The Beautiful Game

I find that critics of association football – soccer, that is – take issue primarily with three elements of the game: 1) low scoring, 2) the offside rule, and 3) flopping. While I concur with their judgment on the third, the first two elements cannot be appreciated apart from one another. Alan Jacobs, in a review of Laurent Dubois’ The Language of the Game, explains the relationship of the two and how they contribute to the beauty of the world’s most popular sport:

Almost all of the wonderful patterns and geometries of soccer are generated by this one rule, which also generates something that many non-fans greatly dislike: a paucity of goals. But soccer fans get exasperated when goals flow too freely. Scoring should not be easy, and, as with gold and diamonds, there’s a link between rarity and value. The true fan delights in players who have not just the physical gifts but also the imagination to circumvent the rules that seem designed specifically to prevent scoring.

Check out the rest of his review here.

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