This just in from the Half Tongue-in-Cheek Department:
The FIFA World Cup, said someone once, rather disparagingly, involves national teams of overpaid players with lovely haircuts kicking a ball around, falling elaborately for no particular reason and acting confused when they do something wrong. There is often a fair bit of crying and seldom any goals.*
Think about the players as classes of students, the ref as a teacher, the pitch and stadium as the school, the game as a school year, the process of scoring as academic performance, the fans as parents and other stakeholders – and the World Cup does provide some useful (if convoluted) analogies to traditional schooling.
In no particular order:
- The players nearly always end up earning more than the ref.
- Uniforms matter. Apparently.
- Many games involve players going through the motions for most of the game – until the threat of a loss, draw or penalties loom, after which they frantically try to score.
- Players are mostly judged on their goal scoring ability, defending or passing skills, and seldom on their flair, vision and creativity – hence most games become clinical, dull affairs rather than wildly innovative displays of creativity.
- Fear of failure in World Cup games dominates over the excitement of experimentation and innovation and of actually playing the game. No one wants to look foolish and so they forego the opportunity to discover something new and different on the pitch.
- One man makes all of the decisions during a game. Despite attempts from the players and fans to collaborate in his decision making, there is no room for their voices to be heard. This causes a great deal of shenanigans and dishonesty (and sometimes even violence) on the pitch.
- Because so little of a match is engaging, players’ frustration levels build – often resulting in violence.
- If the ball represents learning, then much of the play is utterly meaningless as it does not lead to any solid outcome – it’s just passed around as it always has been.
- Half-time is often so long that the players forget where they were before the break.
- The referee is appraised by a council after every game – which gives him next to no room to operate outside the laws of the game. Imagine how engaging the game would be if the ref could make interesting rulings – like awarding a green card for spectacular play, or double point for a spectacular goal.
- If the goalkeeper represents educational standards, he often blocks scoring unfairly.
- There is a lot of bullying in football – particularly of the ref by the fans, or of a player by the fans for not scoring. Since their focus is almost exclusively focused on winning, they mostly do not appreciate that there are other ways to score besides heading or kicking the ball past the goalkeeper.
- Players are often celebrated as much for how they look as for what they can do on the pitch. This superficiality is encouraged by the fans.
- The World Cup celebrates the elite players, and gives no time to those who did not make the team and teams which did not qualify are forgotten entirely.
- Having more money makes a huge difference in performance as training is enhanced and sometimes high performing players are simply bought.
- The game is divided into periods by the sound of a whistle – no matter if the ball is doing something interesting or not.
- There are few second chances in the World Cup. Once you’re out, you’re out, and no-one cares about you anymore.
- Critical thinking plays no part in the World Cup. Questioning the validity of the offside rule, for example, is verboten.
- In many ways, the FIFA World Cup is an exhibition for club scouts. Many careerist players are thus more worried about impressing these recruitment agents than they are about the ball and the game.
- Even though he shouldn’t, the ref sometimes plays to the expectations of the crowd. It’s just easier that way.
- The only way for a referee to get promoted – no matter how good he is at what he does – is to get elected to committees and boards where his talents will be wasted.
- Players put so much emphasis on scoring goals, and so little on the ball itself that they often suffer dangerous damage to their self-esteem and sense of worth when they don’t score as they want to. The ref is very often blamed for this by both the players and the fans.
- In their attempts to score, players often cheat and lie.
* Who said this? I’m not telling. (It may or may not have been me…)