By Aritra Mukherjee:
Let me begin this piece by saying, “Footballers are not robots”. Hence, it is eminent that there are certain conditions that affect them mentally and physically; for example, jeering a player constantly results in him playing worse most of the time. So here are a few things to keep in mind whilst watching the world cup:
1) Temperature: This is very important for many players to perform. Most of the players are used to playing in European Conditions (temperature below 25 degree centigrade) and believe it or not, it’s actually winter in Brazil. Yet, many stadiums are above Rio and temperatures generally are around 25-40 even at this time. Worse off is the humidity and in suchÂ temperatures, the body loses energy very soon and it becomes quite hard for most European nations to do well. During the Confederation cup last year Cesare Prandelli said “We struggled like crazy tonight. The humidity is something we have to deal with, as it really is difficult.” In that match, the defensively sound Italy had to dig out a win after conceding 3 goals against Japan! The heat dehydrates players and can cause cramps which are excruciatingly painful and common among European players in these conditions.
2) The Football: Believe it or not, the football which is used to play can affect the game a lot and one would be naive to think that all balls of the past 20 years are the same. Jabulani, Teamgeist and Fevernova are the first of 100% synthetic and ‘perfectly’ engineered balls, yet very few people have approved them as the best ball they have played with.
In fact, English Goalkeeper, James described the Jabulani as ‘dreadful’ and some strikers have blamed it for the lack of goals in 2010 World cup held in South Africa. Similarly, this year a lot of goals have been scored averaging around 3 per match! Some experts consider that the ball along with the atmospheric pressure is doing the trick.
3) The Turf: The ground that football or soccer is played on matters a lot and maybe one of the biggest factors in games. Maybe not in this world cup, but previously, Russia used to hold friendlies during winters and routed the opponents because not only was the ground covered with ice but their players knew how to play in those conditions. Similarly, in Italy, the grounds are a bit harder and some other teams of Europe have a tough time trying to adjust from a fall or tackle. In today’s age, turfs are well taken care. Soil testing is a very important factor; if the soil is too rough or low in nutrition then it would turn hard and disastrous for people playing on it, in the form of groin injuries. Raised level of grass was a severe issue and still continues to be in some parts of the world. Hence, FIFA has taken steps and introduced the FIFA approved ‘Astroturf’.
4) Audience Effect or Home support: In 2002, the unthinkable happened when South Korea reached the Semi-finals of the World Cup. It is a well-known fact that no European team has won the world cup in South America. Brazil went to the finals in the 1950 World Cup and Uruguay won it when it was held in Uruguay. So did Argentina and also France in 1998.
Home support is big when it comes to football. When a 100,000 people are screaming your team’s name in a grandÂ stadium, you know you are not playing alone. Researchers believe that home support produces heightened arousal and hence impacts the players and the constant jeering demotivates the opponent. Probably one of the reasons why Chile performed so well and Spain couldn’t even find the net, this world cup.