A Game of Mistakes

I love soccer. It’s by far my favourite sport. I’ve participated in it for the better part of my life, and I truly consider it one of the pure joys of my childhood—playing club and school soccer. I distinctly remember the year that the Bowmanville (my home town) Rangers took home the regional cup in my first year of organized soccer (9 years old).  We had light blue uniforms, my buddy Chris was the leading scorer, my brother Joel was the rough and dirty player that ploughed through people and I was the one with the grace and finesse (or so I was told). Our best defenseman’s name was Judy and she crushed people (legally). Our average goal differential was 5 goals!

Unfortunately, North American’s generally don’t like watching soccer. Why? Limited results. You hear things like: “How can it be fun to watch a game that ends in a 0-0 tie?” or “The goals are so big, you’d think they could have some higher scoring.”

I am convinced that my understanding of the human condition is at the core of my love for the game. I believe that the human condition is at its essence, an organic process and so is the game of soccer.

Things happen in soccer because of:  a prior move or decision by an opponent, a great run by a defender, a huge tackle by a mid-fielder, a diving save by the goalie, or a sliding tackle that comes up short, etc., etc…. Everything builds on the last decision, and this is happening all over the field—someone is making an overlapping run, someone else is calling for a back pass, someone else is checking back for a pass with a defender closely guarding him or her—the process is absolutely beautiful…it’s organic, not linear. And when there are results, is no wonder that people go bizerk—because there is so much more to celebrate—there was an incredible process behind the result! No other sport celebrates the process quite in the same way.

Soccer is the ultimate “post-modern” sport—there is inter-connectivity, there are individuals who can’t survive without the support of their teammates or their community. Soccer celebrates what happens that leads up to the goal. And soccer is full of mistakes that can be learned from…or not…. My college soccer coach once said, “Soccer is really a game of mistakes and our goal is just to make a few less than our opponent.”

Fun fact. Did you know that 40% of all goals scored at the World Cup level are because of defenders mistakes?

My point is this: People like me are drawn to an environment that celebrates the process, that provides room for the “in-between,” that allows for the messiness of everything that leads up to the result,  and that appreciates the forming that happens (often in the “wilderness”). To me, this is beauty, and soccer truly is a beautiful gameand I’m so glad that (other than North Americans) the rest of the world agrees.

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1 Comment on "A Game of Mistakes"

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Trent DeJong

I think you are right. We have this idea that success and achievement are linear. First, you determine goals, then you decide the best means by which to achieve those goals, then you plan and execute those means, and then (hopefully) you succeed. If the result is not success, then it’s failure. It’s very clean, but it’s not always the way we achieve success.

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