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Getting to like `futbol' but......

POSTED July 06, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            Okay, this game of soccer of more appropriately `futbol’ has grabbed my attention. It didn’t start with the World Cup, it has been magnified by the World Cup. Actually it is my son Jonathan who got me going when he started watching the Barclay’s Premier League on Saturday mornings and became a gigantic Manchester United fan (take that Liverpool).)

            The World Cup has been mesmerizing in its drama, skill level and atmosphere. There are no lulls. There is a constant hum of anticipation, support, an electrical current on overdrive. It is about player, team and most of all country.

            But even before the World Cup we had purchased tickets to see Manchester United against Inter Milan at FedExField in Washington D.C. at the end of the month as part of the Guinness International Champions cup.

            Bottom line? My son is hooked and I’ve developed interest. Along with that interest has come a few complaints or reservations if you will. At the risk of offending the purists who will inevitably make noise about not appreciating the skill, artistry and beauty of the game, we need to fix a few things.

            Can we stop the flopping? Please, I’m begging you. More players have hit the ground in Brazil the past couple of weeks than trees in a logging camp. They have been knocked over by the wind, a breeze, a stare, a bad thought.

            And just after they go into their death roll and you are ready to call Life Star, they pop back up a couple of seconds later to continue. The recuperative powers should be studied by the American Medical Society.

            Then there is the old park the bus in front of the goal defensive routine which gives us those scintillating 120-minute no-score games. Limit the number of defenders you can put in the box, open the game up a little.  Get rid of the off-sides rule to open things up a bit. If somebody wants to use a `basket hanger’, put a defender on him.

            The sport of field hockey did itself a great favor a while back when in overtime it went to 7-on-7, which made for exciting open-field action. In overtime, get rid of a couple of players on each side. Again, open the game up.

            You could actually take another tip from field hockey and cut down the number of defenders allowed in the box on corner kicks. Allow them to rush in after the kick is taken.

            How many times did you see the USA advance the ball over midfield and then end up going backward because they could not advance it any further? The ball usually ending up with the other team or goalie Tim Howard.  How about a backcourt or in this case backfield rule? Make it a violation to pass it back over the midfield line. Keep the game moving forward, eliminate the four-corners of soccer.

            Then there is one of my favorites, the old stoppage time which nobody including the timers really seem to be exact about. Penalty kicks take about three minutes and clock keeps running. Flopping eats away at the clock like a bear on a dead carcass. And the clock keeps on running.

            Why not stop the clock? Get rid of the mysterious ‘extra time.’ When 90 minutes is up, 90 minutes is up.

            You don’t have to tear the game up, just step it up a bit. Of course I don’t expect any changes. The game’s popularity is at an all-time high, especially here in the states. And you are dealing with history and tradition, always a tough combination to overcome.

            Call if just a few ideas off of the cuff. Something to bandy about a bit. Now excuse me, another player just went down, this time I think from sun glare.

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