Football or soccer as it is called in different parts of the world is undoubtedly the greatest game that man has ever known. In theory it is the simplest of all games. All one needs is a ball and a few people to kick the ball around to one side of the ground into a goal post. The primary function of every player is so basic that it baffles my mind as to how it can be such an engaging sport and a global phenomenon. Wonder if anyone has ever tried to understand the hidden psychology behind the logic of this game. I have thought a bit about it and figured this out finally.
"Football is life in Motion”
Our entire being is captured so beautifully in this simple game, we don’t see the connection immediately but most of us associate with it subconsciously. Let me try and explain further.
Elements of the game
To look at the connection between life and the game of football we shall first define the various elements of the game. So here they are. Few of the elements are present only at professional level of football but we will list them nevertheless.
Player / Ball / Goal / Opponent / Team mates / Referee / Coach / Commentators / Spectators / Playground
Let’s now look at each of the elements of the game and see their parallels to real life.
Let’s consider that the player is our own self. Every other element in the game will be relative to this one person. So what does this player have to do in the game? He has to deal with certain elements and parameters. First of which is the Ball.
Ball is a metaphor for our life itself. So, in the game of football, the player is basically playing with his life. What is the purpose of playing with his life? It is kicked around a lot and it isn’t a nice thing to do to our lives. There is something that spurs the player to keep on playing. What is it that he is playing for? This leads us to our next element.
Goal is such a beautiful word. It’s the culmination point to all dreams and desires. So is the case with the game of football. To net the ball into the goal is the final purpose and without a goal there is no meaning to the game. Similar is the case with life too. Unless there is a goal in life there is no use living it. It is to achieve this goal that we let our life take all the kicks. Some kicks are hard and few soft but without these kicks our life doesn’t roll anywhere. Now it's time to see if we can take the ball to the goal on our own. It’s highly unlikely because of the next element.
Life when it aspires to reach certain goals always faces obstacles on its way to the goal. The opponents in football are nothing but that. They try their best so that you cannot reach the goal. In real life there are difficulties and obstacles like tough people, tough situations, exams, tough relationships, etc. To reach our goal we need to out play our opponents. Can we do it alone again? Highly unlikely that we can reach anywhere on our own. Who do we depend on then?
Football is a team game, so is real life. No matter what one thinks, it’s impossible to achieve any goal single handedly without the support of other people. Team mates in a game of football are there for the same purpose. They help you navigate through life and pass all the obstacles on the way. Most of the interaction is done through sharing and trust. Be it the ball or our life. We trust in people around us, primarily our friends. Without them the game would be over even before it starts. But beware, in this pursuit of the goal lots of rules can be broken by this bunch of team mates, that’s why we have the next element.
A referee in a game of football is meant to ensure that the game is played in the right spirit and no rules are broken. In real life it is like our administration, police or judicial system. They ensure that the game is played in the right spirit and nothing unlawful is practiced. But how do we ensure that the game is played in the right spirit and within the rules? Who teaches the players the rules?
Every team has a coach who trains and guides the players about the rules and tactics of the game. It’s mostly because of their previous experience with this game that they are in a position to guide the team. In real life it is our parents and teachers who play this role. Based on their life’s experiences of kicking and being kicked around, they know quite a bit about the playground, opponents and other challenges of the game. Also very often they have a better view of the goal, sometimes a bird’s eye view which the players lack. A sense of perspective and direction is provided by the coach without which all the players would be lost. The first persons to talk about the players performance and point out the flaws or merits if there are any constitute the next element of the game.
Commentators are the ones who have no direct role in the outcome of the game. Yet, they have a judgement to pass on whatever happens on the field. We may or may not enjoy them but critics are an integral part of our life. The commentators are nothing but the press and media that report happening on the field and are mostly not concerned about the ordinary individual unless it is a star player. In popular parlance we call these star players as celebrities. They fortunately or unfortunately have to bear the spotlight of the critics and commentators. What about the rest of the mortals who are not that famous. Oh yes, we have our audience too.
This is another category of well wishers and critics, but they are here for the love of you, not because it is their job to talk about you. These people are the spectators of our game of life. They react to every major move of ours but are usually at such a distance that we hardly care about them unless it’s a loud enough voice. This is nothing but the circle of friends and relatives who know the game we are playing but don’t play a role in changing the course of the game. They are mere spectators. Yet, surprisingly most of our goals are linked directly to their expectations. This is in other words our society which we try to please always. This leads us to our next element, the playground. This is where all the action takes place.
A football playground is usually vast and the same player can’t be everywhere every time. Hence the playground is split into different areas and specific roles are assigned to each of the players. One is a goal keeper, other is a defender and another is an attacker. It’s very similar to how countries and territories are divided. Each person has a specific role and specific area to take care of. A good team has the right person for the right role, much like how any organisation would have specific roles and designations for each of its employees and management. The key is to not only get the right person but also the best person for each of these roles. In real life unfortunately we don’t always choose the right person for the right role especially in politics. This spoils the chances for a good and fair game and leaves every one disappointed. It’s only during moments of immense pressure or world events that these deficiencies show up. The next and last element that I talk about will highlight this matter.
FIFA World Cup
The biggest sporting spectacle of this world is the FIFA world cup. Happens once in four years and is the most eagerly awaited sports event of all time. Here is where the human drama which constitutes of all the elements from above is showcased to the world. The desire to succeed is immense and the spotlight is so powerful that the best of the best can falter while taking part in it. There are different approaches that each team takes. While the Brazilians are natural athletes the Germans are methodical in their approach and so is the case with each county with their own unique style. It shows the spirit of each nation and is an apt reflection of the nation’s emotional health.
"If ever god wanted to see how the world was doing, all he had to do was watch the FIFA world cup. It is nothing but a mini version of life played out on the field"
Unfortunate that India isn’t qualified enough to be there. If every nation strives to play this game in the right spirit and passion, not only would this lead to an exciting game but also lead to a much better world for all of us to live in.
Cheers to the spirit of football and the FIFA world cup!!!
Kartik Dayanand Boddapati
Cheers to the spirit of football and the FIFA world cup!!!
Kartik Dayanand Boddapati