Why we love football so much - the science behind our fascination
Sports and art may be polar opposites, and yet they share a lot of common ground. Our love for football in many ways resembles our love for art. Think about what we do when we watch a film. We are engrossed in the film so much that we give up control of our emotions and our feelings for those 2 hours.
Football is quite similar. It demands our attention, and it stays with us long after the 90 minutes are over.
In my opinion, the two main reasons we love football is because of the game itself, and the impact it has individually and globally.
The beautiful game
Football as a sport alone is beautiful. It is like a blank canvas waiting to be filled by the players on the field. It is a stunning spectacle, where we see elegance and athleticism, coupled with skills and intelligence, all for the simple goal of putting the ball in the net.
The fact that football is not an exact science adds to its beauty. There is no tutorial on how to score a goal. If that were the case, anyone would do it.
Added to that, we see the beauty of time and relativity on display in the sport. 2 minutes become 10, and 10 minutes become 2, depending on the score. Finally the desire and urge to compete and win which the players display and the fans embody, makes for a great spectacle.
Having said all that, football's true beauty lies in the impact it has individually and globally.
Impact of the beautiful game
Individually the game makes us dream. The majority of us are not able to achieve our dreams of becoming footballers. Hence, when we see Cristiano Ronaldo jump in the air against Juventus to score a bicycle kick, we dream.
When we see Messi dribble past 4 and score a wonder goal, we dream. We may not be able to do it at the highest level, but so often we live our dreams through someone else. In this case, it's our favourite team or favourite footballer.
Added to that, as individuals we go through almost all emotions while watching football. Watching our team score a goal creates joy, watching our team make an error which leads to us conceding a goal creates anger, watching an opposition player intentionally foul a player from our team creates hatred.
Watching our favourite player go on a run creates excitement, watching our team defend a corner in the last few minutes creates nervousness, watching our team lose creates disappointment. In 90 minutes we might experience every emotion a human can experience. In some ways, football encapsulates life.
Globally, nothing unites us like football. For starters, consider the Chelsea squad in 2018. It has a French striker alongside Belgian and Brazilian wingers. The midfield is compromised of a Frenchman, a Croatian, and an Italian.
The defenders hail from Germany, Brazil, and Spain. On the bench, you will find players from England and Argentina. Only in football will you find people with such contrasting lives and background, coming together for one common purpose.
While the players have different backgrounds, so do fans. Football makes individuals, neighborhoods, towns, and cities associate themselves based on their local clubs. People all over the world fall in love with a club, and develop their own communities and friendships based on their mutual love for a club.
As humans we have an innate desire to be accepted. We want to be part of something bigger than us. In some ways, we want to be part of something larger than life. We find that in football, as we become a part of something greater than our own lives.
Each of us have our own stories filled with individual ups and downs. The beauty of football is that despite having different individual stories, million of us will find something in our own stories which collides with other stories to create one big story.
I believe that football has become an integral part of our culture as humans. When we meet someone after exchanging greetings, we often search for a common topic to talk about.
For most people, it is sports or movies. So when I meet someone for the first time and I realise that he enjoys football, I ask him which team he supports. That leads me to asking him why he supports that team, and you know the rest!
In some ways, football becomes a language. It enables us to express ourselves physically, emotionally, and intellectually. It urges connection and communication with others, and does not discriminate on the basis of age, culture, and gender.
Finally, I believe that much like every other sport, football provides for us an escape. It becomes something we look forward to every week. We may be going through tough times, but for those ninety minutes, we can zone out and enjoy watching the game.
There is a chance we will be more annoyed than we were initially, if our team loses, but for those 90 minutes, it still acts as an escape.