You don’t understand football | Soccer | Sports

Most fans have no idea how football works. No matter how much we comment, believe that we are great coaches or that we could unblock games, we lack the foggiest idea of ​​how and why most things happen on the field. No wonder the coaches get desperate with us (those who do know, of course). And then there are the dynamics, the states of mind, those intangibles that turn it into a kind of almost religious mystery in which all kinds of phenomena occur without a clear explanation. Devotion to ignorance, we could call it. There is Xavi’s Barça, which seemed like scrapyard meat to us and now we think it could reach the Champions League final. How could a team that lost at home to Villarreal beat PSG? For what is this? To the mystery, without a doubt.

One could counter this theory by arguing that football has become more predictable in recent times. The main reason, I would say, is economic inequality, directly related to the density of the trophy room. There is also the issue of automatisms that are trained in a military way or the overwhelming presence of tactics. But suddenly teams like Leicester arrive, without a big budget, and lift the Premier League. Or Xavi, who announces his departure and, instead of his subordinates thinking that they have an open bar because next year that guy will no longer be there to sit them on the bench or send them on vacation to Brighton, they begin to win everything.

We are passionate about football because deep down we don’t know how to interpret most of the things we see and our illiteracy—or that of the majority—involuntarily transforms into an epiphany. And in a world obsessed with measuring everything, it’s not bad either, really. Something similar happens with contemporary art and its abstract forms. And that is what faith also consists of, ignoring science to explain reality. It is evident that one wins if he has better players, if he runs more, if he defends with more organization and does not miss chances. But beyond those basic concepts, most would not be able to explain what happens in certain phases of the game, mainly because on infinite occasions they are accidental designs caused by a choreography of errors and some successes. Nor do the protagonists help us understand it, enclosed in a silent bubble. Not even the sterile noise of so many gatherings without information.

Everyone, on top of that, has their superstitions. The mufa, in its Argentine version. I usually go to the bathroom when I want Barça to score (the other day, for a change, I heard Raphinha’s second goal from the toilet of a bar in the San Giovanni neighborhood in Rome). Or about the scoring streaks. What the hell is a streak? Van Nistelrooy, who was not Arthur Schopenhauer, once explained it to Pipita Higuaín, but he defined it better than any German existentialist: “Goals are like ketchup, you hit, you hit and nothing comes out. But then, it all falls at once.”

There are several less esoteric elements that contribute to this countercultural confusion in times of artificial intelligence and big data. Perhaps the main one is that this sport is played with the feet, an imprecise part of the body that offers very few benefits beyond keeping us upright. Largely for this reason, the most predictable sports, say experts (and compulsive gamblers), are rugby and basketball. But of course, those types of religious experiences do not move mountains. Nor do they keep us all in the dark for a week without knowing what the hell will happen in the second leg.

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