A Soccer Primer for the Neophyte Fan

You watched the World Cup with intrigue. Then, all of a sudden, it was over but curiously, your need for soccer did not subside. All these years, you refused to listen, but now that you’ve seen it for yourself, they were right – there is a quality of beauty to this game.

You crave more. You must have more. In fact, you are ready to attend your first soccer game. And we’re ready to help. After all, just because you are a soccer neophyte, it doesn’t mean you have to look or act like one.

A few dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you take in that first soccer game.

Do: Pick A Team

No sport is as tribal as soccer – not even politics. At most matches, fans of each participating team will be quarantined within the stands in their own supporters’ sections. Back in the days of rampant hooliganism, this was designed to keep the two sides from murdering each other. In today’s more evolved soccer society, it’s all about adding some fun to the occasion. Grouping the like-minded folks together simply adds to the party vibe. Join in the singing and chanting. Ask around if you can’t pick up the words. People will be happy to help out.

Don’t: Yell, “He Shoots . . . He Scores”

This isn’t Hockey Night In Canada. Soccer announcers don’t quite amp up the hyperbole on a Bob Cole/Joe Bowen decibel level. And the North American soccer broadcasters tend to mimic the subtle tendencies of their British counterparts, so bellowing “GOOOOAAAALLLL” at the top of your lungs isn’t going to cut it either, unless you happen to be attending a game in South or Central America. A simple “yes” or “there it is” will suffice when the ball hits the back of the net.

Do – Wear A Scarf

Once you’ve picked a side, you’ll want to show your support, and what better way to do so than by donning the colours? Now, perhaps you don’t want to dive all the way in and go full-on jersey right off the hop. Entirely understandable, but the great news is that soccer offers a traditional and stylish method to display loyalty to your side that can even be coordinated to match the rest of your outfit – a team scarf. Available in a variety of options, pick the one that works for you and support your team in style without going overboard into fan boy/girl territory.

Don’t: Speak With An Accent

Maybe you aren’t old enough to recall the punk rock invasion of the 1980s, when everyone thought it was hip and cool to talk like they were from Britain. It wasn’t then, and it still isn’t now. Just because the networks insist that all of their soccer analysts must speak with an accent to lend an air of credibility doesn’t mean you need to start dropping your H’s and uttering phrases like “blimey” or “hard lines, lads.” You aren’t from Sheffield, you’re from Scarborough. Don’t forget it.

Do: Learn The Terminology

That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt to learn to speak a little soccerese. For starters, it’s not a team, it’s a side. And you’re not a fan, you’re a supporter. It’s not a game, it’s a match. It’s not a field, it’s a pitch. The guy between the posts isn’t a goalie, he’s a keeper. And when they score on the keeper, it’s not one-nothing, it’s one-nil. A little bit of the lingo can go a long way toward helping you fit in.

Don’t: Call It Football

You’ll only want to take the terminology so far. The Brits call soccer football, but we call football, well football. If you are about to leave for a Toronto FC match and tell your friends that you are off to see some football, they’ll think you’re going to the Argos game. So, until you are headed to Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea play Arsenal, stick to calling it soccer.

Words by Bob Duff

Illustration by Paohan Chen

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