Why Is Soccer So Popular Worldwide?

Soccer is a sport that has reached every continent of the world, and it’s estimated that it is played by as many as 200 million people worldwide.

For so many, it is not just a sport. It has come to represent a community, led to them forming new friendships, and give them something which can be an outlet for their passions.

At its most fundamental level, it is 22 players (or maybe fewer, depending on the version being played) on a pitch, who come together for the cause of helping their team win and earn recognition and even possibly, rewards. And as a bonus, they also do something towards keeping themselves fit, which has many other beneficial effects.

And while it is a competitive sport, players from all races, creeds and levels of society can pick up the game’s rudiments, and even learn them to a level where they become quite proficient, and earn substantial rewards for their talent.

What Do You Need To Play Soccer?

The answer to this question provides some of the reasons why the game is so popular, in that very little equipment is needed for a game of soccer.

In theory, you need a pitch of certain dimensions, marked out in the correct way (a halfway line, goal lines, touchlines, penalty area, and the like), and with a set of goalposts at either end.

But in reality, while there are rules governing the size of a soccer pitch at a professional and semi-professional level, as a casual sport, it can be played just about anywhere – indeed, among the variants of the game which have caught on, beach soccer is one of the most popular.

As for the equipment needed, again goalposts in the professional game have to be of a stipulated size, but if you don’t happen to have somewhere which is equipped with them, there are plenty of ways to improvise. You could, for example, bang a couple of sticks into the ground a certain distance apart, and try to score by getting the ball between them. There is a popular English cliche, ‘jumpers for goalposts’, which entered popular culture as a result of many schoolboys not having access to a football pitch with proper goalposts, and instead of marking the goals by throwing a couple of jumpers, or coats, onto the ground, and using them to mark the location of the goalposts.

soccer pitch on a mountain

This represents football at its most informal and improvised level, but the mere fact that so many young boys are happy to play in this kind of situation despite not having a proper pitch on which to play shows just how deep-rooted is the desire for many of them to play the game whenever they get a chance.

Of course, when you watch a top-level football game, there will also be a referee and two linesmen, or assistant referees as they are increasingly being called.

Their job is to ensure that the rules of the game are followed at all times – but in a more informal setting, you can dispense with a referee, and merely play the game for recreation. In these situations, provided everyone involved is playing just for fun, you can have an enjoyable kick-about without the need to impose too many rules.

Some would argue that another requirement for a ‘proper’ game of soccer is a crowd, and at the highest levels, fans are happy to pay quite a sizeable amount of money for the prospect of watching one or some of the game’s best players. Certainly, having any number of spectators adds to the sense of occasion. But many soccer games are played with no crowd present, although of course having a crowd watching creates a special kind of atmosphere which for many, is part and parcel of the game.

Finally, of course, you need a ball. And while our definition shows the standard specifications laid down in the rules of the game, in reality almost any kind of spherical object can be used as a substitute. For safety reasons, children will usually play with a lighter and possibly smaller ball than the official one, but they can still develop and practice their skills in this way, before moving on to a full-sized ball as their physical development allows.

A Low Barrier To Entry Into The Game

Ultimately though, soccer is so popular simply because it can be adapted to be played anywhere and by almost any number of participants.

The fact that you don’t necessarily need top-level equipment to be able to enjoy playing the game encourages people who don’t have all the right gear to improvise, and still be able to get the same enjoyment and develop their skills in the same way as someone who plays the game more formally as part of a full team with access to proper pitches.

Also, while soccer is, at its highest levels, a highly sophisticated game with tactics being constantly developed and refined, at its heart, it is all about two teams of players each trying to propel a ball in a number of legally permitted ways, between their rivals’ goalposts. This seems to the uninitiated to a fairly simple objective – yet the infinite number of ways in which this can be achieved, and prevented, is what creates a lot of the excitement which gets – and keeps – fans hooked.

Who Plays Soccer? It’s A Game Open To Players From All Backgrounds

At all levels, you will find people across a wide cross-section of society enjoying a game of football on any given week.

Quite often, players representing the same team will come from a variety of different backgrounds, the thing which unites them is their desire to play the game. In this respect a soccer team – whether it’s for a five-a-side or an 11-a-side game – does not choose its participants on the basis of their creed, skin color, social background or beliefs. Provided you have the desire to play the game and some aptitude for it, you can find a team that will welcome you.

What Benefits Does Playing Soccer Bring To Young People?

A game of soccer reflects wider life in many ways. Among them, it requires people to come together and work as a team in order to be successful; it teaches them resilience,  very few teams can be so good as to win every game they play; it inspires loyalty, because once a player belongs to a team, if they are to be valued in that team, they will put the interest of that team ahead of themselves; it also instills discipline – the rules of the game are clear, and there are defined penalties for ignoring these, so players have to learn to abide by the rules, and realize that no one is above the law.

Most importantly, a player who is part of a soccer team learns that the team is a much bigger entity than any of its individual members. They learn that it is important that they have a specified role within a team – whether they are a defender, midfielder, striker or goalkeeper – and that they are valued in that role., And while versatility is an asset at the amateur levels of the game, players very rarely become successful having played in more than one position. They become specialists in their own roles, and rely on others who similarly are considered best in their positions, and this together makes up a team. 

kids playing soccer

What Else Can Soccer Teach Its Players About Life?

We have already mentioned how the game brings groups of individuals from different backgrounds together and teaches them how to work together as a team.

But by virtue of the fact that it is a sport which, naturally, has its ups and downs, and encourages a group of players to work as a unit to overcome the bad times through learning new skills and tactics, it can be considered as a way of learning or reinforcing wider life skills.

A team’s coach or training staff are those with the job of instilling the values which they want their team to embody in its play into the individual members of their team.

But more broadly, the coach might tell their players to show respect, not only for each one’s team-mates, but also for the opposition players, when they meet anywhere outside a footballing context, and this can carry through into the rest of their lives where it is a valued attribute.

The importance of good and clear communication between team members is another lesson that easily transfers between football and day-to-day life.

In turn, a player who shows these kinds of skills with their teammates might be a good leader, someone who can motivate others, ensure that they follow what they have been taught in their training, and put it to positive use on and off the football field.

How Can Soccer Benefit The Wider Community?

People who follow a successful football team, or have one in their local area, will generally be more confident and feel more proud of their community.

This is seen in the fact that many areas with successful football teams are not the most prosperous economically. The football team in these instances becomes a catalyst for attracting fresh talent and skills into its area, even if there are limited other opportunities for young people in that area.

This has been seen the world over in regions that have suffered from the decline of their traditional industries. In some respects, sports, and football in particular, has restored pride in an area that may not be performing so well in other fields, and may have lost a great deal of the industries which brought it prosperity in the first place.

We can see this in the English cities of Manchester and Liverpool, for example. Both became very prosperous even before football was played in them, because they were massive centers of various industries, but have seen the businesses which brought that success contract, and even disappear completely.

In purely economic terms, football has stepped in to revive the cities’ fortunes, with the big teams based there themselves bringing considerable income to theri local areas. The success of teams such as Liverpool and Manchester City and United is then seen around the world, and raises awareness of these cities among those who make the big commercial decisions.

How Come Such An Apparently Simple Game As Soccer Is So Unpredictable?

The basic format of a soccer game, of two halves of 45 minutes each (sometimes less at the junior levels), with the score being decided after that time, is used and understood the world over.

A period of roughly two hours, including the half-time interval, plus traveling time, is long enough to make it a worthwhile diversion for many people, but not so long as to make them feel that they will be sacrificing time which could profitably be spent on other activities.

When it is played at its best, it is often likened to an art form, yet the same players who are capable of such brilliant skills with a football at the feet in one minute, could just as easily trip themselves up and make themselves look clumsy the next.

Also, a game of soccer can be influenced greatly by the decisions that the referee makes – or doesn’t make. As it is generally quite a fast game, a referee can easily miss a foul, or deem it not worthy of being penalised, while the fans inside the stadium will be convinced that an offense has been committed. The regularity with which such controversial incidents occur is yet another reason why fans find soccer so compelling – as well as frustrating and annoying!

soccer fans

The Best Soccer Players Become Global Icons And Role Models

While there is a lot of resentment at the way soccer has become so commercialized, and has attracted massive amounts of money, this has also generally brought an awareness that those who benefit the most from it also have a responsibility to act as role models for the young people who follow them and their teams.

Players such as Lionel Messi of Argentina, Egypt’s Mohammed Salah and Marcus Rashford of England have leveraged their fame to help them do positive things for the less fortunate people among whom they grew up, and have become more widely respected as a result.

And the fact that these players use their influence and wealth in constructive ways shows them, and the wider game in a positive light, and shows that, while some are making massive amounts of money from the sport, some of that money is used for very positive purposes.