Props to you, Premier League. Your organization has spurred my interest to actually start following soccer.
I grew up bonding over hockey with my father. The ice-based sport was fast-paced, with constant possession changes and punishing physicality. Soccer, in many ways, is hockey slowed down. Both my father and I thought that while yes, professional soccer players are incredibly talented and their fans are incredibly passionate, the sport was quite dull. Action was slow and, in comparison to hockey, it didn’t exactly engage us like the brutal speed and roughness of hockey.
However, change was recently sparked within me as my interest in Formula One continued to uncontrollably blossom.
One quiet winter night after watching glimpses of a Premier League match on my job’s TV earlier that day, I visited YouTube and stumbled across a Manchester City vs. Everton highlight video. Much to my surprise, I was actually enjoying it. The steady tension in the stands, the anticipation of a shot and the bursts of players running to battle for the ball were exciting.
I fell down a rabbit hole and watched the league’s “best goal” compilations and historical highlights. I loved seeing the passionate hordes of fans constantly singing and cheering raucously as their home club scored. As I stated earlier, there’s no doubt that soccer players are insanely talented. Many goals appeared simple but in actuality required precision passing and a lot of thought in deciding how to kick the ball to get the right spin, angle and velocity on net. The players’ tremendous cardiovascular strength and agility needed at that level is not something to take for granted.
The Premier League, for those who don’t know, is the top division of British soccer. The 2019-2020 season has 20 teams who each play 38 games, called “fixtures,” from August to May. Fixtures are primarily played on Saturdays and Sundays, but some occur on Friday and Monday. The team who finishes at the top of the standings at the season’s end is crowned Champion. The most dynamic aspect of the Premier League to me are the principles of relegation and promotion.
At the end of the Premier League season, the bottom three teams will be relegated to the Championship, the league below the Premier League. The top three teams from the Championship at the end of the season, therefore, will be promoted to the Premier League the following season. This gives an incentive for poor performing teams to play to the best of their abilities to avoid getting relegated and adds palpable tension to the fanbases of the bottom three clubs. You don’t see that in any major pro sport in North America!
Currently, the League’s dominant teams are Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, who have all been in the Premier League since its founding in 1992. After much deliberation, I chose to follow the fabled Everton club because they don’t attract “bandwagoners,” they’ve never been relegated in the Premier League, they have cohesive plans to build a brand new waterside stadium and they’re currently fighting for a top six spot. A competitive middle of the pack team? Yes, please. I never enjoy following a sport’s best team. It gets boring winning all the time.
I’ve opened my mind and am ready to embrace the passionate fan base of the Premier League and engulf myself in the rich traditions the ever-popular sport has to offer. Lay it on me.