Saturday, June 28, 2014

Primeros Futbol

6:58 AM

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Football has always been one of the most popular sports in the world, but it is especially so now, with the FIFA World Cup in full swing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a football star in the making, a casual player, an avid fan, or someone who’s new to the game, here are a bunch of firsts every football fan goes through.

First Kick

It could be the first time you kicked a football, or the first kick that made your jaw drop in awe, but the first kick is what drags you in. You analyze how the superstars position themselves at just the right angle to get the ball into the goal; how they lock their ankles and let their legs swing on the follow through. Even if the first kick you saw wasn’t one that resulted in a goal, you’re still amazed at the precision with which they pass, the way they absorb the ball for only a second before redirecting it across the field. You wonder how so much power could be delivered in that one kick as you try to recreate or understand. But, unless you’re some kind of football prodigy, your first kick will never be as good as you want it to be – which pushes you to MAKE it as good as you want it to be.

Some people will train every day to try and get that kick, others maybe once or twice a week, or perhaps during the summer. The people who will try to analyze the “perfect kick” might try to find videos and see if they can pinpoint exactly what it takes for the players to deliver it. Is it something with the spin? The angle with which it was hit? The part of the foot? There’s no stopping until they get the answer.

First Game

Coming from a football player and a former team captain, let me tell you, the most pressure you feel in a football game is just before it starts. The anticipation, the nerves, the “oh my god the game’s about to start” feeling hits you just before the whistle blows. The first game you play or watch welcomes you to the realities of football, like the fact that plays don’t work all the time, some players really do play dirty, and it’s NOT as easy as it looks. Your respect and appreciation for the teams in the professional leagues suddenly go up big time. Especially since the biggest and most frustrating realization you get after the first game is that a team HAS to lose. It doesn’t even have to be because there wasn’t enough practice, or that someone got a sprain, or even that one team is better than the other. At the end of the day, the team that brings the better game wins – and sometimes, that team isn’t your own. Imagine dealing with that for a living.

Something related is the first professional game you watch live. You’d think it’d just be a few steps above the regular high school football match, but it’s in a different league entirely. For one thing, it’s probably being played in a stadium. You go through security checks and having to go find your seat, which isn’t always that great. But aside from the physical differences, the biggest thing really is the fans. We’re talking 10-foot tall flags, colored smoke, banners, scarves, shirts, everything. But it’s not just the paraphernalia that sets the fans apart, it’s their reactions. There’s shouting, whistling, gesturing, shoving… I could go on and on. But bottom line is, the first professional game you watch live is definitely an experience. Just be prepared for a lot of noise.

First Team

Speaking of teams, the first team you fall in love with is another important football milestone. Whether it’s one of the top teams in the business (teams like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, etc. etc.), or your very own home/ school varsity, you’ll have a team to support, to lose your voice over, and to cry about. It doesn’t matter that if you’re not an actual member of the team –you start to empathize with them. When a goal’s been scored, you shout for joy and celebrate. When someone from the opposing team makes one of the team members fall down, you’re just as worried as everyone else. When the referee cards them, you’re shouting at the ref, adamant that he’s the one in the wrong, not the player.

It’s not uncommon for people to lose their cool and their rational thinking when it comes to their favorite team. Some of the more rabid fans are the ones who are ready to trash talk at a moment’s notice, the ones who whistle at the opposing team if they even get close to the goal area, the ones who gesture rudely at the other players, the ref, or both. They’re the ones that lose their cool during the game, but after the game, they should be fine – unless of course, their team didn’t win.

First Jersey

This is actually a bit of a subset to the “first team” milestone, but I believe it deserves its own category. The first jersey you’ll get is, presumably, one of your team’s. It may or may not have the name and number of one of their top players (or your very own!) proudly displayed at the back, but what it does have is the logo and colors of your favorite team, marking you as an unmistakable fan of the club. You’ll be wearing this jersey every time there’s a game scheduled, and it will probably be one of the most well worn shirts in your closet.

First FIFA World Cup

The World Cup gets a special mention, not only because it is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but because this is a completely different ball game (well, not exactly). It’s hosted every four years by FIFA, which stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football in English), and is the governing body of football, futsal, and beach soccer. 

Held in 1920 with Uruguay as the host country (and coincidentally, the first World Cup champions), only 13 countries participated, with no qualifying matches. Today there are 32 countries playing, each country being selected through qualifying matches. But even with 32 countries joining, only 8 countries have ever held the title of “Champion” – Brazil (5 WCs), Italy (4 WCs), Germany (3 WCs), Argentina (2 WCs), Uruguay (2 WCs), France (1 WC), England (1 WC) and Spain (1 WC). When the FIFA World Cup comes around, there’s no such thing as a “club” – when they play, it’s all about national pride; players ditch their teams and head on back home to play for their country. For example, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both players for Spanish clubs, head back to Argentina and Portugal respectively when the World Cup comes around. Other examples of players switching back home would be Neymar Jr. (FC Barcelona; Brazil national team), Kaka (AC Milan; Brazil national team), and Ribery (Bayern Munich; France national team). 

The first World Cup you’ll follow from start to end is a momentous thing – watching the games takes dedication and discipline, especially for us here in the Philippines, because we have to take into consideration the time difference. As it is, this is my first real World Cup, and I had to mentally prepare myself for all the sleepless nights. Added fun to watching FIFA is if you watch with friends or in a sports bar. People are passionate, but it’s rare that there are hard feelings – if the Philippines were playing, though, that’d be another matter altogether. 

Who knows? Maybe in the future, we’ll finally be able to see our own country on the field.

Article by Rio
Art by Ches
Rio is (trying to be) an engineer-in-training, an athlete and a singer, with her love for science, sports, and music in that order. She's also (trying to be) a writer, with her trusty laptop/phone, sour cream flavored chips and/or strawberry ice cream. (Whether or not she succeeds is another story altogether).
Ches is a human being who loves making mixed-media and collage art. She enjoys collecting small things, listening to sad and fuzzy music, making a mess, eating spicy Japanese food, and thinking about everything. You can find her on Twitter (@psychedelicward) and in booksales/local gigs near you.


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