Football, also known as soccer, is undoubtedly the most popular sport all over the world. It is regarded as a supreme sport because it transcends borders. However, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America are considered to be the most popular regions for football.
According to the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), football has about 3.5 billion followers across the globe. For instance, FIFA audit shows that 3.572 billion people watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia. The global football body said the figure includes those who watched TV at home, out of home or on digital platforms. However, the final match between France and Croatia was seen live by a combined 1.12 billion viewers worldwide.
A research in 2021 also claimed that over 250 million individuals play soccer regularly; whereas, FIFA said 265 million people (men and women) currently play football worldwide.
Of note is also the fact that football is one of the highest paying sports in the world, hence it is the domain of some of the highest paid sportsmen in the world. For instance, English football player, David Beckham, first achieved 8th place in the Forbes list in 2004, with a total income of $28 million. He again achieved 7th place in the list in 2005, with a total income of $32.5 million and achieved 6th place in the Forbes list of richest players in 2007, with $33 million. Brazilian soccer star, Ronaldinho, achieved 9th place in the list in 2007, with $31 million. David Beckham again achieved 2nd place in 2008 with a total income of $50 million.
Portuguese footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo achieved 1st place in the 2017 Forbes list of richest players, with a total income of $93 million. Another legendary footballer, Argentina’s Lionel Messi achieved 2nd place in the list last year with a total income of $86.2 million. At the moment, Lionel Messi is the highest-paid footballer in the world, followed by Ronaldo.
Why the hype?
One may wonder why football attracts such huge followership and revenues. The reason may not be far from the fact that is because it has many benefits. Aside from the entertainment value, the health benefit of watching football is immense which makes time spent on it not to be a waste. Researchers have proved that watching football has positive effect on the cardiovascular system of the human body.
A scientific research conducted in 2019 by BV Gaming Limited, formerly known as BetVictor Limited, in partnership with the University of Leeds Biomedical Department, actually showed that football is good for health.
In their quest to find out the true effects of what watching football does to the body, BV Gaming Limited commissioned human biology and psychology researchers from the University of Leeds to follow Leeds football fans across three key games in their 2019 promotion race. A total of 25 Leeds United fans of ages ranging from 20 to 62 years old (average age – 22 years old) were analysed. Participants for match 1 were analysed outside of a stadium environment, while participants for matches 2 and 3 were analysed, while watching the game live at each stadium.
For the purposes of displaying the data, the researcher grouped fans by the number of years they had been supporting Leeds – less than 10, 20-30 and 40+.The research tracked three key factors as part of their study – heart rate, blood pressure and mood. Participants wore heart rate monitors throughout the duration of each game. Blood pressure was taken a couple of days before each match to give a base rate, immediately before the match, at half time and then immediately following the final whistle. Participants were also served a mood survey and interviewed after each match to form part of the psychological analysis.
At the end, findings showed that participants saw a clearly elevated heartrate throughout the duration of the games, both when viewed in a control setting and in a stadium environment. On the average, participants’ heart rates increased 17 percent vs. base rate when they were watching the game. This jumped to 29 percent for game three (Leeds vs. Derby) in the stadium environment.
Overall heartrate increased to as much as 130 BPM for some participants throughout the course of the game (64 percent up on the average base rate). This is known as “positive stress” and is a cardiovascular workout akin to a 90-minute brisk walk. This indicates that watching a football game is actually good for health.
Also, when a goal was scored, the researchers saw an increase in heart rate of 24 percent on average. A Leeds goal produced an increase of 27 percent, whereas an opposition goal led to an increase of 22 percent on average. The researchers submitted that their findings were in line with findings from similar researches.
More benefits and caution
In his article, “Watching Football: Good or bad for your health?” and published in January, 2018 in Forbe, Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of Health Policy and Management, at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health, said watching football can provide enjoyment and relaxation.
Lee, an associate professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, who was also an executive director at the Centre for Advanced Technology and Communication in Health (CATCH), pointed out that watching football has many health benefits. He however cautions that watching football should be done in moderation. “Take precautions, keep perspective and root for a team that beat opponents,” he advised.
Also highlighting the benefit of watching football to health, Joseph Connolly posited that watching sports, especially football, gives viewers a significant mental workout, and helps to keep one brain healthy and sharp. Connolly added that watching football is also one of the factors that can help a viewer to build self-confidence, stressing that watching the sport will make the viewer get smarter.
Similarly, a professor at Murray State University, whose research programme centres on the psychology of sport, affirmed that watching sport is actually good for the health. He said “being a sport fan is a very psychologically healthy activity”.
While many people may claim to have no time to watch football, it is important to note that – given the numerous health benefits – it is not a waste of time to watch the round leather game.