Tag Archives: football

The Worst Rule in Football

20 Feb

Ugh! The glare from those floodlights! Let me just shield my eyes with this.

Arsenal Football Club has had to endure some painful red cards in its day, with Robin van Persie’s red against Barcelona surely ranking as one of the most appalling refereeing decisions in the history of the sport.

This week, both Manchester City and Arsenal lost 0-2 at home in the Champion’s League because of ‘last-man’ red cards. The last-man red card is the worst rule in football.

The rule means that if you foul a player who has a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and if you are the last line of defence, you earn yourself a red card (and a suspension) as well as whatever free-kick or penalty the foul incurred. Because you have denied the opposition a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the penalty kick compensates the wronged team with another one, and because you cheated, the red card punishes you. It supposedly also acts as a deterrent in future, because it makes it too risky for players to strategically foul opposition strikers.

Of all the punitive measures they could have chosen, killing the entire football match is the one they came up with? Genius. Each red card this week happened about half way through the game with scores at 0-0. If at this point in the game the ref had said, “Right, I saw that you clipped the striker’s heels there, making him fall theatrically to the ground; we’re abandoning the game here and awarding the opposition a 2-0 victory,” would anyone not say that this was ridiculous overkill? And yet that is effectively what took place.

As Arsene Wenger pointed out, an early injury claimed his one substitution, and having his goalkeeper sent off forced him to use his second, and this in turn made it impossible to use his third one tactically, because he needed to keep it in case of another injury (which would leave him with only 9 men on the field). His hands were tied for the remainder of the game. So the team lost its keeper and its key strategist because of one foul. When you’re playing Bayern or Barcelona, that’s game over.

As with the death penalty, it is questionable whether killing the game ever truly acts as a deterrent. Defenders still have to defend; small errors of judgment are going to happen no matter what the rule.

What are the alternatives to killing a game? Here’s an easy one: award a penalty goal. Not a penalty kick, a penalty goal. The wronged player who had a chance to score gets given the goal he was denied. He is more than compensated. The fact that a possible goal is made into a certain goal acts as the punitive measure, making it a pointless strategic move to foul attackers. And the game continues as a contest.


The Ungenius World Cup

20 Jul

The FIFA TM (PBUH) World Cup was a wonderful event, full of celebration and excitement and all of that good stuff, but what place does such an event have on a site dedicated to whingeing and celebration of failure? So let’s pay tribute to Africa’s World Cup by chronicling its most noteworthy failures.

#5 The Vuvuzela
VuvuzelaIt’s easy to hate the vuvuzela. It’s loud and monotonous, none of which is all that endearing. It reminds me too much of Lloyd Christmas’ most annoying sound in the world. Yet somehow, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I don’t hate it all that much. It did add a unique flavour to Cup, and at least none of the games were silent and funereal. But for flattening out the highs and lows of crowd participation and for making it impossible for any other kind of noise (singing for instance), the Vuvuzela enters the Ungenius rankings at #5.

#4 Afropessimists
afropessimismThe idea of holding a tournament in Africa led to all sorts of predictions about how much of a shambles it was going to be. If the prophecies had all come to pass, our politicians would have run off with all the money, the stadia would all have fallen down, and the natives would have cannibalised all the tourists in their over-priced B&Bs. Countless South Africans just knew that nothing would be finished on time and that the games were going to be disasterously mismanaged. Even the Guardian UK kept running reports about how foreign visitors were staying away because of the exorbitant costs and danger to visitors. We were back to lions roaming the streets. In reality, it went off virtually without a hitch, and it was as safe as any Cup has been. Every one of the pessimists were proved wrong. I haven’t heard any retractions yet. No apologies. Still waiting.

#3 Picture delay on the public broadcaster
tension graphIf you were subjected to the local broadcasting of the tournament, you would have to have suffered a commentator who said ‘from x’s point of view’ and ‘as far as the x is concerned’ at least 50 times a match. But that was not the biggest worry. The most Ungenius mistake made by the SABC was the delay of the visuals at least a second behind the commentary. This had the effect of making the commentators seem especially sharp during regular play, quoting the name of the player as he received the pass. Unfortunately when the commentator got excited about the possibility of a goal, the viewer heard about it before it happened. By the time the striker hit the ball, you could already hear in the commentator’s voice whether or not it was going to be successful. It was a little bit like having someone notifying you what is just about to happen in the movie you’re watching. It’s unbelievably annoying not to be able to experience the growth and release of tension at the proper times. I tried switching to the radio commentary once, but the radio commentators were describing the action replays before we got to see the goal being knocked in.

#2 FIFA’s baffling technophobia

Goal disallowed

It only crossed the line by a yard. Too close to call.

For some reason, FIFA imagines that we all secretly appreciate it when our favoured teams suffer a serious injustice. Disallowed goals, bad offside calls, red cards for nothing… we all love it when our teams crash out because of a referee error, because football is all the richer for the beautiful analogueness of it. Well bugger it, FIFA, the rest of us like technology. We enjoy watching the replays. We like computer-assisted visuals that reveal whether someone was offside or not. I’m dern sure Frank Lampard would have been happy to have a one-minute breather while the refs consulted the TV on his goal against the Germans. The difference between 2-1 and 2-2 at half time is huge. The difference between telling your grandkids that you banged in a cracker at a World Cup and that you went to a couple of tournaments but got nothing… that’s pretty big. So thanks FIFA. I’m sure all of the hard-done-bys are really grateful that you’re scared of the computer.

#1 Letting Adidas reinvent the football
Jabulani Beach BallSouth Africa spent a lot of billions organising this World Cup. Players have been training their whole lives for this moment. Oh, but by the way, that ball that you’ve been training with your whole lives? Yes, you won’t be using that one. We’ve let Adidas decide what you’ll be playing with, and they quite liked the way a beach ball behaves in the air, so they’ve gone with something like that. Hope you don’t mind. The goalkeepers? No you guys will probably flap at it a bit, or palm it back straight down the middle. Freekicks? Um, no, it’s quite hard to get used to, so you’ll be hitting it like a rugby conversion for the first 6 or 8 games. It’ll be a rubbish spectacle until sometime in 2012 when you’ve all had a good go at it. Sound alright? Good! On we go then!