Football Folklore

There is a folklore to football. The highlight reel does not always cover the build-up to the goal, which is like putting the cart before the horse…or more like singing the chorus at the beginning of a song. Folklore? Ask anybody about the 1966 World Cup won by England, in England. The ball bounced on the line, say some. Others claim it was too close to call.  England beat Germany 4-2 thanks to a debatable goal that broke the tie score at 2-2 (England’s Geoff Hurst made it 4-2 in extra time with his third goal of the match). However, football is a game of momentum. The pendulum swing of a 3-2 score can many times carry the winning team to victory and deflate the team just scored upon. Ask Frank Lampard about his disallowed goal against Germany during the World Cup this past summer in South Africa.

Today some of the best footballers on planet Earth will play in the Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium in London, England, but many of the players also star on their respective national teams and represent their countries around the globe. The majority of FC Barcelona’s starting team helped Spain win its 1st World Cup in Johannesburg last July. Likewise, many of Manchester United’s players have appeared on the biggest football stage of them all. Both Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand represented the Three Lions in multiple World Cups, and they have won just about every other trophy a player can win during their time in Manchester. The Blaugrana has also piled up the trophies in Barcelona. In fact, both teams won their league titles this year. So this is a true Champions League Final – the best club team in England versus the best club team in Spain. For the majority of the men on the field, playing at Wembley today is another chance to mold their own legend in the saga that is football – the world’s most popular sport.

To fully appreciate what these high-octane athletes do for 90 minutes, get a football, aka soccer ball, and kick it around with some friends in the park. The game is quick. These men are running at full speed while controlling the ball with their feet, as other men chase them and try to take the ball away.

Of course, the point of the game is to put the ball in the net with any part of your body other than your arms or hands. Most of the contact with the ball occurs with the feet and legs, but you can shoulder or chest the ball, as well as head-butt the ball into the net. Wayne Rooney is good at this. As is Lionel Messi, who scored with a header to help the Catalans win 2-0 against the Red Devils the last time these two teams met in a Champions League Final – in Rome, Italy in 2009.

The English invented the sport, and they called that sport football. It is a gentlemanly game perfected by the Brazilians, who have won an unmatched 5 World Cups. Dani Alves plays on the Brazilian national team, and for Barcelona. Both Rafael and Fabio are also from Brazil (or Brasil!!!)…and both play for Manchester United. Little firecrackers, the brothers are; and soon to be standouts on Brazil’s national team or whichever national team they desire, I predict.

Did you kick around that ball with your friends in the park yet? Make sure you pump up the ball so it’s firm but not busting…feel the ball with both hands to judge for yourself. Go ahead, kick the ball once it feels right. Wear shoes if you like. Throw down 2 shirts as goal posts on either side of the field, or however you choose to fashion a goal. Play for 30 minutes to start. Then drink some water, grab a beer or a beverage of your choosing, and  tune into the Champions League Final today at approximately 11am PST/2pm EST.

* In the United States, the match is televised on FOX Deportes and on your local FOX network station. The one thing for which I can thank Rupert Murdoch…bringing football into my living room.

There will be stories to tell about this match. In between the ball bulging the back of the net, there will be triangle passes created to advance the play on the field and hard tackles dispatched to stop the offensive attack. The goalkeepers will put themselves in harm’s way to deflect the cannon-fire shots blasting toward the mouth of the goal. 

First, kick the football in the park, and then you will have a better appreciation for what Rooney, Messi, and all the rest of these precision-magicians can do. Kick a football and watch a football match, and you become part of the folklore because you saw and can appreciate what happened in the build-up to the goals. No highlight show tells the whole story of what happened on the football pitch. The story takes 90 minutes to tell, and maybe some extra time with possibly a penalty shootout…if we have another miracle match like the one in Istanbul, Turkey in 2005 when Liverpool beat AC Milan. May there be many goals today in London, England! Long Live The Beautiful Game!

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When sport transcends to the point of Art, it is called “The Beautiful Game.”©

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