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Playing soccer with mean, pushy players.

I received this email from one of my former soccer students. A real good one. To teach soccer to her was a great pleasure because she loves soccer very much. So, to receive an email like this from a soccer lover, and noticed that some bad habits are still there, really brakes my soccer heart.

Hi Gianni,

Do you have any advice or have you written in the past about playing with mean pushy players? the ones who shove you around, elbow you , push you in the stomach so you can't breathe? And all usually outside the range of the referee so he doesn't see what is going on.

Often the ref is watching the feet so he doesn't always see these fouls above the waist from far away since with only one ref on the field he cannot see everything. Maybe you could address this in one of your weekly topics, I hate it when I let someone mean affect my attitude for the rest of the game.

There must be something I can tell myself or something I can do besides:

1 ) "Shake it off" and

2) being mean and pushy back.

I don't want to stoop to their level but I don't want to let them get an advantage over me.

Thanks for anything you can advise.


Dear Michelle,

We all like to PRETEND that soccer is the beautiful game and everyone approaches the game as a gentleman!

We fill our mouths with words like: fair play, have fun, be sportsmanlike, respect the opponents, respect the referees and, in particular, respect yourself! And after, when emails like yours come, we continue to pretend that what you underlined, doesn’t happen.

I’m your soccer teacher, and you asked me for advice. What to do with these kind of people. I don’t even want to use the word that you used: PLAYERS! We can’t use the word, player, referring to them. The only thing that they play with are the soccer LAWS!

They are the same people, that don’t stay in line at the entrance of movie theaters, at supermarkets, at street lights, at the pay toll on the freeway, that use the exit lane and suddenly cut back before the exit, the ones that use the fast-track lane until the end and after cut in to a pay lane, and so on. They are the ‘special’ ones. The ones that think the laws are just for US and don’t apply to THEM.

They agree that the laws are good but…………………………….. made for us not for them!

They are the smart ones. They totally agree that, we have to respect the 65 mile per hour limit, we have to pay taxes, we have to stay in line, we have to respect the stops, we shouldn’t pollute and, coming to soccer, we shouldn’t push or kick them. US!

Not them!

So, on a soccer field, they can do what they want, when the referee can’t see and we can’t fight back because WE respect the laws. The ones of soccer too!

In your email you said: one ref on the field cannot see everything.

Sure. A ref on the field can see everything connected with the normal development of the action, close to the ball, but even 10 referees can’t see what happens among 22 players, if they decide not to respect the laws of soccer!!!!

This is the problem. And the solution is only about the players. Not the referees!

You said:” There must be something I can tell myself or something I can do besides: 1) "Shake it off" and 2) being mean and pushy back. I don't want to stoop to their level but I don't want to let them get an advantage over me.”

As your soccer teacher and ex-soccer player, I’m really proud to read that you don’t want to stoop to their level.

I played center-forward in Italy for 30 years. That means that I received all the possible verbal and physical provocations on the bad side of soccer. I’ve been spit in the face, insulted in the most ’unrepeatable’ ways, forbidden to jump on corner or crosses because of a foot on top of my foot, my jersey torn, and so on.


As I said other times, I was a good player. Not outstanding or unique. Just good. But in one thing I was UNIQUE. In 30 years, not only was I NEVER expelled from the field, I NEVER had a yellow card!

So, I believe, this fact makes me UNIQUE!!! I can challenge any soccer player in the world to be able to achieve the same result. I believe that this is harder than winning the World Cup! Playing center-forward at a very high level for 30 years, without provoking a yellow card!

The only answer to the provocations, was:


This is the ONLY acceptable answer to these people. The ONLY thing that really hurts them. Being defeated by the ones that respect the rules. The ones made for US and not for THEM!

So, dear Michelle, try to stay away from these people by continuing to move on the field (you‘ll won’t be an easy target). If you need to mark them, live them some space and attack them hard (but correctly!) just in the moment in which they receive the ball or, better, try to anticipate them. Don’t accept any provocations, verbally or physically and, every time you or your teammates have a chance, be cold, be a soccer killer, and PUT THE BALL IN THE BACK OF THE NET!

Never, ever, go down to their level.

A great sentence that I heard recently was: never argue with idiots in public, because the other people around, can’t tell the difference.

Discipline, discipline and discipline again. With yourself!

Coach Gianni

Posted on 25 May 2007 by coachgianni
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