week.

But for those who have played soccer, at almost any level, are a little more forgiving. We know from personal experience that soccer perfection, even under ideal conditions is rare indeed. Does a soccer match ever provide us with the ideal conditions?

For starters, your opponents are hellbent on preventing you from executing those fairly easy moves which we have practised with such a degree of success at training. Players from the opposing team are in our way, annoyingly and applying pressure, determined to make us look like fools and subject to ridicule.

The calm and peaceful conditions of training have evaporated and the whole soccer field is now in battle mode. All players are sprinting, running, jumping and tackling, constantly changing the pattern of the game in a tornado sequence of actions and reactions. Could you survive this sequence of events? What does the average supporter, only superficially familiar with the game, percieve from this battle? Suggesting that you could do a better job than the players would be hilarious, don’t you think?

Having spent the greater parts of last night watching Liverpool crush Manchester United it occurred to me that most supporters don’t appreciate the game or simply don’t understand it. A basic understanding of the purpose of soccer and its laws becomes necessary to increase the enjoyment of watching a game. First, soccer is not football (aussie rules) or rugby and is an entirely different game and we must resist the temptation to make comparisons.

Soccer is unique. The whole body except your hands and arms can be used effectively. The whole body is used to tame, control and pass the ball. But let’s not forget, the opponents are poised to pounce and hurt you in any given moment.

When you watch a soccer game, try and watch both teams, not just the one that is dearest to your heart. This sounds easy, but I can reassure you as a Liverpool supporter that it’s quite difficult and sometimes tormenting. But remember this, soccer is like the principles of physics.

  • For every action triggers a reaction.

Every movement a player makes you can assure it will be countered and for every forward step you can bet your bottom dollar that it is watched, plotted and probably negated by the opponents. Don’t expect every attack to end in a goal, give some credit to the opposition as well. Try to acquire the art of watching and appreciating the entire match, not just the movements of your team.

Soccer in the millenium or so has undergone several major revolutions and has become incredibly fast and mobile. Unlike the past, all players must learn to play without the ball. In these days of tight marking and close blood thirsty battles, where players are not given space or room to breathe, it is imperative that they should be willing to run off the ball, move, sprint if necessary, when not in possession and not even likely to be. That my friends is why Dirk Kuyt is a great player and should not be subject to ridicule from supporters that know little about the game.

Let me repeat one thing again, try to acquire the art of watching and appreciating the entire match, not just the movement of your team. Kuyt’s running off the ball creates space on the field, often enabling Gerrard or Torres a path to goal. When both these players score they become instant cult figures and deservedly so, but let’s not forget the workers and the battlers that make it a whole lot easier for their team mates.

“What’s that idiot running for, he hasn’t even got the ball”

Supporters that know it all should look at the bigger picture. Comments and abuse like this drives me crazy. If you asked this same person to run down to the local milk bar to buy his cigarettes, he wouldn’t even last the distance. But some how during the biggest derby in the premiership, they either become the greatest coach or the greatest player. Makes you wonder sometimes what these people are smoking during the match.

At the end of the day enjoy the game, support your team with passion and intelligence and remember to celebrate and mock all rival supporters. Can Liverpool win the Premiership and the Champions League, I hope so!

Next time you’re watching soccer with friends and supporters, listen carefully and before you know it the greatest player in the world will magically appear before you.

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  1. nathan says:

    was your need to write this article inspired by clueless fans thrashing your favorite players? i get the “i want to kick the fan next to me” feeling a lot when these type of ppl give struggling players a hard time- especially the young players. they might make good money running around after a ball but one must understand that this is a person trying to make a living as well as trying to retain a place in the starting XI while at the same time dealing with the pressure of thousands of ppl in the stands. if you really love your team, you only haggle them when they REALLY SUCK (suck= an own goal and many mistakes).

  2. Thomas says:

    Gday Nathan, that’s exactly why I wrote this post. The Liv vs Man U game tipped the scales and l needed to vent my frustrations.

  3. Paul says:

    Funny, but this applies to youth soccer as well. I never played growing up, but somehow ended up helping with my kids’ teams. Really didn’t have much knowledge of the game, though I was growing to love it.

    But the light bulb never really went on for me until I started playing pickup games myself with the guys. Eye-opener. I wish more sideline parents could do the same, it would really help them better understand the game from the players’ point of view.

    Great post.

  4. Susan says:

    I’m a 66 y/o woman who has decided to become a soccer fan. I came to this post on a Google because it’s titled “Soccer Intelligence: How To Watch Soccer” which sounds like just what I want. But your post, Thomas, was very discouraging because it taught me nothing at all except that know-it-all fans are obnoxious, which I already knew because know-it-alls in any field are obnoxious.

  5. This is a great post. I am a youth footballer with aspirations to play at the highest level in the world. My mental game is what needs most improvement at this time. i watch soccer but I dont think i am getting the full effect from the matches. could you email me tips and clues to help me become a better “game reader” in the sport? my email is Thanks for your time.

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