Those who know me understand that I am by no means a football tragic. Sure, I played for years as a kid, but I have never reached the frothy-mouthed status of some fans in New Zealand who refer to English football teams as “us” (despite, in some cases, never even setting foot in the UK, let alone been anywhere near “their own” home ground). Hell, I’ve even followed West Ham for over 30 years.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy football – far from it. A good game of football is, on the whole, a wonderful beast to watch. When it flows, it flows beautifully and is almost unmatchable for the pinpoint accuracy on show.
Yet it can also be a source of huge frustration. That’s why I’ve decided to make a few changes to the beautiful game to make it even more appealing to the likes of, well, me. Take your head out of your gold bullion stash Sepp, take a sip of Dom Perignon and listen up – it is time for a few home truths. These are the top ten things you need to change to make football even better:
OK, this may be an obvious choice. But for as long as anyone can remember, diving has been an absolute scourge on the game. Watching someone hit the turf like as though a sniper has emerged from the shadows and shattered his tibia in four places from 100 metres is enough to make you puke. When he does it with the nearest player approximately the same distance away as the imaginary sniper, you wish it was true. FIFA has made noises in the past about changing this image, but in reality, it has all been fairly limp. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to happen anywhere near as much in the women’s game, which can make a very refreshing change. It’s pathetic, shameless and needs to stop.
ABUSE OF OFFICIALS
Try this for size. Walk up to someone in the street, jostle them, scream in their face at top volume, give them a shove, and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll cop a serious head-butt, and, quite frankly, deservedly so. But this is on show every week, in every game of football. Taking NBA managers out of the equation (and you should – they’re American), it happens nowhere else in sport. It is shameful watching a referee having to almost run for his life after awarding a perfectly legitimate penalty. In the worst cases, such activity is tantamount to assault, and should be treated as such.
Silly, silly, silly. By all means, play the game and at the conclusion settle any on-field differences with a handshake, a kiss, or whatever cheeses your cracker. But before the game? Not a chance.
TAKING A FREE KICK FROM THE CORRECT SPOT
In the entire history of football, has this ever happened?
TAKING A THROW IN FROM THE INCORRECT SPOT
Watch any game, in any competition. Wait for the ball to go out, and make an imaginary mark on your TV screen. Now watch the point where the player throws the ball in as opposed to where the ball went out. If it is within 10 metres you’re doing well. In the NZ vs Solomon Islands game last week (see? I do watch), the best I saw was a poach of around 20 metres. I understand that the linesman can only cover half the length of the pitch, but that’s just dumb. Which brings me to……..
Allow me to quote from the FIFA law rulebook. Law 15 states that “at the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower delivers the ball from behind and over his head”. The hell he does. Unless the player is looking to hoof it a mile down the field, most will rest the ball on top of their head rather than behind it, before letting the ball dribble like a teething baby out to his teammate. OK, this may sound a little pedantic, certainly. But if you have no intention of enforcing the rule, scrap it. The irony involved here is that at junior level, the referees are so incredibly anal about this rule it almost borders on a red card offence.
KICKING THE BALL OUT WHEN A PLAYER IS INJURED
Sure – if a player has been mortally wounded (perhaps by an actual sniper), fair enough. And I understand that watching someone kick the ball out after an opponent has been hurt is supposed to look like fair play, especially when the ball is returned to them. But whilst I understand the reasoning behind it, it just looks, well, a bit naff.
Sepp, a word if I may. If you are going to tender out the coverage of the jewel in your club football crown to the highest bidder, be very, very careful. You may just end up with an operator who knows little about covering the game itself. Even worse, you may even end up with an irritating idiot partly feigning an Irish accent as your comments man. Huh? Oh, hang on…….
GIFTING THE WORLD CUP
As the world game, there’s really no urgent need to grow the sport. Well, until we settle on Mars anyway. So gifting the competition to a “country” with absolutely no footballing heritage so that they can kick games off at midnight in 45 degrees of heat and none of the fans (particularly the gay ones) can grab a beer makes absolutely no sense, even to me. Well, until the dollars are counted anyway………..