Wednesday, July 05, 2006

C'mon Everybody! Let's Fix Football!

According to some, football is broken! Be it a lack of scoring, too much diving, too many red cards, too few hard tackles, too many hot female fans (scratch that—everyone likes them), too much 4-5-1...whatever "it" is, someone out there thinks there's too much/too little of it, and that as a consequence the grand old game is in danger of capsizing and sinking beneath one-day cricket internationals in popularity.

(Actually, nobody thinks that last part. But you'd be forgiven for thinking so given the apocalyptic tone adopted here and there.)

There is, of course, no shortage of ideas out there for just how to twist the knobs in soccer's cosmic control room to produce the exact magical combination of voltage, impedance, volume, brightness, distortion and torque that would thrust the global game into the Way-Back Machine, Destination Mexico 1970.

During the formative years of MLS, the few American reformers who timidly suggested that the goals should be made wider were mocked around the world; now, even that verboten idea seems to be gaining some currency. After decades spent hectoring rugby's hated "egg chasers" for selling out to TV by instituting video replay and "sin bins" (better known to AmerCanadian sports fans as a penalty box), some soccerheads are now more than willing to discuss such heresies. The author of the Guardian blogpost linked above wants to get even crazier: he'd reduce the game to 10-a-side! (In his world, Italy would never make the final, based on their shorthanded performance against the USA.)

But who better to fix the global game than a bunch of keyboarding Americans with too much time on their hands? Let's hear it, Eleven Devils reader(s): what would you change about soccer?


Zach Dundas said...

And just to, shall we say, get the ball rolling (I loves me a cliche!), I have a few ideas:

—Stop talking about sin-bins and just do it. A fifteen-minute breather after every yellow card would discourage brutal tackling...

—...but potentially encourage more diving. Which is why the ref will order a 30-second video review of every bookable offense. If the replay judge decides that, say, Luis Figo flopped, he's off instead of the defender.

—Points for goals in group or league play. The NASL did it, which was only one of many reasons that league was such a historic success. Seriously, though, why not incentivize scoring? One point for your first three goals, win or lose—so even Serbia will have something to play for! Purists will moan that this would elevate the likes of England's comic 2-2 draw with Sweden above Trinidad's gutsy 0-0 draw with (victory-shy) Sweden...tough. POINT OF GAME = SCORING GOALS.

—By the same logic, I'd consider awarding zero points for 0-0 draws. To get even more radical: in knock-out play, why not consider a 0-0 result a loss for BOTH teams and put the highest scoring losing team from other games through to the next round? Under this system, Switzerland and Ukraine would have been out, and Mexico would have advanced (on goal difference over fellow one-goal-scorer Spain). Who could argue with the justice of that?

—Finally, in extra time, one player from each team gets a jet pack.

Dan said...

Le Petite Zizou, you must have something better to do than jump on the 'soccer's busted' bandwagon. Magic moves by veterans all day long on Wednesday; Sunday's game a likely barn burner between the stylish Italians and Fancy-pants France. What's there to complain about? A lack of goals?

You want high-scoring games? Check out the NBA. Two touchdowns make an American football game; a shut-out is a great thing in baseball. I'd argue that the point of the game is not merely scoring goals. Footie is as much about strategery, speed, innovation and beauty.... Sometimes it makes for scoring, sometimes it just takes our breath away. Though not always classically appealing, this cup has had it all.

But here's the one corrective I like: If a player gets booked for a foul, there should be post-game review, and if diving is revealed, the offending player should carry the card. Now, c'mon Azzurri!

Hey, we're in Seattle next weekend (July 15). Come on up and say 'hi.'

Zach Dundas said...

Well, my suggestions are half in jest at best. The more I think about it, though, the better I like the idea of considering a 0-0 draw a double loss in knock-out rounds. They could call it the "lifeline rule": it would have saved Mexico and Argentina in this tournament, while 86'ing Ukraine, Suisse, Portugal and England. It would, no doubt, bring on a host of complications of its own, but would if nothing else completely remove the incentive for playing for 0-0 and hoping to beat someone (i.e. England) on penalty kicks.

Dan said...

I've been reading about innovations in overtime play, too; how about eliminating a player from the pitch, oh, every 11 minutes or so until someone goes up with a golden goal.

What ever happened to golden goals, anyhow? And, yes, I now recognize that your tongue is somewhat firmly planted in cheek.

Zach Dundas said...

Golden goal got killed, as I understand it, because it was encouraging timid teams to be even more timid in extra time. It was briefly replaced by "silver goal", i.e. if a team is leading after 15 minutes, it's over, but that too fell by the wayside.

I like the idea of reducing the sides by a man at the start of extra time and at certain intervals thereafter. (Say every 7:30?) By the time you're down to 8 v. 8, someone's gonna score.

Lynda said...

I was gonna post here! I swear it! In fact, I wrote most of a post and then realized I was late for something, so I pasted it into MS Word so I could come back and recreate it!

See, now with that whole buildup, it's bound to be anticlimactic.

But anyway. It went something like this:

1. Enforce a penalty for anyone involved in the production and publishing of the flurry of "football-is-broken," "football-is-dead," "football has become so boring and predictable that I can rattle off the winners of the World Cup, Champions League, and Premiership for the next one hundred years with one hand tied behind my back" that always seem to accompany the beginning or end of a major season or tournament. (Tongue-in-cheek approaches such as Eleven Devils excepted, of course.)

2. I like your idea about not giving any points for 0-0 games. Your radical idea about counting it as a loss in WC games, however, makes me feel like a worried old conservative. I'm not so sure about that one.

3. I'd really like to see diving cracked down on--they included that in offenses they were going to crack down on this time, but I didn't see it. On the other hand, I don't want lots of players to start getting penalized for, you know, getting shoved down or hurt.

4. What is up with Sepp Blatter's "Penalize! Give out more yellow cards!" followed by "Let's make the yellow cards mean less by making you accumulate THREE of them before you're out"???? That shit is crazy.

5. The real reason I wanted to comment here is because I was reading something interesting about changing the offside rule (yes, yet again) but for the life of me, I can't find it now. Guardian? World Cup Blog? I don't know. Anyway, it what it amounted to was giving players a bit more leeway on what constitutes offside. If I ever find it again, I'll come back and post it, magically transforming this into a comment with some actual content.

Zach Dundas said...

I think there's definitely a pattern:



Zach Dundas said...

As I continue to obsess over the Lifeline Rule, I've detected a problem: it invites collusion. Say Portugal and England finish 0-0 in the third quarterfinal. France and Brasil meet in the tunnel before the final q/final. Zidane says to Ronaldhino: "Wouldn't it be funny if this finished 10-9 and we both advanced? (And played each other again in the semi?)"

So, a modification. After a 0-0 knock-out finish, penalties are held. The shoot-out winner goes into a holding tank of sorts, waiting to see if any losing team from the same round actually scores a goal. If so, those two teams play a supplemental "lifeline" game on an off-day, winner advancing, penalties if necessary AET. No team would purposefully aim to play an extra game, but it would give decent, adventurous sides a second chance in some circumstances.

The problem with the current system is exemplified by Portugal, which went all the way to the semifinal on the strength of one goal in three games. That can't be right.