Friday, March 28, 2014

Free-kicks not free at all

Having watched a few sending off offences of the last few weeks, I must say there must be some sympathy for the offenders who genuinely duel and combat for the ball as well as the victims of the potential crippling tackling. At this day and age, the professionals understand the need not to end fellow professionals' careers. There few cases now see the attacking players taking advantage by diving, like Daniel Sturridge did a few days ago.

Instead of dwelling on the many individual cases, I wish to draw your attention on the heart of the matter. For most red-card fouls, all include excessive force especially in the attacking zone of the victims. The attacker will have the most difficult job of evading defenders and clearing their path and charging at goal. This includes executing the most difficult skill of the game. The chief end is to score the goal and enjoy the ecstasy of that moment.

Besides, the match starts with the ball at the centre and it has got to be manoeuvred through a forest of legs and traffic of bodies to be in the final third. That feet is not easy to achieve. Usually, at that point, there is one or two defending players between the attacker and the goal. The attacking player is in full flight and in stride to strike the ball towards the goal. His body and mind is set to unleash venom. The team mates are either ahead or behind in positions of support to assist in ending this attack successfully. There is great momentum of both the attack and the player.

The defending team are obliged to legitimately stop the attack and the player. By hook or crook, they succeed. In a case of a brutal or illegal means, the attacker's charge is halted, and he gets knocked down and has to receive medical attention. The officials usually asks the medics to do this outside the pitch.

The ball which was running is then placed still and usually in a wrong spot. Then the defending team gets the opportunity to bring all personnel behind the ball and form a wall. The rest of the team choose the best positions and have the luxury of even pushing the opponents down. They can set up an offside trap. At this moment, they gain a numerical advantage as the injured striker is ordered to receive treatment outside the pitch. The goalkeeper picks up his co-ordinates and gets his bearings right, chooses the best position and pinpoints all possible dangers.

In some cases, the player who was on the offensive gets hacked down, receives a yellow card for diving and has to be treated off the ground and play continues in their absence until the officials signal for his re-entry. All the hard work of building an attack is lost and the goal-scoring opportunity minimised or blown away by the rules of the game. In a case where a defending player is red-carded, the attacking team still does not immediately gain advantage as the offender and the victim leave the pitch.

So what would be fair? One scenario would be to ensure all serious fouls to be punished by a red card and a penalty awarded, regardless of where the foul is committed. Less serious fouls would have to be yellow card cases and the offender will have to leave the pitch if the victim is receiving medical treatment. Any infringement of the rules should benefit the opposition in such a way that there is no offside resulting from the restart of the match and that the defending team should never have players ahead of the ball, or behind the ball from their perspective.

That would make redundant the wall and off-sides from all dead ball situations and the offended teams would never suffer numerical disadvantages at any time. FIFA tell us they want to encourage attacking football and ensure many goals are scored by giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacking teams, but the rules suppress this and the good players suffer the indiscretion of the bullying defenders.