We're just a day away from the start of the 2014 World Cup. Although soccer hasn't traditionally been a favorite sport among Americans, it is becoming more and more popular.
Americans have a lot of experience as passionate spectators of baseball, basketball and football, but when it comes to soccer, some would argue that they’re inexperienced (to say the least.)
Before we flood our local bars this year to root on the U.S. soccer team, we have some pro tips from a real British soccer fan, Rupert Allman. Rupert, a die-hard fan, breaks down (for American newbies) the dos and don’t for how it’s done.
Here are Rupert's "5 Golden Rules" to make you a proper soccer fan:
1. It’s Not Just a Game.
Anyone who says that the World Cup "is just a game" should be ignored and treated with derision. This is the world’s most popular sport. Sure, the Super Bowl is going to attract an audience north of 100 million—nothing wrong with that. But the estimated audience who will watch at least some part of the World Cup is 3.2 billion. The passion is real. Whether that’s on display in the sunshine at the Maracanã in Rio, or on a wet Tuesday night in February in the rain at Anfield, people care.
2. A True Fan Knows the Rules.
A true fan also knows that the World Cup follows the same rules as The Open or The Derby. It’s the World Cup—not the Soccer World Cup, it’s not even the Football World Up—it’s the World Cup. There are 32 teams, and here’s the one thing that should resonate for any fan of sport here in America: There is only one winner.
One of the world’s greatest ever soccer coaches was the late great Bill Shankly. A religious figure for any fan of Liverpool FC, he summed it up this way—a brutal truth that will play out again come the final whistle on July 13th at the Maracanã in Rio, Brazil: “ If you are first you are first—if you are second you are nothing”
3. The World Cup Has Its Own Language.
It has its own language—make sure you use the right words. There are no quarters. There are no time outs. There is no playbook. A spot kick is a penalty. If the score is nil-nil, it’s nil-nil, not zero-zero. It is not zip—zip is something that fastens your jacket or your pants—it has no place on the scorecard. The linesman is more accurately described as an “assistant referee” and often called “blind as bat” for not spotting a player offside.
4. No-One Really Understands the Offside Rule.
A player is offside if he’s closer to the goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender. Oh, and he has to be in the opposition’s half of the field. To be offside, a player must be in front of the ball—and have fewer than two opposing players between himself and the goal line when the ball is played to him by one of his team mate.
Is that clear? No? That’s the point. The assistant referee uses his or her discretion to judge whether someone is deemed off side on or onside. Here the use of technology—of which there is none—would leave us with much less to talk about in the pub after the game.
5. Accept That Organized Crime Runs the Sport.
Accept the sport, at the international level, is run by an organized crime syndicate with an infallible leader. FIFA makes the IOC look good—it is the ugly face of the beautiful game. And the more you look into how FIFA works, the uglier it gets.
Sepp Blatter is the President, and he ranks alongside Donald Sterling as a man of character and probity. A true fan knows this, accepts this and the minute the game kicks off—it is wiped from the memory.
Submit photos of your World Cup "soccer swag" on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MySoccerSwag! Photo: Clive Mason/Getty