Thursday, 2nd July 2020

Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

Go For the Goals

Posted on 12. Feb, 2010 by in Articles, Personal essays

Go For the Goals

A modest proposal to save football/soccer

BANGKOK, Thailand

I write this shortly after Luis Suarez of Uruguay was quoted as proudly declaring that his blatant handball, with which he deflected a certain last-second Ghana goal in the 2010 World Cup, exceeded Diego Maradona’s famous ‘Hand of God’ goal which helped eliminate England from the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. “The ‘Hand of God’ now belongs to me,” Suarez said.  “Mine is the real ‘Hand Of God’.  I made the best save of the tournament.”

Uruguay eventually lost their next game, in the semi-finals, to the Netherlands.

I don’t believe there is karma in sports.

But I do believe that football, or soccer as it is called in the United States, is severely in need of an overhaul.  My premise is based on unscientific discussions with dozens of other football fans.  My credentials:  I played midfield at a reasonable level in high school (for a while I was on the All-New Milford, New Jersey Soccer Team).  I played intramural soccer in college. I played barefoot while in the Peace Corps in Borneo and at the club level in Indonesia and Singapore.  I tore an ACL and meniscus going in for a hard tackle.  I watch football on TV.

Here are my seven steps to save football.  They are based on two premises – scoring needs to be easier – a 5-4 game is generally more exciting than a 1-0 game (which, by the way, is the median score of all games in the English Premier League –  I made that stat up, by the way, but it sounds about right).  And my suggestions address the problem that the culture of cheating in football is causing a rot in the sport.

I don’t expect the diehards to agree.

The refs get it wrong about one third of the time.  The offside rule stymies play.  The game would be much more open if attackers were free to speed down the field on a quick break, or just hang around the goal mouth, thereby forcing defensive players to hang back with them.


Enough cinema. Enough talking back. Enough poking a finger in the ref’s face.  No other sport accepts this kind of behavior from players.  Hire rugby referees, and get them to train football referees.  A single grumble means the player concedes a free kick.  Any complaint (as opposed to a polite request for clarification from the captain, and only the captain), generates a yellow card.  Diving, faking, tantrums, fighting, taking an extra ten-meters on a throw-in – yellow and red cards. If unsportsmanlike behavior persists, the captain will start to get the yellow cards.

It works in rugby. It works in ice hockey.  A yellow card comes with a ten-minute suspension.

No other sport accepts tie games.  And penalty shootouts are an abomination, hated by players and fans alike.

If a game is tied after the end of regulation time, the two teams will play two ten-minute sudden death extra periods in which the first goal (sometimes called the “golden goal” in Europe) will decide the winner.

If the teams are still tied after the extra periods, remove one player from each side every five minutes, until the teams have each lost five players.  Continue play with these increasingly-exhausted players until a sudden death goal is scored.

Install video cameras, with a fourth referee in a viewing console to decide controversial calls.  To be used for game-changing, situations where the on-pitch referee isn’t clear what happened, like whether the ball has crossed the goal line, or whether a handball was deliberate.

Add 50 cm in height, one meter in width.

Play it like baseball.  A manager can use as many substitutes as he wishes, but once a player is removed from the game he/she cannot reenter the game.