Football, American football, has long been my go-to sport. I look forward to football season the way kids look forward to Christmas. Recently, however, I have discovered the other football. The "true" football. The game that we Yanks refer to as soccer.
I got interested during this year's World Cup. I watched a number of matches and was intrigued at the pace of the game and the skill of the players. Lately, due in large part to my Italian friend Maurizio, I've begun following Associazione Sportiva Roma (A.S. Roma or just Roma for short.)
Football players have to be in incredible shape and... wait, what was I talking about?
This type of football moves at a much more constant pace, which I really like. There are not numerous stops and starts. In American football a minute may last ten minutes with all the lining up, time-outs, moving of chains, etc. Of course, there are pros and cons to this too. Constant action means no commercial breaks, but it also means no bathroom breaks. If you step away from the television to empty your bladder or refill your chip bowl, you're liable to miss something.
Of course the rules of the two games are vastly different. In fact, the only thing they really share in common is the name. I am still learning the rules of football (soccer.) I've been reading and trying to give names to the plays I've seen and heard described in the matches I've watched. That's one problem I've had with following Roma. The televised matches I've watched online have mostly been in Italian, and I only speak Italian in my sleep (so my husband tells me.) I've managed to find a few matches on British channels, but frankly sometimes I can't understand what they are saying either.
I understand the penalties and fouls in soccer, though it amuses me somewhat when the players make a dramatic spectacle of falling down. In American football, it's all about throwing down and hitting hard. Not to say that soccer players aren't tough. They play without padding after all. And if anything, they demonstrate "football" much better than American football players ever could. The things soccer players do with their feet are simply amazing: scissor kicks and all kinds of fancy offensive and defensive footwork. American football is mainly about throwing, catching, running and tackling, with a few kicks thrown in here and there to score extra points or to boot the ball to the other end of the field.
I may or may not have thought Juventus was a team of referees.
While I don't think soccer can dethrone some good ol' SEC football in my heart, I am keenly interested in the game. I keep an eye on the scores and stats and watch matches when I can get access to them. They're exciting and dramatic to say the least. Saturdays, of course, are all about Alabama football. After all, we have games like this:
Just a warm-up, really.
Football/Soccer isn't the hard-hitting high-scoring event that American football is, but it's still a thrill to watch. It also has its own rabid fans who go nuts in the stands and scream at their televisions. It can get wild with brawls, cheap shots, and adrenaline-fueled ugliness. I think the most striking thing to me is the loyalty to and pride in one's team. That seems to be universal. Whether it's the wearing of the team colors to support the Giallorossi, or the greetings of "Roll Tide" on game day, fan pride seems to be a driving force in both sports. Wins and losses are deeply felt by players and fans alike. They may be "just games," but they are also serious business.
Perhaps that is the draw. A tough loss is excruciating but is later brushed off as not important. A hard-fought victory however, is memorialized in "Best-Of" reels, posters, and conversations in later years about where you were when it happened. It's gritty, it's glorious, it's football.
Is Alabama's version of this: