Soccer rewrites definition of contact sport

People used tell me that soccer isn’t a contact sport. What a joke.

Anyone who has ever watched a soccer game — be it youth league, high school, college or professional — knows just how physical the sport can be.

My soccer career was anything but glamorous. I played midfield and huffed and puffed my way up and down the field, but damn it I had bruises the size of Texas and aches and pains for days.

Let’s take an inside look. Say you’re Vanessa DiBernardo. First of all, you’re one heck of an athlete, so you’ve got that going for you. You’re running down the field, looking for an open man, but all the while you have a member from the opposing team, let’s say Ohio State — because who doesn’t love to hate on Ohio State — jockeying for position. She constantly rams your side, throwing her elbows, doing whatever she can to push you off the ball or trip you up. Sure, fouls are a thing, and maybe the ref will call one. But he probably won’t.

The amount of times I was legitimately run over in a soccer game is too high to count. Then again, my 4-foot-10 frame in high school never quite gave me the upper hand.

It might be America’s tentative feelings toward embracing soccer, or fútbol, as our Spanish friends would put it, which leaves people with the wrong impression. Maybe the sport isn’t mainstream enough for prospective fans to really get a feel for everything that it entails. Bruises and broken bones included.

Watch highlights from “El Clásico”, the aptly named matchup between vicious rivals and La Liga superpowers Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Still think soccer is all sunshine and daisies? Sergio Ramos will take you down.

“Football, now THERE’S a contact sport!”

OK, I get it. Unlike football, tackling is not an integral part of the game. The Illinois soccer team doesn’t run drills in full pads and work on keeping facemask calls to a minimum. It’s sneakier than that. I like to think of it as aggression typified.

It’s not always hitting someone that marks an activity as a contact sport. It’s the give and take, the constant struggle. In soccer, it’s not just one hit and the play is over. The physicality of the game is continuous throughout each 45 minute half.

The goal of basketball isn’t to take down your opponent, but its place in the realm of contact sports isn’t disputed. Unless “take down” is being used as a euphemism for beat, conquer or destroy. If so, then yes, by all means, let’s take down all teams the Illini come up against this coming season.

This view of soccer is outdated and disrespectful to those who know and love the game. The sport wouldn’t be what it is without contact. It would turn into a waiting game — waiting for someone to muff a pass, miss a shot or fall down out of clumsiness or distraction.

That sounds like a sport for lovers of board games and puzzles, not hardcore athletes.

This is my challenge to you: go to one match this season. Just one. Watch our Illini duke it out with a Big Ten foe, and then try to tell me soccer isn’t a contact sport.

Here’s how this ends: I win.

Aryn is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ArynBraun.