How to Appreciate Football for Basketball Fans

Photo courtesy of the Clipartbest website.
Photo courtesy of the Clipartbest website.

So, if you are a Basketball fan, a game where scores comes in droves, how do you appreciate Football, which is the exact opposite of Basketball where the scores rarely reaches double figures for both squads?

Well, it’s a matter of perspective. First of all, it helps if you are rooting for a team because then you will be more invested in how they will do. That investment in turn will make the game feel more exciting to watch.

‘Scoring’
Second, realize that since scoring in Football is relatively rare, then each score becomes more important, certainly a moment for celebration. You can’t say the same for Basketball wherein at least two points are scored every twenty or so seconds.

When somebody scores points in a Basketball game, you can’t really celebrate it the way it is in Football, unless it is the last two minutes of the game. So if somebody scores early in a Basketball game, you basically just say, “meh”. The same thing happens in Football and you say, “GOL-GOL-GOL-GOL-GOL-GOL!!!”

Third is that a GOOD Football game is one that has a couple of good attempts of scoring a goal, or a “Shot on Target“, meaning a shot that is either saved by the Goalkeeper, or a score is made. I would agree that any Football game without seriously threatening the goal within 15 minutes is generally a boring game also.

Generally it takes four serious tries to score one goal, so you would expect a game that ends in a 1-0 scoreline to have at least 6-7 Shots on Target all throughout the 90 minutes of the game.

‘Possession’
Since scoring is rare in Football, it’s not the only thing you watch out for, there are a lot of other stuff which you need to look out for to determine how well your team is doing.

First there is POSSESSION, is your team able to at least maintain possession of the ball? In Basketball, possession really is not much of a problem since each team is awarded possession at least every 24 seconds.

Not so in Football. If your team is constantly chasing their opponents with the ball and are unable to maintain possession for long before it is stolen away from them, then they are in for a bad day.

‘Final Third’
Now, if your team is able to maintain possession, then what the hell are they doing with it? Are they able to move forward and at least reach the “Final Third” of the Pitch (meaning the area of your opponent’s Pitch starting approximately from a little over the Penalty Area to the Goal)?

If your team is unable to reach and maintain possession in the final third, then they have problems as they will not be able to mount a serious attempt at the goal.

Look also as to how the team is moving the ball forward to the final third: Are they using long, overhead passes (called “Long Balls“)? Or are they building it up thru a neat passing game, moving forward and evading opponents by passing towards each other with the ball rolling on the ground (also called a “Ground Game“)?

A good team will use a combination of these two, sometimes building up when moving forward, and occasionally using long balls to catch the opponent off guard.

Also look for “Switching Plays” where the team moves the ball from left to right or vice versa, trying to attack which is the weaker side or “Flank” that allows them to move to the Final Third. Oftentimes, teams will eventually find a weaker flank sooner or later.

‘Finishing’
Scoring in Football is also called “Finishing“, and it is usually made when the ball is kicked from the flanks and into the Penalty Area where a player can kick or head it to the goal. Such a pass is called a “Cross“, and this is the “normal” or more common way of scoring in Football.

But just like in Basketball, there is a tendency for teams to crowd the “Penalty Area” (or equivalent to the “Shaded Lane” in Basketball), so there is a need to take an Outside Shot to draw opponents out and loosen their defense in the Penalty Area.

Such a shot is usually called a “Volley” and is taken from just outside the Penalty Area, and if you make enough near goals from such shots then the opponents will be forced to extend their defense to try to stop it. With the defense then loosened, then that will allow better opportunities for scoring off Crosses.

Another way to score in Football is thru “Set Pieces” such as “Free Kicks” (when a player with the ball is fouled) or “Corner Kicks” (when a member of the opposing team touches a ball that goes out of bounds behind the goal). This is when a team is allowed to take a Shot on Target for “free”, or very similar to a “Free Throw” in Basketball.

A decent team will have a the ability to make good Crosses that at least finds a teammate in the Box; Are able to make volleys from outside or around the Penalty Area to threaten the goal; And are able to make Set Pieces that will result in at least a Shot on Target.

Remember also that the team that scores first in the game (called the “Opening Goal“) already has the advantage because to lose, their opponents will now have to score TWICE. If the opponent scores only once, then the game ends in a Draw and nobody loses.

‘Personal Skills’
Last is to appreciate the skills of the players, like their ability to pass accurately and quickly, and their ability to control the ball after it is passed to them, or what is called the “First Touch“.

A good player is one who can make really good, ACCURATE passes over long distances either thru long balls or rolling thru the ground.

However, equally important is the ability of the player receiving the pass to control the ball. This is one skill most non-Football fans take for granted, it is NOT easy to control the ball once it is passed to you.

Good players though are able to control the ball just right no matter how off the angle or how hard the ball is passed to them, and if they can control ball well with their first touch then they will be able to make a serious attempt at the goal, especially when they are near or inside the Penalty Area.

‘Parting Shot’
I hope this helps. First step really is to watch the Azkals play, so naturally you are invested to root for them. The level of play of the Azkals now under Coach Dooley is really pretty good, so much so that you can find most if not all of the items I discussed above being used.

Then you can move to watching the United Football League (UFL) and College Football like the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). The level of play in the UAAP is generally not as good yet, but they are improving each year. And what they lack in level of play, they make up for in intensity, lots of people now watch the UAAP Football games, each cheering loudly.

If you can, watch the games LIVE instead of on TV and watch out for the things I noted above, then you will be able to appreciate the game better …

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