Playing Well vs. Playing Good


One difference I’ve noticed between European sports fans and American ones is that European fans are more interested in whether their team plays well than American fans. I won’t say that they are more interested in their team playing well than their team winning but it sometimes seems like it. This is a difference that I’ve read about before, mostly about soccer fans, but I experienced it myself today.

I was buying a sandwich at a small shop right outside Park Guell, a really cool monument park designed by Antoni Gaudi, and I started talking to the guy helping me about the local Barcelona soccer team. He said he hoped that the team played well against Real Sociedad tonight; that it was a chance to recover from a loss this past weekend. He hadn’t liked the way they looked during that loss. He went on to explain that the game tonight is the first leg off a two game semifinal in the Spanish championships, Copa del Rey. I probed a little to see if he thought a victory was likely and he would only say that he’d like the team to play better soccer together.

This is so different from most American fans. A conversation with an American fan would focus first and foremost on winning and losing. The loss last weekend hurt because it dropped the team in the standings. The game tonight would be a “must win” or something like that. Rarely would style or playing the right way pop up in conversation.

I can’t say exactly why this is. There are some elements of soccer that seem to at least augment the European way of thinking. Soccer is so low scoring that a single lucky bounce or missed tackle can make a more dominant team lose a game. Perhaps this understanding that wins and losses are sometimes luck leads fans to judge their teams on style and emotion — things that should be able to be consistent from game to game. Maybe too, the two leg (two games, one at each team’s stadium) tournament round makes it so that (at least in the first game) signs of life are more important than the result.

I’m not sure but I bought a ticket and I’m going to the game so I will report back tomorrow!!

1 thought on “Playing Well vs. Playing Good”

  1. I agree with your analysis of why Europeans might be more involved in playing well instead of the outcome of the game. I think that because the game is so low-scoring, one must turn one’s attention to the process of the game in order to be involved in it, and that includes the soccer skills, etc. of the players. Also, perhaps more Europeans play soccer during their youth and even into adulthood, so they are more familiar with, and therefore, more attuned to the nuances of the game.

    Enjoy the game tomorrow! I’m jealous!

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