Football’s invisible dimension: hearing

Bouncing balls and cheering crowds, from the pitch to the stands: Just in time for the 2024 European Men’s Football Championship, we turn our ears to the pitch, the stands and the living room at home and quickly realize how hearing makes the football experience complete.

Birgitt Valenta

What is football? According to Wikipedia, football is a ball sport in which two teams compete against each other with the aim of scoring more goals than their opponents in order to win the game. The playing time is usually 2x 45 minutes, plus stoppage time and, if necessary, extra time and/or a penalty shoot-out. A team usually consists of eleven players, one of whom is the goalkeeper. The ball may be played with the whole body [ ], but is mainly kicked with the foot. [ ] The success of football is based on its simplicity.

Football can indeed be described in such a simple way, broken down to the essentials. But why does football fascinate so many people around the world? Is the success of football ultimately based on its simplicity? Besides, there are so many other interesting sports and yet none can match the popularity of football. Here are the reasons that make football the king of all sports:

The excitement factor of football

Enjoy the magic of football stadiums with all your senses ©Adobe Stock

Sure, football is fun, has a simple set of rules and you can kick a ball anywhere, even with fewer people involved. Football is unpredictable, everything can change right up to the last second and that sometimes makes a match a bit of a game of chance.

What's particularly nice is that football connects people of all backgrounds all over the world. Just recently, I was sitting in a cab on a small, remote African island and overheard my husband chatting with the driver about David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and co. There are probably few other common topics that the two strangers would have found during that half-hour cab ride.

However, football has another component, without which football would be missing something crucial: hearing.

The invisible dimension: the language of football

Football is not only a spectacle that impresses with its visual aesthetics and physical performance, but also one that appeals to our ears and thus our emotions in a very unique way. The shouts and murmurs of the fans in the stadium, the rhythmic stomping of the players on the pitch and the typical thud when the ball hits the net - all these acoustic elements are a source of passion for players and fans alike, a true feast for the ears and lend the game a defining atmosphere.

The Nigerian former professional footballer Victor Agali once said in a somewhat different context: "Football is actually quite simple, you just have to understand your colleagues", hitting the nail on the head: without hearing, communication within the team becomes much more difficult.

"The sounds of football are the language of passion."

Hear what you can't see: for effective communication and a quick response

Football connects people - from young to old, around the globe. ©Adobe Stock

Communication between players is often crucial and hearing the coach's instructions can literally determine a game's outcome. It also allows players on the field to locate the ball even when they can't see it, which in turn improves their reaction time and feel for the game.

The Nigerian former professional footballer Victor Agali once said in a somewhat different context: "Football is actually quite simple, you just have to understand your colleagues", hitting the nail on the head: without hearing, communication within the team becomes much more difficult.

The sound of passion - to switch off

For the fans, the sense of hearing is a tingling source of passion and commitment. The chants and cheers that rise up from the stands create an atmosphere of community and cohesion. Most importantly for the players on the field, hearing a cheering and clapping crowd can boost morale and give them extra motivation to give their best.

Fans can experience the game on a deeper emotional level through their ears. The characteristic sound of the ball flying into the goal, announced in a murmur by the crowd, creates a moment of euphoria and triumph that cannot be matched by the visual experience alone. Similarly, the silence in the stadium after a missed goal or a controversial refereeing decision can create an atmosphere of tension and drama that makes the game even more captivating.

However, if there is no silence, if there are mood swings because the victory of your favorite team seems to be far away or the referee makes a supposedly wrong decision and some people in the stands get carried away with unacceptably hostile slogans - well, these are the less refreshing moments for the ears, the ones where people with cochlear implants have a clear advantage - you simply switch off your CIs, you don't have to listen to everything and everyone after all.

"The true beauty of football is often only revealed when you hear it rather than see it."

Emotions in the ear - even beyond the stadium

In the modern football world, the sense of hearing is essential even outside the stadium. Technologies such as live streams and commentators make the game accessible to millions of people around the world who can experience the action on the pitch with all their senses.

Imagine watching a football match - alone, with family or friends, in your living room, in your local pub or at a public screening. You probably already know: football is more than just a sport. It is a passion that unites people all over the world. And this is where the sounds make the music: the setting of the volume control on the device or the sound system will play a decisive role in how euphoric you are.

Now, imagine what happens when this sound is switched off. Imagine watching a football match on the screen, but without hearing the voice of the commentator, the roar of the crowd, the cheers and clapping of the fans in the stadium and the sound of the ball hitting the net. Such an experience is probably unimaginable for many football fans.

A spectacle for all senses

Football is and remains the most popular sport in the world, with around four billion fans, according to experts. For all these fans, as well as the players, it goes without saying that you can play a match and cheer in the crowd without hearing. But experiencing football with all your senses is much more satisfying. Try it out, the European Football Championship 2024 is just around the corner!