Let’s talk about Football! Real Football; the sport where you consistently kick the BALL with your FOOT. Now I’m not an experienced Football pundit, nor am I Messi who knows the ins and out of the game better than anyone on the pitch but I am a strong supporter of the sport. As someone who’s not constrained to any specific team (go Liverpool and Spurs tho), I find myself watching all the teams in all the leagues: Premier, La Liga, Serie A, Bundasliga, even MLS from time to time.
To me, the beauty of the game isn’t in the physicality, but the mentality of the sport. Of course, you need to know the intermediate individual skills like shooting in top corners, or dribbling through the defensive lines, or trapping the ball after a drop of 25 feet. But there’s a secret ingredient: creating space. Now you may present the argument that there are other sports where this ingredient is also crucial like Basketball and American Football. And yes, you are right; it is crucial. But in European Football, a player never has complete control of the ball. In other sports, you can use your hands to hold the ball. In Football, you only have your feet (keeper excluded). This means that space is even more important. In order to have decent control of the ball, you need to ensure there aren’t too many players near you, hence space.
Navigating through this space is what makes a player top class. You should be navigating whether you have the ball or not. If you’re a defender, you should close up the possible spaces an opponent striker can squeeze through. If you’re a midfielder with possession of the ball, you’re dictating the space of the striker with your through ball or cross. If you’re a striker with the ball, you’re looking for the smallest of cracks to squeeze through, you’re looking for a gap between the goalie’s legs, you’re looking for space.
Now as you watch more and more Football, you start to think like the players. You start creating space in your head. There’s a voice in your head that tells Mohammed Salah to make the run to goal as Trent Alexander Arnold has the ball. To your surprise, Alexander Arnold does shoot the ball to Salah as he makes his run, and 10 seconds later, Liverpool are winning by one goal. That’s the moment you feel like a king. You feel in touch with the game. You’re not actually guiding the game but you are in your head. It’s almost like riding a horse. The horse knows where to go but you’re the rider. You control the horse even though you don’t. In this case, you’re the rider and Football is your beautiful horse.