Football fever to football healer
Football fever has struck once again. This is one of those magical periods in time where everybody jumps on the bandwagon, even those like me who haven’t watched a solid 90 minutes of football since the last World Cup.
Overhear any conversation in passing between two men particularly, and nine times out of 10 the topic will be the 2012 European Cup. It’s not just a game, it’s nation against nation, with bragging rights and pride at stake whoever your team happens to be.
Some might hold nationality of a given side, some may share blood with it through a distant relative, and some may just simply favour the team or the players who play for it. With so many people talking about it, it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement and magic of the moment.
Today specifically we can expect the football fever to rise to unprecedented levels. Since in Malta the top favourite teams still remain Italy and England, we shall be treated to a rare grudge match between the two in a major tournament. There can only be one winner tonight, even if it means the match must go the distance, we will certainly be hearing some hooting horns on our streets tonight.
While I favour neither team, I shall immerse myself in the atmosphere and enjoy the show. If even such a football unfaithful as myself can get stuck in, I wonder how die hard footie nuts who follow the sport all year round must be feeling.
If football can arouse such fervent emotion, then it’s time to put it to good use. If as a nation we love this sport so much, then why don’t we just get out there and play it? How can our children love football as much as their parents if not more, yet score among the highest in the world in obesity statistics?
We seem to be going a little off track when it comes to converting rife interest in sports into a physically active population. Are there not enough public pitches freely available for use? Are five-a-side pitches too expensive to hire? Are we all too busy with other commitments? We could sit here guessing, or we could get up and have a good time playing the sport we love. If you’ve been tempted to get a match together with friends and family, then there’s no time like the present.
Use the current excitement to give you that initial push. Once you’re in the swing of it you might just decide to continue scoring well after the European Champions lift their trophy this summer. If you can play a five-a-side game once or twice a week, you can significantly enhance your health and wellbeing.
The predominant benefit of a simple match is cardiovascular fitness. Playing the game involves constant movement whether it’s walking, jogging, running, or jumping. Such repetitive movements stress the large muscle groups of your body over extended periods of time, forcing the hearts and lungs to pump more oxygen-rich blood around the body and to the muscles that need it. This enhances the ability of your cardiovascular system to efficiently perform its duties in everyday life, and cuts down on your risk of contracting heart attacks or strokes.
An added benefit to the cardiovascular strain is loss of body fat. When all readily available sugars are burnt for fuel to keep you going, the body must switch to stored body fat for energy if you are to make it to the final whistle. This means the more often you play the more fat you will lose from those problem parts of your body you may despise so much each time you look in the mirror.
If you have children, take them with you and let them play too. By age eight most children are perfectly capable of grasping the mechanics of the game, and what better way to teach them about lifelong adherence to physical activity and love of sports?
When you run, sprint and jump, you engage the muscles of your hips and thighs, strengthening the ankles and knees, and leading to better functional ability to carry out physically demanding tasks that may crop up in your daily routine. Every time you twist or turn, you engage the muscles of your core, once again enhancing functional ability as well as sculpting an attractive midsection.
When you use your arms to maintain balance, or keep low to enhance stability when defending or attacking, you are also enhancing mobility and flexibility about the shoulder and hip joints.Perhaps an overlooked benefit of recreational soccer is its benefits for the mind. A thinking man’s game, soccer requires constant tactical decision making, preventing you mind from wondering and forcing you to stay focused on the task at hand. This is excellent stress relief, as is the camaraderie and the desire to play hard and overcome oneself and one’s opponent.
For the more competitive among us lie opportunities to join organised leagues in lower division football or five-a-side Futsal.
If this interests you, there is no shortage of clubs to join, and even if you have no delusions of grandeur, then simply benefitting from the training and enjoying the match days could be just the hobby you wished for.
Whoever turns out victorious tonight, let us rejoice in the magic of the moment and let the benefits of sport become all of ours to share.