When I’m watching football, I love to see Lionel Messi beat six men and slot the ball home, and I love to see Wayne Rooney power home a thunderbolt.
But there are some little things that make me just as happy as those. Often they are just small observations I’ve made and some people may think I’m mad, but here are eight things I love about football.
1- Pointless Passing
This most commonly happens in the opening throes of a football match, often between the two full backs of any given team. One will ping a cross-field pass to the other, and despite having offered nothing of an attacking threat, it draws a gentlemanly and polite ripple of applause from the crowd. Totally pointless, but oddly pleasing.
2- Jubilant Fans
When a player scores a goal, most people watch and wait for his celebration, but I often watch the crowd’s reaction. As the ball hits the net, the entire section of supporters rise simultaneously to salute the strike, and as their arms flail it makes for a beautiful picture of celebration.
3- Unplanned Celebrations
If you do watch a goalscorer celebrate though, you’ll often see them perform a pre-conceived dance or jig, and to me that takes away some of the magic of a goal. For me, shows of sheer joy and delight are much more exciting. The Italians are masters of this; Marco Tardelli’s strike in the 1982 World Cup Final is the perfect example. A slalom run of fist thrashing and tears-of-joy filled frenzy. Sheer unadulterated ecstacy.
4- In off the Woodwork.
Some goals look great from whatever angle you look at them. But every goal that hits the crossbar on it’s way into the net is a joy to behold. The ricochet down from the underside of the woodwork and over the line adds to the majesty of the strike, and you can look no further than Tony Yeboah’s sublime strikes for Leeds against Liverpool and Wimbledon in the 1995/96 season for proof.
5- Slide Tackle
Tackling seems to becoming a dying art these days, with various players suffering serious injuries as a result of ill-judged and poorly timed challenges. But when a player gets it right, it’s a marvellous sight. The image of a player zipping across the turf and hooking the ball away, leaving his opponent on the floor is a reminder of how football used to be; physical, tough, and full of passion.
6- Through Ball
In my schoolboy days I was an attack minded midfielder, and one of my favourite passes to make was a slide rule through ball. When done well, it can make any defender look stupid and sets up a great attacking opportunity. There’s something beautiful about watching a diminutive playmaker like Barcelona’s Xavi make an imposing defender look a total dummy with just a nonchalant flick of the foot.
7- Diving Header
Once upon a time these were ten a penny in football, but it’s a sad indictment that these days, many strikers seem too afraid of injury to risk putting their head in where it hurts. There are exceptions though, and it’s great to see a burly striker throw himself at an awkward cross and direct it in with his head, finishing with a belly slide on a rain sodden pitch.
8- Last Minute Winners
There is no better feeling for fans, players and managers. The last minute winner is the ultimate. The time is up, the ref is looking at his watch and the heads are going down; two points dropped. But somebody has other ideas and puts the ball away. Delirium on the pitch and pandemonium in the stands. Absolute magic.