Football is perhaps the world's most watched sport. Erm...soccer, for those who thought I was talking about American Football. It's the game with the round ball. In some parts of the world, children in alleys or even grass-less fields substitute the ball with some other object - tin can, is quite a favourite.
The passion from a football game can be one of great contrast. At one end of the spectrum, you can see emotionless spectators gazing at the game with bags of chips in their hands. As if in automatic feeding mode, their hands will dig into their bags of chips, nip a couple of chips and tuck it into their mouths in one deft move. Their mouths move in unison whilst chewing the chips rather than in cheering for their teams. On the other end of the spectrum, you will see fans with painted-faces and sometimes, upper bodies shouting themselves silly on the terraces. As if men possessed, they will dance, jump, curse, rant, rave, cry, laugh and wave flags just like the Chingay Festival. And these are grown up men, mind you. Somehow or rather, the passion they evoke in a football match sometimes bring out the real person in them. They could very well be the nerdy looking clerk you meet at the office but once on the stadium terrace, all is let loose.
Let's now go over to the Rubgy game. Always known to be a rough sport, many spectators enjoy the games over a couple of cans of beer and burgers. Some of the spectators are as burly as the rugby players themselves. Must be the beer. Tries are often greeted with loud cheers for the successful team and groans of despair come from the fans of the team which allowed the try. The "Haka" by the New Zealand team (also known as the All-Blacks) is one of the most famous dance / battle-cry in the sporting arena. It gives a real dose of motivation to the team and a big dose of goose-bumps to the other team. But it has always been known as the rougher sport compared to football.
I have watched many football matches and a couple of rugby matches. In football matches, when players fall, you need to see the replay whether they were tripped or purposely fell or they fell on their own accord. In rugby matches, they fell because they were tackled by the other players. You don't need a replay. It is so obvious.
It is as if, football players are so fragile that a slight pull on their jerseys will cause them to fall and roll over the pitch. You will also notice sometimes that when one part of their body is "touched" - say the ankle, the player will roll on the pitch clasping their knee whilst howling in pain. For a moment, some might be forgiven for thinking that the player just broke his kneecap. His team-mates will then run across the field to surround the referee, demanding that the perpetrator be given a card or be sent off. No, the number of players rushing to the player "injured" to show their concern is usually lesser than the number of players rushing to see the man in black. The interesting thing is, once the referee gives a card to the opponent, the injured player will be up and running and sometimes, will take the freekick himself. Talk about fast healing!
Talking or shouting back at the referee is a cool thing in football. Some even blow their nose to show their disgust at the referee for not deciding in their way. You don't really see this with the 6 to 7 feet guys playing rugby. They might surround the referee but usually, they get an earful from the referee and will quickly disperse without any protest at whatever decision the referee makes.
Ah...so much theatrics on the football field. So much so that one Professor Jiri Dvorak conducted a study on the recent June-July Football World Cup in Germany which revealed that 58 percent of the players who were treated on the football pitch during the World Cup turned out to be not injured. His findings revealed a clear pattern that players feign injuries to mislead the referees to get an opponent booked or gain tactical advantage. How gentleman are the footballers compared to the rugby players?
For me, I would like to think that Football is a Gentleman's Game played by Hooligans whilst Rugby is a Hooligans' Game played by Gentlemen. And of, in case you are wondering, I am a fan of Manchester United FC.
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