Friday, March 13, 2009

Soccer in a Swedish Sports Bar

I went to a bar to watch a soccer game the other night. Some people might call it football. But not me. It’s soccer. And the two teams in question were Inter and Manchester United. The importance of the game was lost on me. I keep trying this whole soccer thing but just can’t get into it.

The more I think about it the more I realize it really must have something to do with never really grown up watching it or playing at any sort of high level. Although my years as a Young American Soccer player have been saved for posterity in the numerous team photos that once hung proudly on my bedroom wall.

Inter was the clear favorite in the room. Possibly because Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedish star, plays for them. Unfortunately, Inter lost 2-0 (which is pronounced two-nil because nil means zero in soccer speak).

But so it goes. I was there to have a beer or two and hang out with some friends. Which I did. And it was quite enjoyable. And it was fun to watch the reaction of others to the game. And it was especially fun to take in the Swedishness.

This time, the Swedishness manifested itself a bit differently than it so often does. Because it was the nervous excitement of sports fans, but of Swedish sports fans. Having been in Sweden for a while now, I think there is a lot to be said for the stereotypical reservedness of Swedes. At least Stockholm Swedes. That plays a large part in what I consider Swedishness. That reservedness was on display last night. But it was not alone. Because another important aspect to Swedishness is the quiet concentration that so many Swedes demonstrate. It’s something I quite enjoy. And that quiet concentration was interspersed with displays of happiness or sheer disappointment followed by long periods of reservedness. Every shot anywhere near the goal was met with audible excitement. Every goal by Manchester United was met with audible disdain. It was an amazing display of the Swedish sports fan.

All in all, an entertaining evening. Even if I could not have cared less about the actual soccer being played.

Welcome to Sweden. And the Swedish sports bar scene.

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  1. I think the biggest obstacle to becoming a true fan and not just a casual observer is a deeper understanding of the game and its rules. Most Americans who grew up playing soccer (or clusterball as its more acurately know) probably never graduated to the more fluid nuanced game that you can appreciate watching the pros. That's my problem with soccer anyway. I enjoy watching, but a lot of the beauty, strategy, and skill is lost on me.

    I'm sure its the same with most Swedes and baseball...

    The only solutions I have, are to continue watching with knowledgeable fans that don't mind explaining during a match, video games, or just giving up.

  2. I love soccer. My favorite sport to watch. One I actually understand. And the action keeps going without so much stopping, I guess that's why I like it. Beats the hell outa baseball. And sorry American guys, it beats football (but not tailgating before football games. That's sacred). One more thing on the plus side to me about living in Europe.

  3. I must say I hate it when Americans insist on calling football soccer when in all fairness their sport should really be called handball.
    And having Stockholm as a reference for Sweden is like having NY like a reference for US, well more like a little brother NY that looks up to it's big brother and try to copy all it does... hehe

  4. I agree with Anonymous about the term soccer - clearly it's football! But I feel so sorry for you who don't see the beauty of the game :( Give it time and it will happen!

    I've never played football myself, but in my late teens I found myself really enjoying the Champions League, and since then I'm hooked.

    I bought my third season's pass for AIK's home games before Christmas, and I'm counting the days to the Allsvenska premiär (22)! And I'm a woman! Shame about 22 yearold Maanoja's leg though...

    Fantastic blog you have - will definitely keep reading it!
    Cheers, Em



  7. @John – I think youre right. And your comparison of baseball was right on.

    Im getting closer and closer to just giving up though. Ive been trying since I moved here. Watched with people who know the game. Went to a live national game. Watched in bars. I just can’t get into it…

    @m8surf – the argument about the game never stopping doesn’t make any sense to me. because, yeah, the time is ticking, and yeah technically the ball is in motion, its just that it seems like the ball is going back and forth, or just backwards, way too often for it to be considered non-stop action.

    I guess in sports like football and baseball, I appreciate the stops in play, if only because they are so obvious. Blatant stoppages making each play or pitch its own event.

    @anonymous – but that’s what it is called in American English.

    Youre absolutely right about the Stockholm thing. But that’s where I live. So that’s the way it goes Im afraid.

    @terander – Ive given it nearly 2 years now. Its just not a sport for me I think. I might just have to accept that and move on. Maybe try getting into innebandy or something instead.

    @anonymous – Ill be honest, I was expecting some sort of soccer highlights. So the fans aspect was a nice surprise. And pretty cool. Well done.

  8. @ Hairy - well do you enjoy basketball? Because it is the same thing but with hands. The action and ball motion I mean. It goes back and forth on the court. Backwards even faster than on a soccer field. I love basketball too...I guess I just would rather the back and forth and non-stop motion. Not that our football is that bad when there is action. I just get pretty impatient in between plays.

  9. I love basketball, and I was actually prepared for that response. I think I like basketball so much because the back and forth and backwards is played on a smaller area so it seems like its a much faster sport even if thats not necessarily true. So by boxing it in in one half court area that movement is magnified in my opinion.

    Ill admit to some impatience inbetween pitches in baseball. despite still quite enjoying watching the game.

  10. @ Ok, sure. I guess that's what an opinion amounts to. Doesn't always make a lot of sense on paper. I just have bad memories of being dragged to Dodgers games with my Dad and being so bored. It just stuck. I hate baseball. I need action.

  11. And yeah, soccer should be football in reality. But just try to get a bunch of Americans who worship our football to call it something else. Good luck.

  12. its true. sometimes thats the problem with opinions. which is why some things just cause problems when being discussed. like whether soccer is worth watching. or baseball for that matter.

  13. Yeah but that's what makes it fun. I admit to getting a little excited when things get feisty on here. But I do like when people make nice later.

  14. I love it. and actually.. I get a bit excited as well. its kind of fun.