Soccer, football (whatever you want to call it) has often been called the beautiful game, but for the vast majority of Americans, the only exposure they get to it is every four years for the World Cup. Americans of all ages dutifully wear their red, white, and blue, pack viewing parties, and cheer on their patriots who take the
field pitch like good citizens. Not going to lie – I’m that way too. But I was intrigued by this year’s World Cup, and was determined to continue watching football to learn more about the game.
I’ve caught a handful of games here and there — some MLS games, a English Premier League game that comes on ESPN, and two FC Bayern Munich games. My early takeaway is this:
The football we see at the World Cup is actually like amateur league compared to club football.
I was astonished. Gone are the injury histrionics that American sports fans despise seeing at the World Cup (though I haven’t watched any Spanish, French, or Italian league games yet….). The passing is much more elaborate, crisp, and fast, The offensive sets are more creative, daring, and aggressive. The overall speed of the game is faster, making it seem that the players were all on “turbo” mode.
I asked my two friends who know a lot more about football than I do: Melih & John. Melih wisely pointed out that club teams play and practice together for years versus just a few times a year for national teams. They can be a lot more aggressive when playing with familiar teammates. John, who I can always count on for the wry, salient observation, said simply:
It’s amazing what people will do for their country.
It’s more amazing what people will do for $40 million a year.
You can catch English Premier League games and extended highlights on ESPN2. The WatchESPN app (for Apple TV, iOS) has a huge variety of games from the international leagues that are free to watch too. Since I took some German in high school and wanted to get some more likely-World-Cup players, I’ve picked FC Bayern Munich as a team to follow. Yes, they have a lot of World Cup Champions on their team. Yes, they won the Champions League last year. Yes, they have boatloads of money and are like the NY Yankees in the Bundesliga. But it’s a bit easier following a team that big from thousands of miles away.