Having grown up in Australia, the writer of this opinion piece has not developed the same commitment to Association Football, or soccer as we call it, as have our many newcomers from the rest of the world. But being an avid fan of SBS , the Special Broadcasting Service, I could not help but be inundated with, and near-totally absorbed by, the World Cup playoffs over the recent weeks. The World Game as the SBS calls it.
And I finally concluded that the world has got it wrong. Soccer should not be the World Game. There are much more interesting games of football than this one. It is a game where players race up and down for two halves of 45 minutes each, often scoring nil all, or maybe1-1, and then have a penalty shoot -out to decide who wins.
The penalty shootout is the first no -no . Penalty shoot-outs were first introduced as tie-breakers in the World Cup in 1982. The kicker shoots 11 m from a goal defended only by the opposing goalkeeper. It seemed to me that the kicker won every contest. Goalies have to start their move before the ball is even kicked. The reason is that to reach one side of the opening takes more time than it takes the kicked ball to reach the goal .Teams can study the tendencies of penalty kickers but it does not help. Kickers apparently can feint. The goalie has to guess. Sometimes a goalie guesses wrong; the goalie goes one way and the ball goes the other.
Also the penalties are very difficult to understand. In the World Cup final France vs Croatia, the first goal was scored by France after being awarded a penalty for a reason that I did not understand. It just looked like one player trying to get the ball off another player.
So that is the second no-no. Tripping is illegal. You cannot go for a ball if it looks as though you may trip the other player. It appears to be near impossible to slide towards a ball at the feet of another player to kick it out of the way, without tripping him and getting a penalty against you.
The third is acting. The Sydney Morning Herald on 15th July 2018 claimed that the world is sniggering at Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (better known as Neymar). And "serve him right, the little trickster, deceiver, hoodwinker and bamboozler."
Neymar is the Brazilian footballer famous for his "diving". This is the artful tactic that sees him first sprawling and then rolling and writhing in fake pain whenever he thinks he can trick referees into believing he's been cruelly fouled by an opponent. Some of Neymar's classic dives have decorated the present, wondrous World Cup tournament being played in Russia.
The fourth no-no is that it is not an attacking game. The score in the final of this world cup 4-2 was the highest in 50 years. As mentioned, the score is normally 1-1 or 2-2 and then there is a penalty shoot out , The second reason for this no-no is that Players seem to spend at least a quarter of the match kicking the ball backward and forwards among the three or four players at the rear of the team. Why they do not try a long kick in front of the mouth of the opposing goal is lost on me.
So what should be the world's football? There are two possibilities – Gridiron or American Football or Australian Rules. Gridiron is a highly spectacular sport, but it has a penalty shootout too. Also, to ask the mothers of up and coming young players to pay for that defensive gear that American players wear is too big an ask. American football does not look any more dangerous than any other sport but does require what seems to be excessive padding.
As a New South Welshman, raised on rugby, it goes against the grain to suggest that sport from south of the border. First played in Victoria over 150 years ago, it has now been introduced into every state in Australia: AFL or Australian Football League as we now call it. This game of football is, without doubt, the most spectacular of all .Try these websites Great catches or Top ten marks.
And it is a high scoring game, thus eliminating luck, or play acting, and better reflecting the true capabilities of each team. Also the players do not wear massive protective clothing.
So my appeal is to the organisers of this game. As you have spread out of Melbourne to the furthest parts of the country, and to Ireland, that you make a concerted attempt to spread even further. Gaelic football is very similar. The combination of it and Australian football, under International Rules will make it a very spectacular world game.
With no more penalty shootouts.
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