Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to pretend you know about soccer

I am a girl. This may come as a shock to some people, but I am.
I also like soccer. Ok, I love soccer. Don't worry, there aren't any more big shocks coming, I promise. So if you're not sitting down, you're probably OK to keep reading.
So I am a girl and I love soccer. Now for some guys, this gives me huge bonus points in the dating realm. Growing up with two soccer mad guys (my dad and my brother) I just know a lot about soccer but for some girls, you might like to able to fake it.
Now I don't want to get you into trouble and have you floundering on a first date when the potential boyfriend asks you your opinion on the passive offside rule, I just want to teach you enough to be able to hold a brief conversation and show an interest.
BEFORE reading this article:
How a guy sees you + football

So, step 1.
STOP calling it soccer! The proper name for the sport is Association Football and someone, somewhere decided that you could take the 'soc' out of Association Football and roll it out to be 'soccer'. It took every ounce of my strength to write the word 'soccer' up until this point and that is the last time I will do so. Unless you are in America. The sport is not called football there, but in almost every other place, it is called football. I know there are many other sports that claim to be 'football' as well, but this sport is also known as 'The World Game'. The FIFA World Cup is held every four years because it actually takes four years of qualifying matches to come down to the final 32 teams! From there, it takes a month to bring those teams down to the final two. More countries enter the World Cup than the Olympics.

Step 2.
Choose a favourite English Premier League Team. The 2011-2012 season consists of these 20 teams.

Manchester United (Manchester)
Manchester City (Manchester)
Arsenal (London)
Tottenham (London)
Chelsea (London)
Newcastle (Newcastle)
Liverpool (Liverpool)
Sunderland (Sunderland)
Everton (Liverpool)
Swansea (Swansea)
Norwich (Norwich)
Stoke (Stoke-On-Trent)
Fulham (Fulham)
West Bromwich Albion (West Bromwich)
Aston Villa (Birmingham)
Blackburn Rovers (Blackburn)
Bolton Wanderers (Bolton)
Queens Park Rangers (London)
Wigan Athletic (Greater Manchester)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolverhampton)

Be careful to see where your new favourite team is on the current table because the bottom three will be relegated to first division and will no longer play in the English Premier League next season. Then you'll have to pick a new team or try and follow a team that does not get much media coverage outside of England.

You can choose a team based on the name (Stoke's nickname is the Potters if you're a Harry Potter fan, but it is based on the pottery industry, not the wizard), a colour (Wolves are bright orange!) or any other cute reason. As long as you can explain why you like the team, I'm sure the boy won't mind. If you're dad or brother likes a team, it's a safe bet to pick that one as 'family history' is a strong factor! If you pick one of the big four, you might be in for a bit of questioning. Manchester United is particulary dangerous and they have many "bandwagon supporters" who pretend to like Man Utd because it's the only team they've really heard of. The others are Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea based on their many years of success. Manchester City are a recent addition but their success is a lot to do with money.

Step 3.
Refer to the English Premier League as the EPL. Do remember what it stands for, but it's most commonly just shorted to 'EPL' or 'Premier League' in context of a discussion about English football.

Step 4.
Read the Wikipedia page for your new club. You will be caught out if you pretend to be a Liverpool fan and meet the word 'Hillsborough' with a blank look. Just familiarise yourself. You should be able to list a few accomplishments, know where abouts they are on the table and be aware of any club rivalries. For example, if you pick Tottenham and you go on a date with a Chelsea supporter, be prepared for a few fireworks and good natured ribbing. You should definitely be able to name the stadium your team calls home.

Step 5.
This one is tricky, but it's pretty essential that you try to remember the usual starting 11. There are 11 players from each team on the field and the same 16 or so rotate who starts or comes later in the game. Familiarise yourself with the names, particularly the stars of the team (and pay attention to the pronunciation as you will look a bit stupid if you start referring to 'Teevees' when it is 'Teves' or pronounce 'De Jong' with a hard J instead of the soft J.)

Step 6.
Famous names. You won't be able to recognise their picture but you should recognise these names.
Pele: Arguably the greatest football player ever. He played for Brazil and is the greatest goal scorer of all time. His name is pronounced 'Pell-ay'.
Maradonna: An Argentinian mid-fielder / striker who is famous for his 'hand of God' goal in the 1986 World Cup. Argentina beat England 2-1 and one of the goals was a clear handball to everyone with eyesight except the referee, who allowed it. Maradonna himself claimed later the goal was, "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God". The appropriate response to this is outrage.
Messi: Ah, Lionel Messi. YouTube him. If someone asks you about Messi, you should arrange your face into one of pure adoration and say these words, "It's like he has the ball attached to his foot with a string!" The person will assume you know just who he is. (He's a striker for Barcelona, a Spanish football team, by the way.)
Ronaldo: You probably know the name Cristiano Ronaldo. He was in The Simpsons after all and he's somewhat good-looking so he makes the gossip mags sometimes. He used to play for Manchester United but now plays for Real Madrid (another Spanish football team). He was player of the year many times running and contrary to popular belief, does NOT play for Brazil. A suspicious guy may try and trip you up if you mention Ronaldo. His international team is Portugal. OK?

Step 7.
Random facts that you should know and be able to throw into conversation should they come up.
Spain won the last World Cup.
The next World Cup is being held in Brazil in 2014.
The current EPL title race is between Manchester City and Manchester United.
In league football, a team gets three points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points for a loss.
Each EPL season runs from August to May and your team will play every other team in the EPL twice - once at home and once at the home of the opponent.

AFTER reading this article:
How a guy sees you + football

If you get caught out, put on your cutest smile and say, 'Oh, really? I didn't know that!' Don't admit you aren't interested, listen intently and try to learn. You're obviously pretty damn awesome or he wouldn't be talking to you anyway, right? And you don't need to be one of the guys, just hold a conversation. But football is the most watched sport in the world, so why not join the crowds? Or better yet, sign up to a local team and really learn to play!

Miss SAMawdsley xx

You'll Never Walk Alone...

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