Currently I live in Melbourne Australia and Soccer is not seen as the number one sport in Australia. Soccer competes against Australian Rules which is also referred to as “Football”. We also have both codes of Rugby and it seems soccer takes the back seat when compared to the other codes. However, if you go to Europe and South America soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport. So why is the game of Soccer so popular?
Many believe that soccer has achieved popularity because it is very easy to play. It’s also a team sport and the rules are very basic for everyone to learn. Soccer can be played by anybody and can virtually be played anywhere. From the Colleges and high priced Academies to the streets and slums of Brazil. Soccer does not distinguish between the rich and the poor and is freely available to everyone. The Simplicity and the Beauty of the game attracts an incredible number of supporters and spectators as well.
The simplistic nature of the game has gradually helped soccer to become such a popular sport to the point that it is now a mass phenomenon. Soccer has grown to the point that the soccer phenomenon is and always will be a social and economic event. The soccer phenomenon has now become a form of religion in our modern culture. The stadiums representing the temples and churches, players as its clergymen while supporters are its followers. The game itself is the ritual, a ceremony that takes place once a week as if you would attend a church service. The service or the game is carefully prepared during the week through discussions and the reading of the Holy Script that are sports journals and newspapers. Most may not approve that soccer is compared to religion, but soccer was and is still so popular in our society because it is able to attract the interest of millions of people, while also gratifying some of their needs.
Soccer which is a mass phenomenon is seriously ill today, suffering from a disease called violence and to a lesser extent racism. This is a very serious problem which left unattended will result in the destruction of the world game. This disease if left alone will result in a large number of potential players or even spectators to lose interest in the beautiful game. How many games today are forced to play in front of empty stadiums? In the last few years we have seen an increasing amount of games played behind closed doors because of the fear of violence and hooliganism. Why does this fear and violence exist?
Lets try and think outside the box for a moment. Soccer unconsciously symbolises hunting where both teams play the role of the hunter and the prey. The preys weakness is the goal and the ball can resemble a weapon such as an arrow or a bullet. Once your weapon penetrates your preys goal, this signifies a kill or a victory. So how does this effect the supporters? The supporter, who cannot take part in the game or the hunting, identifies himself with one of the teams and therefore transfers their behaviours directly on himself. By watching the game and supporting his team, he manages to relieve part of his tension and discharge aggressiveness through the movements, action and behaviours of his favourite players on the field.
Consequently, soccer helps to release, through emotional participation, those aggressive elements which would be discharged in other situations of everyday life. Soccer has built its fortune on these emotional and passionate psychological mechanisms. But modern soccer must address this mechanism and deal with the resultant violence that is produced. Violence has reached worrying levels in the last few years. Serie A at the moment is plagued by violence and hooliganism. Last year alone over 8 games were stopped and replayed behind closed doors. So what has happened to our beautiful game?
Before we point the finger at anyone, lets investigate the supporter/s. The word supporter identifies a person who regularly follows a team or an athlete. In a perfect world, the “perfect supporter” would
- applaud with the same enthusiasm both the winner and the loser.
- avoid any prejudice towards particular clubs, countries or races.
- respect the decision of the referee.
- react the same in victory and in defeat.
- and always maintain respect and correct behaviour, both inside and outside of the stadium.
Does this perfect world exist with its own perfect supporters?
When I was growing up watching soccer, violence was not a major issue. In the past, little violence developed in the stadiums. These violent behaviours were generally limited to quarrels and swearing which suddenly stopped once the game was finished. In today’s modern game, the reality of violence has changed. Violence is increasingly spreading out everywhere to the point that stadiums and the surrounding areas have been transformed into battlefields.
Why has the game the world loves turned into a battlefield? For starters the game of soccer has not changed much. The rules are basically the same and the objectives of the game are still the same. So what has changed? The spectator has changed and his mental attitude and approach has changed dramatically.
The supproter feels that he is personally involved in the soccer match he is watching. His team becomes a personal and private affair, which becomes an extension of his own personality. So when his team wins it inevitably becomes his own personal victory. The most passionate supporters are those who are unable to put a limit betwen themselves and their team. You might ask whats wrong with this? The truth is, whatever interferes with the performance of their team and hinders its success becomes a potential personal enemy. Both the referee and the opposing supporters are seen as enemies.
Today, it will be safe to assume that the match is played in the terraces before it is ever played on the field. We, the public and the media unconsciously satisfy the needs of these social misfits who search for a role in our society through violent behaviours. Sport, in this case soccer was originally concieved as a leisure activity and not as a social activity. Sport has has always been considered as a means and never as an end.
Violence in sports is nothnig new. What is alarming is the increasing magnitude of the violence that surrounds the game today. Similar situations also existed in the past as the Romans could relieve their tensions watching tough fights between gladiators. The most important thing to take away from this post is, that soccer is just a game and the opponents should not be seen as enemies. At the end of the day, they are human beings with loving families waiting for them at home. Would your family miss you if you didn’t come home from a soccer match?