Under the Raydar: Why do they call it the beautiful game again?

Our journalist Ray Weaver has been living here for most of the past 20 years. Originally a member of the ‘Guinness pipeline’ – that group of expats who make a living annoying the punters at the nation’s many Anglo-themed pubs – he also writes songs, stories and anything else that earns a crust.

Being a displaced Yank, my eyes glaze over when the fellas around the office start talking about ‘football’. You know … soccer.

Having wings is essential
For the purpose of clarity – and because I am right and you are wrong – I will refer to the world’s favourite sport as ‘soccer’ in this tale. I can hear your tea-accented thoughts from here: “The ball is played with the foot: football!” 

Look, I’ll call this game football when you lot stop putting junk in the ‘boot’ of your car. You wear boots on your feet and I know what football is. It is a sport played by large steroidal men slamming into each other at suicidal speeds for an hour. It involves consuming hot chicken wings and adult beverages while watching. It is bliss.

Wrong-footed at work
Obviously, I know nothing about soccer. Zip. Nada. The big goose egg. I have lived in Europe for approaching two decades now and have managed to remain blissfully ignorant of ‘the beautiful game’. Just the other day, it surprised the office that I did not know whether I am left or right-footed. Apparently, this knowledge is important for membership of the EU. 

I grew up in the US at a time when the sports were football, baseball and basketball. Period. There was a guy in my high school who played soccer, but I just couldn’t get behind a sport where no-one ever seemed to score and games could actually end 0-0. And there were short pants involved. What the hell kinda sport is that?

Put me in, coach!
My only brush with soccer came during one of our residencies back in the US when I accidentally became the coach of my son’s soccer team. I signed him up for the spring season when he was about seven years old, and someone at the office apparently took one look at his application and said: “Ya know what? I think this kid’s dad is head coach material!” 

My first official move as head coach was to enlist my Danish wife as my assistant. The Danes have a national team, and she has actually played the game, so I figured that gave me an edge. Not to mention someone to blame.

Electrons around a nucleus
The good news is that most seven-year-olds know even less about soccer than I do. They are apparently attracted to a soccer ball in the same way that electrons are pulled towards a nucleus. Wherever that ball went, all seven (including the goalie) were close behind.

My most important coaching duty was arranging after-match snacks and drinks, which is not as easy as it sounds. Did you know that every kid in America is allergic to at least one common snack food?

In the end, my son enjoyed me being there, inept as I was. At its core, soccer is pretty simple; you run, you kick the ball and you hope that it goes where you want it to go. It’s fun, it is great exercise and, mostly, it gave me a few more hours a week with my son before he gets to that age he’d rather take a beating than be seen with his old dad.

You know what: it really is a beautiful game.