A LENGTHY REBOOT

By Richard Hsu
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The Beautiful Game

On the way to my son's soccer practise this morning, I heard about the ugly side of soccer (or football) on cbc Radio One. Stories about a referee stabbing an arguing player to death, then himself getting beheaded by outraged fans in a Brazilian town a year ago, 21 people killed in riots after a playoff loss in Democratic Republic of Congo last month, gunfights at a Buenos Aires stadium and 'plentiful and growing' corruption charges against FIFA.

It is ironic that such a boring athletic contest could lead to such violence and fanatical behaviour

Said the host of the radio show making the case for soccer not being 'beautiful' anymore.

Having played soccer in my school years and followed the European leagues and World Cups, I don't agree the game is boring to watch or play but I agree it is not worth the violence. Soccer games, as with anything else, can be an excuse for violence or money making.

At my son's soccer practise where kids between 6 to 12 years old play indoors, what I saw was 'beautiful'. The shouting of "give it to me!", "oooh", "aaah", the goal celebrations, the funny misses that gets everyone laughing, the drama (a kid was celebrating his sister's goal against his team!) expressed the fun, passion and excitement of playing the game for its own sake. It was just as entertaining as the games on TV.

Even in a small group of kids, I saw unique styles. There is a spectacled boy who shoots with great power. I volunteered for goalie last Sunday and dreaded the sight of him with the ball and an open shot at me. Another boy (bigger than the rest) plays like a bulldozer, he moves slow but no one can stop him and he spends large durations in the sidelines resting. The best player is the coach's protege. He is an all round player: controls the ball well, passes well and shoots with precision. I did not see him play for 2 days and missed it like a fan. The boys and girls play hard and argue just like men do but they laugh and fool around too unlike televised competition games. I have my Kobo eReader or a book with me at soccer practise but only read it when the kids are doing exercises. As soon as the games begin, my attention shifts to it and I cannot help myself but get involved. I shout "shoot", applause when a goal is scored and make funny facial expressions when there is a near miss.

My son plays defence with no interest in scoring or shooting at goal but he scored one today and I saw him smile with pride and joy as his team mates hi-fived him and patted him on his back.

Ah yes, the beautiful game.