Five Soccer Matches (That You Should Probably Care About)

  • July 03, 2010
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Football Helps Explain Communism, Evolution

On the day of May 18th, 1977, there were two soccer matches being held on the last day of the season. The teams were members of the First Division of the English Football League and these were oh so important games. See, the bottom teams in the league would get dumped down to the Second Division (where we assume players eat dirt and push the ball around with their faces). Three of the teams playing were scrambling at the bottom of the heap: Sunderland, Bristol and Coventry.



Due to the rules about goals for, goals against, wind direction, points, beer chugging contests and games played; a grim scenario was developing. The team from Sunderland was playing a high ranking team from Everton, while the teams from Coventry and Bristol were squaring off. Therefore, depending on the outcome of both games, one of the three low rankers was going down to loser central.

However, since the game between Coventry and Bristol started late, they were able to see that their low ranking rival had lost when it was displayed on the friggin’ scoreboard. Doing some quick logical calculations, the players realized that while losing would have either of them tossed into the craptastic Second Division, a tie would mean they would both get to stay up top. So it made sense that the final three minutes of the game consisted of the players gently kicking the ball back and forth while the fans celebrated madly in stands.


Pretty much this. Professionals!

The fact that the two were bitter rivals until the second they realized they could help each other has been cited in journals to explain deep human psychology and Marxist political thought. It even made it into Richard Dawkins book “the Selfish Gene”, used to help explain why sometimes animals are willing to work with one another for mutual gain. Winning really isn’t everything, and this is proof that in at least one situation, a tie was worth celebrating... though that wouldn’t have stopped us from leaving early to beat the traffic.


Football Helps Humanize War

Even though we’ve shown that soccer can continue or escalate rivalries and grudges between countries, at its core, it is simply a game. Maybe the most basic game, one that somehow spans between distantly related cultures, whether they’re booting around a coconut or a human head. In fact, that the countries mentioned above were even willing to play each other given the tensions between them is testament to the power of sport. Nowhere was this sentiment more poignant than in the trenches of World War I.

With a crushing stalemate between the English and the Germans on the Western Front, as well as reduced supply lines, things were pretty bleak for both sides. Imagine a Detroit vs. Flint Michigan sadness contest but worse. Anyway, like the football players aiming for a draw, many men simply stopped trying to shoot their enemies in the opposing trench, in favor of occasional shots to keep up appearances. This spirit of ambivalence-turned-camaraderie between soldiers stuck in a terrible situation came to a head during the Christmas Truce in 1914. On the Western front, the two sides just stopped fighting.

Christmas decorations turned to carols turned to greetings. Slowly, each side met in the no-man’s land and exchanged gifts and stories. In fact, it’s reported than in several of the gatherings between the roughly 100,000 soldiers, they actually took the time to play… soccer.


We... uh... wow.

While completely unsanctioned by the generals in charge, in some areas the truce lasted until New Years. Other areas saw a return to fighting the next day. The following year, in some places, the truce occurred again. The point is, for a brief part of a brutal war, kicking a ball around allowed men to see each other as human beings. And there’s nothing weird about that.


You can keep tabs on Kevin Mack’s occasional changes of heart on Twitter. Got a match than can top ours? Let us know about it by posting a comment in the section below! Written by Kevin Mack – Copyrighted © Image Sources

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