With the latest version of the men’s World Cup getting underway and the huge announcement that the three-country North American bid to host the event in 2026 was a success last week, there are a lot of happy and excited soccer fans out there.
As someone who is thought to live and breath everything sports, I am left out on a limb here.
I admit it — I’m not a fan of the game that is arguably the one with the largest following and is played by the most people worldwide.
I’ve played the game, both in-goal and in what is called a midfield position, as well have refereed what has been called ‘the beautiful game’ so I am rather familiar with the nuances of soccer.
And yet, despite all of the years I spent being involved in the game, I have never been able to find a lot of enjoyment in sitting down — be it in the stands to watch it live or catching some on television from the comfort of my couch — to witness two teams of 11 players on an expansive field, which often times is decided on a mistake or has extremely little offence at all.
Granted, there are definitely times I am astounded by plays made on the pitch, but I always wind up seeing those on the sports highlights shows.
Plus, these spectacular showcase plays normally come in the elite level contests and even then they are very few and far between, certainly not often enough for me to plunk myself down to watch for over an hour and a half of ‘action’.
One thing, I think, is another cause of my lukewarm thoughts has to do with the time I spent officiating soccer.
I carried the watch and the whistle for youth and very high level men’s divisions for what amounted to about eight years overall.
I never really thought anything too bad about the sport, however, I also wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it either.
But what I believe turned me off was two-fold — I didn’t like watching or dealing with ‘over-acting’ of certain people involved as either players, coaches, parents or fans; and, that I felt like soccer wasn’t as interesting to me as the more North American sports that I grew up with such as baseball, hockey and Canadian football.
I suppose it didn’t help matters any that this decision to ditch soccer came around the time of horrible European hooliganism at various matches, combined with coaches and parents creating an atmosphere of severe animosity at some youth games I refereed with no back up from anyone.
So that was about 20 years ago, and I haven’t really bothered to follow soccer — aside from some small interest in the Women’s World Cup when it was held in Canada back in 2015 and somewhat during Olympic or World Cup qualifying, but only catching up on the outcomes via sport highlight packages. However, it has more to do with my being up to date as a sports reporter rather than an affinity for soccer.
By now, I’ve probably gotten the ire up of many people I know that are heavily involved in the game and are likely over the moon about the opportunity to drive an hour away or take a rather short flight somewhere to catch some of the world’s top players and teams in what should be the best of the best of the sport.
I do suspect this tournament will be an experience of a lifetime for Canadian soccer aficionados and fanatics of other countries. However, much like I attempt to avoid traffic jams and waiting in a long line, I can’t see myself putting up the kind of cash for tickets to a game or taking two-plus hours of my life to watch something I don’t feel a connection with.
So, for those that do, have a blast and enjoy all at the World Cup has to offer.
But that is…just an observation.