Mar 16th, 2016, 10:09 AM

Soccer in Europe: Why the Obsession?

By Alice Preat
Image Credit: Wikipedia/Pete Souza
Trying to understand Europe's passion for soccer during the Champion's League of 2016.

Disclaimer: I am not a soccer fan. I hardly know anything about the sport itself, and, to be honest, any opinion in this article is my own.

Now that you know, we can actually start discussing this worldwide phenomenon. Although soccer is starting to be more appreciated in the US, it is still very much a European passion. When I say passion, I don't mean just playing it, I mean watching soccer games is an actual passion for Europeans. Let's try to understand why this is the case.

I have to admit that watching the World Cup every four years is actually pretty fun, but again, the social and personal engagement of people in this event can be quite terrifying depending on where you're located in Europe. I was in Germany for one of the last 2014 World Cup game, which pitted Germany against France (we lost, unfortunately). Luckily, we were watching the game in a quiet little courtyard of a Berlin University, and everyone was nice which made the German victory not so intimidating for us French. However, I was also in Germany (I don't know why I always chose these times to go) during the previous World Cup in 2010, with my mom and little brother. I don't really remember who won, because I was too traumatized by the crowd's reactions: people got trampled and beat up, and there were big scary men screaming left and right with their beer bellies hanging out. Not a fun memory. 

Image Credit: Wikipedia/Agência Brasil

World Cup and crazy extreme reactions aside, let's examine the day-to-day, regular people's fascination for soccer, which is something I have even more trouble understanding. Playing the sport is one thing, and if that is what you like to do in your free time, I respect that. However, spending your spare time squished with 50 other people all staring at a small-ass TV screen of your nearest bar, or worse, betting money on games. First things first, I need someone to explain to me the point of soccer: what makes it so freaking fascinating and engaging for all of the 50 people I see in the bar next to my boyfriend's place? Why is it that when I watch this strange crowd, I realize that it is made up of people of all classes, ages, genders, races, etc? Why is it that I think to myself that I could get naked and dance around and these people would still be watching the screen and screaming "Alleeeeeeez!" every two seconds? I do not have the answers to these questions. I don't, and that's also because I have little to no respect for most famous soccer players, at least on the French teams... These people are known to the public for making millions just to chase after a ball and pretending to fall down in pain when the ball is thrown in their direction, when people who are actually helping to improve this world we live in like social activists and artists struggle to make a living. 

Top 10 des pires simulations FOOT MERCATO

Video Credit: Youtube/maadridiendu7

I understand the basic human need to belong to social groups and the patriotic need to get together and support our nation/region. I also understand that this is often done through sport, and I actually enjoy many national team sports, like rugby or basketball, where the skill level is actually quite high, there are no fake dives to the ground, and where the players aren't on the news constantly for the most silly reasons. I both don't understand and hate the idea that people and young boys actually take some of these soccer players (my mind goes to people like Zlatan Imbraimovic for example...) as role models, because they are everything but an example of what you should want to become and accomplish in your lifetime. 

Lastly, please stop crowding my favorite bar with your beer and cheers on my quiet Wednesday night when I just want to have a nice dinner with my boyfriend, please. I won't get naked but I might end up getting annoyed. 

Bonus for French speakers: here is a funny video by Le Petit Journal's "Le Lundi Ballon", showcasing some of soccer's finest minds and orators... Enjoy! 

Le Petit Journal - La conférence de presse des bleus (le 17/11/2014)

Video Credit: Le Petit Journal (Canal+)