Over the last decade, my love and interest in the ‘other’ football has grown exponentially. What started as an every-four year dalliance like the forbidden love between a Bulgarian Men’s Olympic tennis coach and a Romanian Olympic weightlifting official, has blossomed into an on-going affair straight out of Wisteria Lane. We even started vacationing together a couple years ago. This could be love. Just don’t tell Florida State and the Broncos.
A little over a week ago, I was in Vegas for the weekend, and after gambling until 5:30 in the morning on Sunday morning (in my defense, I was winning), the first thing I did on waking up was check the final weekend Barclays Premier League scores to confirm my Arsenal Gunners had clinched another season in the Champions League.
This past Saturday I arrived at Denver’s best soccer bar (Three Lions) about 3 hours before kick-off of the UEFA Champions League final and remained in my seat until Didier Drogba’s final penalty kick goal won the game for Chelsea roughly 5 hours and several pints later.
While the game had been entertaining, I left the bar with a slightly bad taste in my mouth. It might have had something to do with the English breakfast and 5 pints of London Pride I had consumed, but there was something more.
I don’t like deciding games with penalty kicks.
After 120 minutes of end to end action requiring the coordination of a whole team, it feels arbitrary to decide a game based on a one-on-one match-up. Why not just use Rock-Paper-Scissors? There is as much skill, luck and nerves involved in that as there are in penalty kicks. And much like the goalie that shows his lean early there are always players who show their rock, scissors or paper a step early and give a huge advantage to their opponent.
So, how can we fix soccer’s extra period? I’m glad you asked. After exhaustive research and discussion with The Hierarchy of Hate Brain Trust, I humbly present our best ideas for fixing the world’s game:
(and I am sure, FIFA, who is just now discussing the testing of technology that actually proves whether a goal was scored will adopt these ideas immediately).
Skills Challenge: If the sport is adamant about some sort of penalty kick, than let’s improve it and not eliminate it. Forget the goalies. If we don’t need defensemen, we don’t need goalies. Let’s instead put in place a wall (a real Berlin-like wall, not a bunch of guys hold their junk) that covers the majority of the net. In the open spots, we place targets of various size with various point totals – smaller, more out of the way targets worth more. Each player gets one shot at the target of their choice. Team that tallies the most points wins. Do I propose this solely because I know my Gunners could do well at it? No comment.
Corner Kicks: Taking college football as inspiration, rather than one-on-one penalty kicks, let’s instead give each team an opportunity to score in the flow of a regular game – just with some small level of advantage to make it easier. College football gives each team the ball on the 25 yard line. For soccer, we will instead give each team a corner kick and then a short period of time after the kick to try and score (say 1 minute). If they don’t, then play is stopped and the other team gets 1 minute started with a corner kick. Each team takes turns until a team scores and the other fails in response. I expect a royalty check from David Beckham if this is adopted and it guarantees him a spot on the English national team or a Premier League team bench.
The Power Play: Another college football inspired one. This time rather than starting with a corner kick, the offensive team starts at mid-field with 7 men (no goalie or defenders) but the defense plays with 6 men. A man advantage and a more wide open game. Each OT session would be played in 2 minute increments with each team getting 2 minutes of man-advantage offense. And no, Sir Alex, you don’t get 3 minutes just because you are ManUnited.
Human Fooseball: The biggest concern about soccer extra time would seem to be players running themselves to exhaustion in endless overtimes, if neither team is able to score. So, in this system, long beams are strung across the field every 20 yards at about 8 feet of height. Players hang (probably in some sort of harness) and try to slide across the beam to kick the ball. They can move laterally across the field on their beam but can’t move forward or backward (just like regular fooseball players). Beside, resting the weary legs of players, it would open an entire new coaching position on each team for guys who spent too much time in college smoking pot and playing fooseball. This alone might solve the European economic crisis.
WAG Pageant: Let’s face it in a sport where Peter Crouch and Bastian Schweinsteiger can attract beautiful mates, FIFA is really missing out on exploiting one of the best assets they have – the WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends for those of us without a subscription to Grazia). Well, if we can’t play endless extra time because players might collapse quicker than the Greek economy, than it is time for the WAGs to earn their astronomical shopping budgets. Throw a catwalk at mid-field and let 5 chosen WAGs from each side strut their stuff. Winners chosen by a panel of experts. A panel to which I humbly suggest I should have a permanent position.
It’s the least FIFA could do for the guy that fixes their game.
Sepp, I await your call. You are welcome.