Thanks mainly to the fact that there has been nothing but World Cup Soccer day in, day out on TV where I currently am, plus dramatic, quality games like the US versus Slovenia match, I am slowly starting to appreciate the game of Soccer a lot.
‘No Physical Barriers for Filipinos’
While it is has become sort of a cliche, it really is true that there are no physical barriers for Filipinos to overcome in Soccer, unlike in basketball, where our naturally short stature keeps us from excelling anywhere more than the South East Asian level.
I mean, you don’t have to freakishly tall to excel in Soccer. In fact, most of the top Soccer players right now are not really that tall, well within the Filipino Player’s height range, like the United State’s Landon Donovan, for example, who is only 5’9″. Or Lionel Messi, who is even shorter at only 5’7″.
Now, I’m not gonna say that the Philippines can win the World Cup if we decide to take up Soccer. But I feel that we will at least be able to possibly excel at a higher level, like the Asian level, since we don’t have that physical barrier tying us up.
Now, on to appreciating Soccer. The first difference you notice about Soccer as a basketball fan, is that there seems to be a lot less “science” to the sport compared to basketball. If you watch a basketball game, they talk a lot about the type of defense (variations of the zone, or man-to-man, etc.), type of offense (rotations, triangel offense, etc.) all throughout the match.
In fact, there is sometimes the tendency to overanalyze basketball games. Not so with Soccer. It is more of an art, really, wherein players tend to rely on their individual skills and talent, and also teamwork to win games. Plus a little bit of luck, when opportunities show themselves.
There’s really not much you can do in terms of science on the field with such a wide field to play with, and with a faster speed of the ball during play. Most of the “science” in the sport occurs in the background, in the framework in preparing for the games (i.e. conditioning, individual skills training, etc.).
There are, of course, much less statistics with Soccer than basketball. You’d be lucky to see more than two to three made goals per game in top level matches. However, the statistics to watch, would first the field goals, or number of attempts; And ball possession.
In basketball, the field goal percentages are typically from 45-50%. But in Soccer, using the less dextrous foot compared to hands, the average field goal percentages are probably around 10%. That means that on average, you will likely see 20-30 attempts at the goal all throughout the 90 minutes of the game. That’s not so bad, as it means an average of one attempt every three to five minutes of action, which makes for a fair amount of action in a good game.
Another item to watch, is ball possession. Typically you can see the stronger team by the fact that they have more possession of the ball, giving them better chances of attacking and thus making goals.
‘Judging Games by Points’
Basketball games most of the time can be judged by the end game point differential, and the same is true for Soccer, even if the resulting point are much, much less (at least for me).
A draw usually means (of course), a close game, although nobody wins, unlike close games in basketball. A one goal win is usually equivalent to a ten-point win in basketball. Now, every additional goal is equivalent to another ten-points. So, if a team wins by two goals, that’s like a twenty point win. Three goals, a thirty point win.
‘Know the Teams’
Lastly, it will help a lot to appreciate Soccer, if you know more about the background of the team. Know which team are seeded, and why. And then which players are key, and what are their backgrounds. Knowing the drama, and background of the teams and players helps a lot in improving one’s appreciation for the game.
Soccer is truly an international sport, even more so than Basketball. In the World Cup, for example, it is easy to see that the top players of a country playing for a Soccer club in Europe. Just pick one, and its likely the guy has played for a ballclub in Europe.
And not only that: They come from more countries, even Third World countries. Didier Drogba, for example, a top player from the Ivory Coast (average per capita income in 2009: USD 1,674), is a top player in the Premier League.