It seems odd to have all three in the same conversation, being three very different sports. But recently Dana White, UFC president, went about comparing the three. In an interview with the Calgary Sun, he was asked to share his thoughts on the only other pro sport that allows fighting. Unprovoked, White decided to use the opportunity to share his lack of respect for soccer players:
Can't stand soccer. It's the least-talented sport on Earth. There's a reason three-year-olds can play soccer. When you're playing a game when the net is that big and the score is 3-1 (and that's a blowout) are you kidding me? You know how untalented you have to be to score three times when the net is that big?
Soccer fans were immediately outraged by these statements. One particular response came from Jimmy Conrad, a retired American soccer player, who challenged White to a soccer game.
White did go ahead and accept the challenge over Twitter. Now it's just a matter of seeing what will happen.
This chain of events sparked a desire on my part to understand the link between soccer and Martial Arts a bit deeper. What I discovered actually surprised me.
That's right! Martial Arts and soccer actually share a common origin. Much of Martial Arts comes to us from China and the links are still very strongly there in many styles. One of the origins of soccer is from China, where back in the Han dynasty (206AD to 220AD) there are images of men playing a game similar to soccer.
Sign of national pride
Coming from the US, we often don't see the level of intensity that surrounds soccer. However, outside of the US, soccer has the largest sports following. Games like the World Cup are not just events, but signs of country pride. Xu Guoqi, a professor of East Asian Studies at Kalamazoo College, wrote in the Washington Post that all the gold medals won at the Olympics in Beijing meant little to China’s real, hardcore sports fans. “The real metric by which China judges itself against the rest of the world isn’t the discus or the decathlon. It’s not even our record-breaking economic growth or its modern skylines. It’s soccer.” .
Oppressed by the Bamboo Curtain
Both Martial Arts and soccer were oppressed in China during the Cultural Revolution and ensuing Bamboo Curtain. Prior to that time, Chinese team was one of the best in Asia. But during the Bamboo Curtain, China isolated itself from participating in international events. As such, their teams suffered from a lack of exposure and support. So too did Martial Arts suffer during this time, having to be smuggled out and much of the history and learning lost forever.
As to be expected, the two sports actually shares quite a bit in terms of athleticism. Foot work is important. Kicks are seen as a key component to both. Both can involve all different parts of the body. Both require a high level of endurance to last the full length of the game.
So while Dana White may laugh upon soccer, I believe there is a lot the two share and a lot to be respected in both. Mr. White, you went too far and I hope you learn your lesson on the field with Conrad.
What do you think?