Soccer Explained (More or Less)

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The State of Soccer

It was a soccer tournament weekend, and I either learned, or figured out some things about soccer.

First, there should be no surprise as to the charges of corruption aimed at the FIFA—the International Federation of Association Football (French: Fédération Internationale de Football Associatione).

Soccer is the most capricious and arbitrary sport known to man.

The laws of the game, like federal, state, and local laws are poorly understood, which leaves room for officials at the game to interpret them any way they please. There is no requirement to be consistent, so the rules can be applied differently on different occasions, for different teams, or because the referee just felt like it. Even at the professional level, there is no review of the instant replay, because between 97.5 percent and 99 percent of all soccer calls are wrong. This means that it would be physically impossible to ever complete even a single game—it would be call, review, change, call, review, change.

Theoretically, soccer games are played for a set period of time. Adults play for two 45 minute halves, with younger players having shorter time periods. However, at tournaments, to keep things on schedule, the halves are shortened, usually to 30 minutes. There are no timeouts; if a player is injured, referees can add time at the end, if they feel like it—or not.

This particular tournament had 30 minute halves for the first game. The second game had a 35 minute first half, and a 38 ½ minute second half. I’m not sure if this is related to Einstein’s theory (Five minutes with a pretty girl passes faster than five minutes sitting on a hot stove) or because the referees had cheap watches. In any case, the flow of time was fluid throughout the entire event.

Finally, when the home team was playing, the visitors were awarded copious penalties, including five yellow cards and two red cards. The home team was not so harshly judged.

So there you have it:

  • Rules no one thoroughly understands
  • No oversight for those enforcing the rules
  • An enthusiasm for randomness
  • A casual relationship with time
  • A new meaning for the term “Home Field Advantage”

Now you know why it’s the world’s most popular sport.

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