When I was ten, I remember a mentor telling me and my father how important it is to watch soccer. A family friend from England gave me a grey and orange Chelsea jersey with a collar, but as far as I knew, Chelsea was just a girl’s name in my class. The World Cup was the reason we couldn’t watch any good TV shows when we visited Europe in ’94. And Maradona referred only to a strange spin move I worked to master.

 

I remember trying to enjoy watching the few games my dad and I could find on TV. The commentators’ strong Italian pronunciation of “Parmaaa versus Rooooma” was much more entertaining than the action on the field. Even by 1998 I’m ashamed to say we still had very little knowledge of the game. Everyone knew that Brazil was “the soccer country,” so I remember being shocked when at my team’s tournament we found out that some guy on France had scored twice to defeat them in the World Cup final.

 

Little did I know that years later, watching video clips of that same French player (Zinedine Zidane) would be my equivalent of listening to a symphony composed by Mozart. I couldn’t have imagined that I would be staying up until crazy hours of the night to watch the 2002 World Cup games. Or that I would travel through Europe, seeking out some of the storied arenas that at one time I viewed as simply housing a game with which a world of foreigners was so strangely obsessed.

 

The world’s love for “the beautiful game” has slowly infiltrated my being over the years. I have to admit, I am not good at supporting a club. It’s unnatural for me to place my allegiance with a group to which I am not personally affiliated. Nonetheless, I have become passionate about the game in my own way.

 

I didn’t care much who won this year’s Champions League finals–women’s or men’s. But there is no way I would miss a minute of either. I marvelled at how far the women’s game has come and continues to improve as I watched Lyon, the clear favorite, be upset by a first-timer in the competition, the German team, Wolfsburg. I was impressed by the quality of play and the way Wolfsburg fearlessly matched up with a team that is, on paper, clearly superior.

 

And then, only a few days later, I was completely awed by one of the best games I have ever watched, between Bayern Munich and Dortmund. Rarely have I seen a championship match played with such an aggressive approach by both sides. I usually watch games quietly, but the end-to-end action and acrobatics from both goalkeepers actually made me yell out at times. Watching teams celebrate always gives me the chills.

 

As I saw Bayern Munich raise the trophy, I experienced a feeling that the ten-year-old me could not ever have imagined. It wasn’t only my admiration of the game being played at such an amazing speed and level of proficiency. Watching the game was about much more than studying the players in my position or analyzing the tactics. Watching the beautiful game fosters the wonderful connection of a shared passion.

 

© Yael Averbuch

 

 

4 Comments
  1. gromit 6 years ago

    Have they ever broadcast any live game before ?

  2. gromit 6 years ago

    Thanks very much for your inspired testimony, Yael, it’s great writing…

    My first encounter with Football (being French, let me call your Soccer, Football ;o) was in 1960 ! I was 5 years old (oh, I precise I’m a man) and I remember my mother ironing and getting mad while watching our city-team (OGC Nice) being trashed by the famous Real Madrid (Di Stephano, Puskas, Kopa, Gento) 4-0 in Champion’s League (different name at the time). I learned later that it was the second leg and that Nice had won the first one 3-2 at home which was a fantastic thing… My first “conscious” images of a match (still on TV) was Pelé scoring three times against France in 1963… My first visit to a stadium two years later for a Nice-Racing Club de Paris in French D2, taken there by my father who didn’t really about Football but wanted to please, and Nice winning 5-3. What a memory ! That was like a dream. Suddenly, Football was BIG and in colour ! I started to play the magic game and kept practising it for 22 years, including two years in England…

    The first Women’s Football match was in 1971 in Nice stadium as an opener to the male professionnal match of the day. That was the re-birth of French WF and one of the very first matches of this new era. The quality level was – I have to say it – very, very poor. But, hey, the girls loved Footbal land they were playing it ! The pathetic thing was all the men all around me who spent their time mocking and even insulting the poor girls. I felt so ashamed. Then, I didn’t see any more women playing football until – as Izzy – the 2007 WC and Marta, and Prinz. What a shock ! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to wait one more year and the 2008 Olympics to see more of it. Then, little by little, I was able to see some matches of French NT on TV. It  became like a slow but strong poison in my veins. And the poison turned out to be the most delicious nectar at 2011 WC. I think I saw all matches. I became a strong admirer and supporter of the Nadeshiko (sorry, Yael ;o), besides of Les Bleues.

    Unlike you, Izzy and Gina, it has always been very hard for me to stay neutral. It can happen but, oh yes, so rarely. Usually, there is one team which has been already my favourite for various (and not necessarily good) reasons, or I support the underdog. I think this last choice is typically French, actually… But that doesn’t prevent me to enjoy fully the quality, even if it is provided by the “opponent” team. And I totally reject automatic national support. I support who I want to support. At the Mobcast Cup, I was a strong supporter of INAC Kobe against Lyon, and at the C1’s Final, I felt – for once – neutral at the kick-out. But I admired Wolfsburg that evening more than I admired Lyon. Maybe it will be the reverse next time. Who know ? It doesn’t matter ! What does is spirit that you, girls from any part of the world, put so constantly into this beautiful game. And for that, I’ll never stop thanking you and your sisters :o)

  3. Izzy 6 years ago

    Hi Yael, I started follow soccer of a different way of most part of people. I fell in love with soccer during Women’s World Cup in 2007. I thought that Marta was brilliant and never understood why brazilian people didn’t support women’s soccer. Of course I already had watched lot of men’s matches, because in Brazil you already born with a team, like a inheritance of your father, so my team always was Botafogo FC (where Garrincha played and where Seedorf plays now). I think soccer here is the same that Basketball represents in USA… is a national love. After I discovered women’s soccer in 07, I started follow WPS league, Damallsvenskan and Frauen Bundesliga. I generally support Marta’s team and have sympathy for Lyon, because they are the dream team of women’s soccer, but I generally enjoy to watch matches without favoritism… in Champions League final I would be happy with any results, because both teams deserved it. 🙂

  4. Anonymous 6 years ago

    Great piece, Yael!  And now, they are watching YOU for inspiration!  Thank you for all you have done for the game.

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