TOAD Talk: For the Love of Soccer

In my Toad Talk today, I am not going to give you any life advice or tell you how to be a better student or human being. Today I would like to talk about one of my passions: soccer. Over the last few months, I have been reflecting on why I am so obsessed with soccer. Is it the fast decision making it requires? Or the team work that is essential to success? Or the systematic approach needed to outplay a rival team? One reason that I love soccer is because is a very simple sport. When I was a kid, I used to play for hours and hours with my friends on the streets, sometimes with an old ball or even with a plastic bottle. There were no official rules, but many unspoken ones. I think you would find some of these street soccer rules interesting.

- The two best players could not be on the same team: they were the captains and had to choose the teams.
- The owner of the ball played on the same team as the best player.
- The owner of the ball should not be treated badly for any reason, because he (players were almost always  boys because soccer was not a “girls sport” back in the 1980s in Costa Rica) could get angry and go home with the ball. 
- To be chosen last was a great humiliation. I was the last one often.
- The worst player of each team was in goal, unless someone willingly chose to be the goalkeeper. I was a goalkeeper a lot. 
- There was no referee. Fouls were called by shouting; you had to scream as if you had broken a leg to get the foul. 
- Injuries such as splitting the big toe, scraping the knee, and nosebleeds were normal. Concussions did not "exist" back then. 
- Whoever threw the ball inside private property had to recover it, even if there were dogs on the other side of the fence. 
- The game ended when everyone was tired, when it was too dark to play, or when the owner-of-the-ball's mother came to get the ball. 

This is what the Brazilians call “Jogo Bonito” or The Beautiful Game—the unstructured way to play soccer without worrying about the actual rules of the game. 

Another big reason I love soccer is because of its international reach: it is the game the world plays. Being such a global sport, soccer has incredible influence over billions of people around the world. I am going to share some positive and some not-so-good aspects of the beautiful game. 

Some of the good stuff: 

- Soccer is a universal language. Soccer is a game that has the ability to bring people together. I witness this every week (or at least I did before school started) playing soccer at Sarzotti park in Ojai where people from all over the world (yes in tiny Ojai) come to play and have a good time. While English is spoken by most of players, the side conversations are in Spanish, French… You can ask our very own Dr. Ali, Dr. Spinney, Mr. Jungo, Mr. Carvallho. Waiting to bring Mr. Soto soon….

- Another positive aspect of soccer is that it brings joy to people all around the world. In particular, the World Cup, FIFA’s main competition. I am supper excited for this year’s men's World Cup in a few months. Come November, half of the world’s population will turn to their TVs to watch the beautiful game. I wait every four years for it like a kid the night before Christmas. 

This brings me to the bad: 

- FIFA, soccer governing body, has tremendous power and influence in the world.  Half of the world’s population consider themselves football fans and there are 270 million soccer players. This generates lots of money, but a lot of that money goes to FIFA or a few countries’ soccer federations. This creates great inequality. In fact, organizing the World Cup is a big money maker for FIFA, but in many cases, creates serious financial problems for the host nation, as was the case with Brazil in 2014 and South Africa in 2010. This year’s Men’s World Cup in Qatar will be mostly remembered because it will be played in November and December, not in the summer time. The real issue with Qatar organizing the World Cup are the many human rights violations, including the deaths of 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, among other countries, that were hired to build the soccer stadiums and other infrastructure projects to host the World Cup.

- Soccer has been a male dominated sport (although that’s changing) and the inequalities that has created are a reflection of many other lack of inclusion opportunities for women in our society. One of the best examples is that until this year the US Womens Soccer National team was awarded only equal pay to their male counterparts despite being the most successful international women's soccer in history, winning four Women's World Cup titles (1991, 1999, 2015, and 2019) and four Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, and 2012). The US Men National team has won the following big international tournaments: 0

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the crazy world of soccer, the good and the bad. I also have one last fact: This year, we are celebrating 100 years of soccer at Thacher.  

More About Thacher

Interested in learning more about Thacher? Sign up for a virtual visit here.
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.