The Newly Oriented OBserver’s (NOOB’s) Guide to Soccer
Being in America, especially the south, there are lots of NOOBs. By NOOBs I’m, of course, referring to Newly Oriented OBservers of Soccer. The NOOB is anything but a majestic creature. It constantly complains about “being bored” and claims “Nothing is happening.” It is particularly adept at finding other of its kind by exclaiming “Why do soccer players always roll around like it’s the end of the world only to get up like everything is fine a minute later.” All in agreement are easily identified as fellow NOOBs. Maybe you know someone like this: maybe it’s a roommate, a girlfriend, or in the extremely annoying case a boyfriend (he doesn’t deserve you). Maybe… it’s you. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s called the beautiful game for a reason; you just have to know what you’re watching. My hope is that, if you know a NOOB, you’ll take the time to point the article out to them. If you are one? Keep reading… for all of us.
My goal is not to get you to like soccer. That’s like someone who insists you have to drink white wine with fish. Screw you! I like red!… What I’m trying to say is people like what they like. But that doesn’t mean I should never drink a white wine, and if I’m surrounded by other wine lovers it might be nice to be able to tell the difference between white wines. “Even though they were both crap this one was slightly less crappy. Is that a hint of pear at the end? I hate pears.” But at least you know what you’re talking about. The real asshole is the one who doesn’t even know why he doesn’t like white wine. Guess what? That Asshole is a NOOB just with wine instead of soccer.
So my goal, again, is not to get you to like soccer. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t – I just don’t want you to walk around as a NOOB for the rest of your life. In a four part series we’ll cover the major aspects of the game focusing on cultivating a deeper understanding on why things happen the way they do on the pitch (that’s another name for a soccer field… see you’re getting it already!). We’ll start today with some basic vocabulary, go over some things NonNoobs are taking note of before the game starts and cover the basics of formations. Later, in Part 2, we’ll discuss the flow of the game, passing, attacking, the different strategies teams will adopt to attack. In Arsene we Trust, our resident tactician, will be handling the load on that post. And he can really handle some big loads. In Part 3, we’ll discuss some of the finer points of the game such as the counter-attack and set pieces. Finally, to earn your place among the soccer watching elite, we have Part 4. In it we’ll explore the levels of fanhood, the meaning of the world cup compared to other soccer, and what exactly makes it so damned beautiful.
Lingo is important. Being able to speak the language of soccer will hasten your ability to learn about it and to understand it. I’ve including a random assortment of terms that you should feel comfortable squeezing into everyday conversation.
Checking to the ball – When a player runs toward the person with the ball in order to create space between himself and the defender. This is probably the most common way to receive the ball when teams are building up an attack. It usually results in the attacker having his back to the goal and he may look for a wall pass (see below) in order to advance the ball and face the goal.
Counter Attack – A counter-attack is quickly moving the ball up the field in order to have a number advantage while attacking.
Goalaso – Way better than your ordinary goal. These goals are usually the result extraordinary effort on the part of an individual or group of players rather than the culmination of sound tactics.
Handbagging – When two players are slap fighting like two old ladies. Can also refer to instances during the course of play where one player is obviously overpowered for the ball. Meant to conjure images of two old ladies fighting.
Hospital ball – A poor pass to a teammate that causes him to put himself in a dangerous position to win the ball.
Professional Foul – When a defender is beat often he will blatantly foul the attacker and give up the set piece (see below) in order to give his team a chance to get back and defend.
Flank – The edges of the field. Also refereed to as the wing. This is where you want your fast athletic players to stretch a defense and open up the middle of the field for attack.
Hat trick – Three goals in a single game. But you already knew that one didn’t you? Don’t get cocky
Jockey – Not the guy who rides a horse. Well, that is a jockey but not what we’re referring to here. To Jockey is when a defender keeps an attacker with the ball in front of him rather than trying to steal the ball (also known as stabbing at the ball).
Set piece – a set piece refers to a free kick including corner kicks. More than that though they represent a huge part of soccer. They are heavily practiced by teams and account for a lot of the goals scored.
Wall pass – Another name for a give-and-go type pass allowing an attacker to use a teammate to pass around a defender.
Now that we have some basic vocabulary out of the way I’m going to gingerly ease my way into the next part without trying to insult your intelligence. If you’re watching a soccer game you better know who the fuck is playing or I will find you and break your kneecaps. You should never ever watch “A World Cup game.” What you should watch is a match between Tortured History Nation A and Young and Up and Coming Nation B or any similar combination. Who is playing is everything to a soccer game and if you know enough about them it can tell you almost everything you need to know. Knowing the teams (and eventually if you keep at it knowing the players on the teams) is a key to appreciating a soccer game. It can tell you if the game will have a lot of goal opportunities or be mostly defensive. It can tell you what areas of the field are important if one team has an obvious advantage at a certain position. Soccer is a game where teams take on personalities. Get to know them, have a beer with them, and soon you’ll notice the ball is going right where you thought it was going to go. Did you somehow develop psychic powers? No, you’re just shedding your tough NOOB coating. There is a delicious soccer center in all of us.
Once you get to know the teams take a look at the formation they play. Is it the standard 4-4-2? Or maybe the stylish 4-3-3? What about the modern 4-2-3-1? If soccer teams do have personalities the formation is proverbial childhood that got them there. It might not be the end-all-be-all of a team but it sure has a lot to say. In Arsene we Trust will give you a thorough rub run down on all things formation in Part 2. But for now lets leave it at that.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed our introduction to the game of soccer. Life is all about learning about new things and discovering what we like and don’t like. I like soccer and I know why. If you’re reading this I’m guessing your roommate strapped you to a chair in front of the computer because he was tired of you annoying the shit out of him during the Champions league games and he wasn’t going to stand for it during the world cup. Open yourself up a little and find out if you like soccer too. Maybe you’ll find your delicious soccer center one day.
Check out Part Two of our series here.