I’ve never been a soccer. I always thought it was boring, much too slowly paced for my attention span. However, over the past month I watched a significant amount of the World Cup. I had dabbled in watching previous World Cups, but this year’s version caught my attention. Here are five takeaways from the 2018 World Cup from a soccer novice.
- Kylian Mbappe is the most exciting player in the world: Before watching the World Cup, I had never heard of Mbappe. He’s a 19 year old phenom who scored 4 goals for France this tournament. I thought perhaps I would get caught up in the greatness of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but the teenager from France captured my attention more than either of him. He was fast with the ball, had moves that would juke defenders out of his shoes, and always seemed to be pushing France further into enemy territory. Oh yeah, and he was the second teenager to ever score a goal in the World Cup Final, putting him in an exclusive club with Pele. Mbappe is an incredibly fun player to watch, and it will fun to see how he grows.
- The U.S. missing the Cup probably enhanced my enjoyment: The odds of me consuming this much of the World Cup with the U.S. national team making the tournament would be significantly lowered. While I would have watched the U.S. games intently, I doubt I would have become invested in any of the other games. The U.S. missing the World Cup allowed me to focus on other teams and other games. I consumed the World Cup as someone with no rooting interest, and it was great.
- Soccer is more physical than I thought: Soccer has a bad reputation for players’ exaggerating physical contact and flopping. While there is definitely plenty of players who will flop like a fish out of water when anyone touches them (looking at you, Neymar), players are allowed to be more physical than I thought. There’s plenty of jersey grabbing and pulling and slide tackles. I was shocked at the amount of contact that occurred without penalty. The floppers are annoying, and really give the rest of the sport a bad name.
- Fortnite celebrations are lame: France’s Antoine Griezmann won man of the match in France’s World Cup Final victory, but his goal celebrations get a thumbs down from me. On two separate occasions, Griezmann put an “L” on his forehead and danced around, mimicking an emote from the game Fortnite. The dance just looks incredibly stupid, and on top of that it seems awfully disrespectful. I’m not one to bash sports celebrations, but this is one that I wouldn’t mind being retired.
- I’m ready for more: The 2018 World Cup was a lot of fun, and made me become a fan of soccer. While I probably won’t consistently watch the MLS, or start watching foreign leagues, I am much more open to the sport. Next time I’m bored, I might flip on a MLS match over watching Rocky IV for the millionth time. Between the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, I think I watched one soccer game. I fully expect that number to be exceeded just by the end of the year.