Did you ever stop and think “why football is the most popular game in the world”? What makes it so much better in the eyes of the masses?
Why do people refer to football religiously – “Football is like a religion to me. I worship the ball, and I treat it like a god” (Pele) and say things like “amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important” (Pope John Paul II)?
Why do supporters gather in hundreds of thousands at football games and not in basketball or handball arenas? Why does soccer create those huge communities around it, much bigger than any other sport? How come soccer is the true global sport? Why do people put so much political and social meanings to this game, more than any other sport? and what are the main differences between football and other sports?
One of the main explanations for football’s popularity is that anyone can play it and you don’t need accessories like a basket, a bat or a net, a swimming pool or a horse. You need friends, four stones and a ball (or socks tied together).
Another reason is that there aren’t too many rules especially if you compare it to other team sports. In basketball and handball each attack is time limited. In volleyball and tennis players are limited to a few touches each rally. In rugby you can only pass backwards and so on. Football, basically, is free of all of that, especially on grass roots levels, where people usually connect to the game.
Football is probably the most basic game. It’s spontaneous and a celebration of the human body qualities. It’s as close as you can be to the lion cubs that play each other to train for their days as lions.
Desmond Morris, the British zoologist and Norbert Elias, the German sociologist, studied the “human animal” that went thorough “civilizing process”, which turned humans from animals to more cultured creatures. They believe that by channeling our natural aggression and violent behavior to places like sports.
Football, in that sense, is the best pipeline, because it has such a small number of rules. There are team sports that are more aggressive like American football, Rugby and even handball, but they bring too many rules to the playing field. Taking the fun out of the rawness of the pure game.
Football is anarchy in the positive sense. A natural game that makes people connect to their most primitive instincts. Maybe that’s why most football supporters hate the money involved in the game.