The Beautiful Game


One thing I enjoy about living in Iceland is the access I have to numerous soccer matches broadcast on TV. Last night it was Liverpool versus Juventus in the Champions League, a match Liverpool won 2-1.

Tonight, citizens of Iceland (with the probable exception of Bobby Fischer) are preparing to watch local hero Eidur Smari as his Chelsea Blues take on the German powerhouse Bayren Munich.

I know the Americans reading this are grumbling: “Soccer is for wimps. We play real sports in the US, sports like basketball and football.”

Watching sports on American TV is about as exciting as listening to the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Take basketball. The quality of the game has deteriorated to the point where the US all-star team made up of overrated NBA players gets clobbered by the Europeans in the Olympics. True, the NCAA tournament is still exciting. Who doesn’t enjoy watching Vermont defeat Syracuse.But the commercials. The endless commercials shoved down your throat like dirt.

There are so many commercial breaks during the telecast of a professional sporting event one begins to realize that the only reason the sport is played is so companies can hawk useless consumer goods.

Do we really need yet another flavour of Doritos?

Then there’s soccer, known as the beautiful game. Two teams run up and down the pitch, non-stop for 45 minutes in what is a combination of power, grace and finesse. Then the teams break for halftime. In that first 45 minutes guess how many commercial breaks there are. Zero. After a 15-minute halftime break, another 45 minutes and the game is over. There are as many commercial breaks in the second half as the first half: zero.

Compare that to the last two minutes of an NBA game.

Sure there are money-grubbing players in professional soccer. Some even get busted from time to time for taking steroids, although the problem’s nothing like major league baseball.

But the problems surrounding professional soccer disappear when national teams compete in qualifiers for tournaments like the World Cup. This is when the beauty of the game is truly revealed.

One more year and we can all travel to Germany. I’ll be pulling for the US, of course, but I’ll be purchasing tickets to see England and France. EW

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.