June 26, 2014 at 10:40 AM ET
When Jess Lander went to South Africa for the World Cup in 2010, she found herself in a sea of soccer fans, hoping to get them to direct their mysterious foreign accents toward her. Luckily Lander, a sports and relationships writer and longtime soccer player, had a few tricks up her sleeve. “If you can strike up an intelligent conversation with men about the teams, players, and game,” she says, “you'll suddenly be the only girl in the room.”
Soccer players are universally known to be the sexiest athletes, and their fans aren’t half-bad, either. As they stream out of the woodworks for the 2014 World Cup, admirers of those flat abs and strong calves emerge to grab a piece of the soccer pie. If you’re like Lander, you’ve got a leg up on getting noticed. But you don’t have to be an expert to engage the fan with the six-pack showing through his jersey in a little game-time banter. Here’s how to build rapport with the same effortless grace that helps Lionel Messi find the back of the net.
Dress the part
Watching a soccer game at a bar is not the time for short skirts and strappy sandals. Lander advises that you stick with fan gear. “Jerseys are the most authentic apparel. But if you're choosing a player, try not to choose the most popular, as it won't help you stand out from the other bandwagon fans.” Make sure you know a thing or two about the player whose name is emblazoned across your back. And steer clear of the girly gear. “The worst thing you can wear,” warns Lander, “is a pink jersey, or anything with rhinestones.”
Know the greats
Knowing who David Beckham is says more about your ability to Google “sexiest athletes” than it does about your familiarity with the sport. Pete Burridge of soccer news website the18.com says a little research goes a long way. “Order a pint of Guinness and confidently enter into a debate about who is the best of the best.” Have the ammo to back up your claims, and maybe, suggests Burridge, a few obscure facts. An example? “How Lionel Messi has come a long way since his debut match as a pro, where he lasted only 44 seconds before being thrown out.”
Tuck away some trivia
Which goal was scored with the “hand of God?” Who’s responsible for the most famous head butt in soccer history? If you want to keep that conversation going, you need to know about more than Beckham’s left bicep tattoo. “Show your knowledge,” advises Burridge. The Brazuca soccer ball, for example, is so famous it even has its own Twitter account. “Chat up the person next to you about the new trend in boots,” he offers. (Black is out, and bright neon hues are in.) A little extra knowledge will also keep your new buddy’s soccer references from flying over your head like a misdirected shot on goal.
Show some passion
To catch a soccer guy’s eye, you must partake in the passion of the game. Cheer as if your life depends on it, and unleash the fury when your team sinks a shot. Pax Tandon is a positive psychology expert who agrees that a little bit of passion can help you get inside his head: “Curse like a sailor, but do it in a foreign language.” It’ll no doubt “impress even the most die-hard player or fan that you’ve gone multi-lingual with your ardency for the game.” If you’re not yelling “goal!” with the best of them — as in, adding at least twenty-seven extra “O’s” to the word — you might as well not have shown up at all.
Don’t try your moves ‘til the game is over
You may have some moves up your sleeve, but he’s not taking his eyes off the field until the last whistle blows. Leah Jantzen, a relationship expert who helps couples connect over sports, warns against making your move in the middle of a play. “Rule number one is do not try and talk to someone watching the World Cup while it is on. If they are a big fan, then they are very engrossed in the game and do not want to make small talk.” Interrupting a soccer guy mid-match is like asking a neurosurgeon whether he prefers the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, mid-surgery. Wait until the end of the game. If he’s reeling from a loss, find a way to put a smile on his tear-stained face. If he’s riding the euphoria of a win, redirect a smidgen of that elation in your direction. Whatever you do, keep your hands off that ball, and your eyes on the prize.