One fantastic thing about the World Cup is that it makes experts out of people who take only a vague passing interest in the sport. The ability to check in and invest time and emotion in something like this only every four years means you can store up all your research and casual reading and confidently say that Belgium were the dark horse you tipped ages ago.
It’s also like the Olympics, when you take a weird but confident and concentrated interest in sports you don’t usually see, and get fascinated by it. For me, that’s usually handball. Brilliant game to watch.
And of course, nothing warms the heart more than waiting for whatever controversy will eliminate England. Sadly, after previous World Cups saw Beckham and Rooney red cards and that goal against Germany that wasn’t called, this time it was simply a lack of ability that saw them fly home early.
But as a novice follower, who likes the top level stuff from Europe and knows a few names, but isn’t going to bother much with the A League, if I am going to follow the sport more, there are some question I need answered:
- With the ball being able to be kicked such long distances, changes in ball technology meaning it swings more and travels faster, and greater player endurance, why does soccer continue to only have one referee? The AFL has 3, NFL at least 5, and other games that flow quickly over similar sized fields, like NRL and field hockey, have 2. Sports played on much smaller areas like basketball and ice hockey are patrolled by 3. But soccer sticks with 1, seemingly a lot of work and pressure for one referee (with line judges only seeming to be there to judge offside)? I imagine that there’s just so much soccer player around the world that mandating 2 refs every game is impractical, but can you make an exception at the very top level? Or…
- Why, in a sport where scoring is rare and valued, and the stakes so high and decisions so debated, hasn’t soccer added to goal-line technology and implemented video reviews? I accept that the goal technology in AFL is still having teething problems and NRL had enormous issues last year. However, tennis seems to work fine with Hawkeye and the recent Hockey World Cup in Holland, where teams are given the chance to challenge a corner or penalty decision, and lose the chance for more if wrong, was an example of an extra eyes settling nerves in a fast-paced game. Would one challenge a half, and a failed challenge meaning no more, help those panicked and emotional last minute penalty decisions that cause so much debate and controversy and rock a country’s emotions for another four years? It would remove issues of bias, favouritism, diving and recriminations that last until the next World Cup and beyond. Witness the number of late, game changing and controversial penalties already given in this tournament.
- Why does the accidental trip of a player not in a scoring position but just inside the penalty box get rewarded the same as a deliberate handball on the line or somebody dragging down a player and stopping a clear shot?
- Why do so few players choose to smash a penalty straight at the centre of the goals, when the vast majority of goal keepers seem to pick a side and dive, leaving the centre free?
- Why hasn’t medical science investigated more the remarkable super-human recovery and restorative powers of top-level soccer players, who seem to be able to regenerate their legs from potentially being broken to being able to run normally within a few minutes of falling over in agony? They must have some sort of magic spray in those trainer’s kits.