I’m male and English so statistically speaking I should be a football supporter.
Football is described as the national game and in any group of men numbering greater than two the subject is raised within 18 seconds of discussion. The only exception to this is groups of homosexual men or serious music buffs. And as the only place I’d like to see ‘three tenners’ is in my wallet I conclude that I am gay.
However I attempt to confront the serious issue of soccer and do try to follow the prospects of my local team. The trouble is that recently [2005, when originally written] they have been demoted to the second best division which for reasons only known to Neanderthals and men in sheepskin coats is known as the First Division.
You see, football can be a complex issue and I haven’t even breached the ‘offside rule’.
But the most controversial part of any modern match is often the ending. A point where there is some similarity with serious music buffs – unfinished work.
As football is so pervasive in the modern era the opportunity to string out an inconclusive match over several re-visits is near on impossible. Couple this to the advanced skill level that the players perform to and the situation arises that it is almost impossible to differentiate between two sets of eleven overvalued prima donnas so match results are often stagnant.
Or to put it in simpler football terms – Modern knockout matches often ‘go to penalties’.
Penalties are undoubtedly an exiting form of entertainment. The suspense of the situation, the simple errors that change fortunes and the personalised guilt all add to a thrilling conclusion to an otherwise dull result.
The problem with penalties is that they are not representative of the game that preceded them.
The game is a rich mixture of fitness, skills, strategy, challenges and tactics involving specialised components led by an on-field captain and supplemented by the wise knowledge of an off-field coach or manager. Whereas penalties are just whacking a stationary ball.
An alternative end-game scenario has already been used many times before, known as ‘the golden goal’.
Here, both teams play a set extended time but if one team scores then they win, there and then. The disadvantage is that very often the goal never comes so the match ends again in unsatisfactory penalties.
The reason golden goals aren’t scored is that teams are reluctant to attack as any failed offensive often leads to a reduced defence, so making an aggressive playing team vulnerable to counter-attack.
So called ‘silver goal’ options have been tried that continue a match at least to the half-way point of extended time to counter this negativity but teams are still reluctant to play positively. However, developing these themes I think I have the answer.
The ‘golden’ or ‘silver’ versions are fine but an added element is needed to guarantee an outcome.
My idea would involve all members of the team including the coaching and managing staff and is relatively simple. During extra time, every five minutes the coach should have to withdraw a player.
Eleven becomes ten, becomes nine etc. Eventually a goal would be scored because if just two opposing players were on the pitch one would be able to outwit the other.
Long before that though there would be great suspense at each five-minute period when the teams are rearranged and each opposing coach is forced to make tactical changes. For instance, at what point, if any, do you remove a specialist like a goalkeeper?
This idea would truly challenge the coach’s skills as well as the players adaptability and fitness all in a footballing context.
Whether this could be adapted to other sports is debatable.
For instance if it were applied to American Football by the time all four hundred* specialist players were withdrawn one by one at five minute intervals the Superbowl final might last until December!
And an alternative option on female beach volleyball match conclusions could involve the addition of an extra player every five minutes until the beach was full. But is that just fantasy running away with me?
Still, it disproves the gay theory.
*I might be a bit out on these numbers by the way.
Author: Vince Poynter
From the Ideas section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 2 May 2018
First published in Sep 2005 when the author’s local football team, Southampton FC, were being relagated to the Championship League following a poor showing in the Premiership. They wouldn’t return until 2012
The image depicts the author on Sandown beach on the Isle of Wight. It was taken around summer 1967 and was added on 2 May 2018