I know in the United States soccer is not as widespread as in the rest of the world, but I grew up (in Russia) with it being all around me. Everyone played soccer: family, friends, teachers, co-workers… the cross-eyed nerd that everyone beat up on played soccer… the grandpa that had trouble walking would drop the cane to somehow kick the ball around. Everyone loved the game. It was the game of the people. There was vodka, cigarettes, and soccer. When there was no ball, we would kick a can around. When there was no can, we’d kick a rock around. Simple.
One of the things that’s painful to watch about professional soccer is that diving when someone taps your foot to indicate (falsely) that you were severely hurt has become a common practice. If someone lightly pushes you, almost everyone falls and makes a dramatic scene that would put most soap opera actors to shame.
This is why it’s always been inspiring to watch one of my favorite soccer players, Lionel Messi, dribble the ball (as in the video below). You can hit him with a baseball bat and he will pop right back up to try to continue dribbling. I’m sure his coaches, his teammates, everyone around him, constantly tries to teach him to ACT HURT, but it’s clear that it’s simply not part of who he is. He just loves the game. He’s a little kid that can never get enough. He’s got to try to break through and score, no matter what, not for any reason but because he loves the game.
It’s not about winning, it’s not about strategy. Sport is a simplified version of life. And let’s be honest here, no matter how much you win or lose at life, all will be forgotten, erased with time. It’s a melancholy meaningless chase we’re on, so all we can do is just enjoy the hell out of it.