The sidelines reflect of what is valued in soccer cultures

In my town, we have several areas where soccer players are children of first generation immigrants from countries with strong soccer playing cultures.

I’ve played against adult teams from these areas and have coached youth teams that have played against their kids.

The differences in what is cheered for from the sidelines highlights the differences between soccer cultures.

With mostly American sidelines, the cheers tend to be for hustle, long balls, getting to teh ball first, knocking people off the ball and scoring with rocket shots. Slop shots get the same level of celebration as intentional goals.

Mistakes are often covered up with phrases like “unlucky” or “good try.” When mistakes are pointed out, players lose confidence and tighten up.

On the sidelines from stronger soccer cultures, they cheer for quality of touch, deception, how well they do on either side of a 1v1, good balls played, attempting to make smart and unexpected plays (even if unsuccessful), intentional and unconventional goals.

Slop goals are acknowledged, but celebrations are more muted than intentional goals. Just like how we call slop shots in basketball, we’ll take them, but we also want the goal scorer to not to get a big head about a slop goal and that they will need to score intentionally to earn respect.

When their own player gets burned by an opponent, they will cheer the opponent and tease their own player.

Players don’t get called on their mistakes as much, because they usually acknowledge their mistakes before anyone else can. Often, with a smile and raised hand to say “he got me.” If they fail do this this quickly, they will get called on it.

Players don’t seem to tighten up from this. Rather, they seem to have fun with it and seem to have more freedom to make mistakes, as long as they are learning from them.

I think this is also a feature in our basketball culture, but has not made it fully to our soccer culture, yet.


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