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Commentary Nov 19, 2015

The universal language of ‘soccer’ may save the world one day

In the aftermath of the direct attack on a major soccer venue in Paris on Friday – during a match – the global soccer community has proved once again how powerful the sport can be at bringing people together.

What happened just three days after the attack is just one of many examples.

Though news outlets widely reported the French players weren’t given much choice in the matter, they still showed up in England to play another exhibition match just three days later.

For those who don’t follow soccer/football, I’m sure this might sound a little corny, but I really believe this sport can save the world.

It is truly the one universal language with the most earthlings agreeing without argument on the rules of play in human history.

What separates it from religion is that it can really be a global unifier without ideological extremes messing things up for everyone else.

It has, is, and will continue to stop wars (read: save lives) and provides the dream of upward mobility and freedom for more kids with few other hopes.

I can go to any country in the world and hop in a game and communicate deeply with everyone on the field on both teams without understanding a single word spoken, or things being clouded by religious or political ideologies.

As the great documentary [ pelada ] shows:

  • Offside is offside.
  • Nutmegs draw instant and equal parts praise and good natured ribbings.
  • Step-overs, quality goals, stop and go’s, cruyffs, stingy 1v1 defending, perfectly timed 1-2s, and the after game handshake are universally understood and practiced.

In short, soccer is a language we can all understand with a lot less nuance but more room for creativity than any spoken language.

Sport in general has similarly positive traits for society, but none have the size and universal understanding that enable strangers from across the globe to jump in and have a run together without even having to ask the rules.

It’s been said often that if we could solve our conflicts on the field of sport the world would be a much safer place. This might be true, but you never really know if a final score on the wall would really override real life personal and national interests.

However, I think just the act of playing the game with and against other communities – be they cross-town or cross-global – keeps many conflicts from appearing at all.

We should all play more. I might really be the best chance at survival our our entire species over the next few hundred years.

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