Monday, 10 July 2006

on sporting choice

Here's an observation.

So over the last month or so there's understandably been a lot of talk around our team about soccer. When I got bitter about Australia's loss and then put off by the low scores, play-acting and overly significant contributions of referees in deciding matches, I waged something of a campaign arguing that soccer was a sport with deep flaws, and loudly proclaiming that it was dead to me. All this is very well.

What is interesting is that I have the luxury of doing so, but that my french colleagues do not. The difference in the proliferation of sports between the two countries is startling. Cricket and now aussie rules are easy to follow throughout Australia. Rugby league is easy in its home states of Qld and NSW, and rugby can be followed easily for internationals and on cable for Super-14 games. Soccer is a little trickier with its passing into cable exclusivity, but is still a candidate. There are others like tennis, golf, basketball and periodically swimming, but they're not really major sports.

In France its different. There's soccer, and its everywhere, but after that there's a big, big gap. Rugby is played only in the south, and is to a certain extent limited to the 6-nations and world cup tournaments - the domestic league is OK, but not comparable to Super-14 in strength or depth. Then there are minor sports like basketball, handball, cycling and tennis, the latter two of which have their broader appeal respectively limited to the Tour de France and Roland Garros.

Basically, if a frenchman wanted to abandon soccer, he would have little to turn to beyond perhaps rugby, and then only if he lived in the south. For the rest, there is no choice of national, continuing high-level professional sport, which is really very sad.

I guess the US also has a pretty wide platter, with baseball, gridiron, basketball, hockey and to a lesser extent nascar (though I don't understand the latter's appeal at all) all readily available. Canada has hockey and, I guess, the american sports. New Zealand has rugby, cricket and rugby league. England has soccer and to a lesser extent cricket and rugby. Ireland has soccer, rugby, hurling and gaelic football. By contrast, what I've seen of Italy suggests it has even less choice than France. I wonder what other countries are like. Keeping in mind that major sports tend to be a rich country's luxury, what is the norm on sporting diversity?

Ed: So how'd I go? Did I at least make a reasonable attempt at not being too anti-soccer there?

Update: Rugby is better served in France than I thought by TV coverage, with European cup games shown on free-to-air as well as national team games. Cycling is too, with the summer classics shown on TV as well as the tour de france.

1 comment:

chris said...

In Switzerland icehockey is a close follower to soccer in terms of team sports - though there seems to be a bit of snobbery around that it is something for the working class. (Trivia: Bern apparently has the biggest stadium and club membership in Europe). Icehockey is just as big, or bigger, in Sweden, Finnland, Germany (I've heard its on the decline) and...?

Athletics is also a fairly big deal in summer. Skiing (in all its variants) is far more avidly followed in winter.

Its all there if you want it.