One of the theses put forward — sometimes expressed in this way, sometimes in that way — is that the position on the pitch where an action to be judged takes place becomes indispensable for the referee to be able to assess foul or non-foul (it is hardly different in the case of questionable handball). The closer one of the goals is, the better the team on defence does in the decisions made.
As might be expected, this statement is vehemently questioned – if you hear it for the first time and are not yet through with this text. The referees themselves are likely to object to it – in the first instance – but there will probably also be direct resistance in the form of: “That can’t be right. For this statement, too, a popular reader or listener conceded only these two possibilities, which could later be subdivided (once): a) either already heard or b) automatically wrong. Point a) was then subdivided into “already heard, I share the opinion” or “already heard, but I see it differently”.
Now, on the one hand, one could simply dig up a few examples and ask the doubter how he would judge these scenes himself! Presumably, it would even be possible to reach an agreement that “there was no foul on the striker”, since it was “not a foul at all”, while in the other situation the agreement would automatically sound: “It was in the penalty area, it was also a foul, it should have been a penalty, but it wasn’t, it was a mistake”. Only he could at the same time point out that there were x other examples, which he would then have to serve up in turn: “Do you still remember the scene in the Cologne – Hoffenheim game, when the penalty for 1-1 was more than questionable?” (score, questionable action: freely invented).
No, it would be pointless to open such a discussion; this would still belong to the regulars’ tables. The suggestion made here is as follows: a number of scenes would have to be picked out, which can be chosen freely, but as richly as possible and so objectively that no tendency would already be represented, all of them scenes in which one could at least think about foul or not or handball or none (and/or it was actually decided that way). The “picking out” alone is perhaps a responsible task, — one could make a few guidelines of a standardising nature and thus make the task easier — however, this is still far from being the central suggestion.
Incidentally, it would have to be taken into account in the selection that these are not generally known scenes from the recent past, which would then be judged “correctly” on the basis of recognition. So, if possible, a selection would have to be made from seasons long past, from smaller leagues or from guaranteed unknown (because insignificant) scenes.
The proposal, which is supposed to produce the presumably surprising results, only follows on from this. Here it comes at last: after the scenes have been selected with general consensus, they would only have to be edited video-technically to the effect that the location of the action is made unrecognisable. In other words, only the duel itself should be assessed (alternatively the handball, in such critical selected scenes), but it should not be recognisable where the action took place.
The idea is obvious: the referees themselves should now make their judgement: in this scene, a whistle necessary, conceivable, inappropriate, definitely incorrect? In the next one, the same questioning. Of course, the congruence is then checked: how high is the degree of congruence with the decisions actually made in the respective scene?
The problem, however, is likely to be immediately apparent in this kind of “post-decision” – and thus directly illustrate the transfer aspect: the respondents would feel quite clearly that it is hardly possible to come to a correct judgement without knowledge of the location. Or they would know how to help themselves in this way: “I also recognise that that was not a foul, but I suspect that it was the action of a striker on a defender, to that extent I wisely decide for foul.”
The conviction itself – thus providing the proof – would logically come out by the fact that there was a low degree of agreement between decisions made in the game and the “correct” decisions later assigned to the scenes. Further proof would be: the defenders performed much better than they should have. Their scenes, which were often assessed as fouls in retrospect – “uninfluenced” by the unrecognisability of the location – were often allowed to pass in the game, while conversely “alleged” forward fouls assessed in the game would not be assessed as fouls in retrospect.
Now, one would first have to agree that this is a “permissible, representative experiment” with which meaningful results can be achieved. That alone would be a little questionable whether everyone would sign off on it. Because there is already enough material for discussion here: how is the selection made, to what extent could it be guaranteed that the scenes are not known after all and insofar the decision is made by recognition, furthermore, of course, whether it should not play a role how the situation came about (and not just where!). As soon as one would see the corresponding passport (because it is regarded as belonging to the assessment), one would already receive information as to where it could have been and would therefore have an undesirable additional assessment criterion. Ultimately, the question arises as to whether mistakes are simply part of the game and then whether certain deviations (between decisions assigned to the scene in retrospect and those made in the game) should not be tolerated or at what point a deviation would have the assumed “critical character”, i.e. to what extent a kind of “proof” would be provided.
In this respect, one could leave the proposed idea as a pure thought experiment and try to anticipate the reactions in this way.
The proposal would initially look like this: in the case of critical foul scenes (hand games always remain similar), the perspective is simply switched in the discussion. Here it is suggested to imagine that the players, involved in the duel, would swap roles. The attacker is the defender and the defender is the attacker. What would the assessment then be? How would one see it oneself if the roles were reversed?
A quite curious effect is produced. This is an arbitrarily unreal but frequently observed example: a striker is said to have gained irregular access to the ball. There is perhaps even minimal contact visible. The whistle sounds, the attacker, of course an excellent actor, shakes his head, thereby more or less (but, as a good actor, “knowingly”) wanting to make believe “what is it supposed to have been now?”, while the defender, shortly before having gone down rather as if struck by lightning, has exposed the “foul player” as such, jumps up, insults him and goes after him viciously. “What are you doing here? Were you trying to score a goal or something? Nah, that’s not how it works here!”
The scene plays out almost more often like this: A duel between an attacker and a defender, a running duel, whatever. The defender raises his arms to indicate that he is doing “nothing at all”. The striker just wants to get the ball somehow – and he even succeeds. He gets relatively free and would have a chance to set his sights on goal. The whistle sounds. The attacker is horrified, hands in front of his face, shaking his head: “What could I have done now?
Question for the jury: which of the two is the good actor, which the bad one? Or does it balance out? The claim here: both are basically not “acting” at all. The defender’s gesture indicates that he is well aware that he is somehow working at the limit, but that the referee should please let it stand and not interrupt, that he should call a foul. This is not acting, it is an intuitive gesture that has proven itself through experience and observation.
The attacker is not acting either. He has not done anything, but on the contrary, he has been worked over in a borderline manner – although it does happen that the attackers then pay back in kind, which would obviously have to be “equal coin” — but he still wins the duel. Only then he is forbidden to continue playing. Then you are horrified, put your hands in front of your face and shake your head – knowing full well that any further words would immediately earn you a yellow card. Don’t question the referee’s omnipotence any further.
The suggestion to get closer to the statements in order to test the truth of the original thesis: imagine the first scene in a role reversal. The defender would have touched the attacker just as minimally, recognisably without any need or reason for him to go to the ground, which he does. Immediately you know: that’s not possible. What was he doing there? Was he trying to get a penalty in this clumsy way? Absurd! The referee sees no alternative. He goes straight at the attacker in exactly the same way as the opposite player would have done before. That is a yellow and nothing else.
If you do this repeatedly, i.e. if you regularly imagine these scenes in a role reversal, then you will definitely not be able to do otherwise, at the latest from the fifth scene onwards you will realise: there are double standards here. An action which the attacker commits on the defender is a foul without any ifs and buts and a “swallow” by a defender has never existed, that is a fact. Because: although he goes down just as theatrically, in the difference merely with considerably less foul than the other way round, the assessment “faking a foul committed on me” would not be an offence recorded in the rulebook if a defender does it. This is only foreseen for the disgraceful striker’s behaviour, as he had the dishonourable scoring of a goal in mind.
If you hear another expert saying that being a striker is a hard job because you always have to dig in and go where it hurts, then the core of the statement is correct somewhere, but it is far from being to the point.
The only thing that hurts is the permanent injustice of a one-sided kind, but also the unpunished foul play here and there, which occasionally even leaves out sensitive body parts. It’s true that you have to hit yourself, but you never get the whistle on your side for comparable “offences”, but basically not even for much less serious offences committed against you compared to those you commit against your opponent. Even worse, which the striker is supposed to have committed: there was nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a touch, but the defender, realising the hopelessness of other measures, simply goes down – and gets a whistle as a reward! Instead of, alternatively – in an ideal world – the goal against AND a yellow for feigning foul play.
Because this would not be absurd at all either. Initially, the striker could not be stopped, the initially still borderline legal means exhausted, now the pretence of foul play, because, in an attempt to grab the attacker, with the ultimate action of running into his heels from behind (sometimes even running after him), he cannot be stopped, despite the obstruction, moves on, has the goal in front of him, and also sinks the ball – under conditions that continue to be difficult, because the obstruction costs strength, concentration, tenths of seconds that could be missed. Great action, a goal. But now back to you, my friend, in the defender’s position: what was that all about? Did you want to deprive the so many neutral friends of football of a goal situation, to prevent a possible goal, using all – emphasis: ALL, including illegal – means? No, an emergency stop would result in a red card. An attempted emergency stop, shall we be lenient and include the unsuccessfulness of the intention as a penalty-reducing factor? Well, yes, no, er, no, er, why actually? Red card! Goal conceded AND red? Maybe the next defender will think a second longer about the use of illicit means to rob the spectators of joy in the form of goal thwarting?
It may sound exaggerated, but would it even be justifiable within the framework of general jurisdiction? In the past, it was said to children: Punishment is a must! The reason: another, similar or even identical, violation of the rules should be avoided for all time, and not be dismissed as a kind of trivial offence and happen again and again for one’s own benefit or pleasure. And that only works if the punishment is noticeable.
The change in thinking per goal situation is one of the central demands voiced here. One would be amazed at what these attackers would have to offer you, also in terms of beauty in pure actions, ball-technical skills, shots or tricks that you previously only got to see in training. Provided that they were not permanently prevented from doing so by the law. Whereby the boundaries are merely oriented to the “common sense” to the “state of the art” of evaluation, to the players’ previous experience of how similar situations are usually evaluated. They are by no means behaving “maliciously” but rather “cleverly”, subordinated to the required thinking and acting for success, and at the same time respecting the current interpretation of the rules. From the players’ point of view, the following applies here: “A foul is when the referee blows the whistle and not when I commit one. And furthermore: if it brings more benefit than harm, it was undoubtedly beneficial to the team’s success and my team-mates and my coach as well as the fans will thank me for it. No matter if it was, or if it was, how underhanded.
It should also be noted that the referees would most likely instantly refuse to participate in such an experiment, should they actually be confronted with such a task. Perhaps understandably, but nevertheless, the refusal alone would provide the certain information, giving the assumed direction: there is a lot of truth to the statement that actions are evaluated depending on the position on the field.
There are, of course, a few practical examples to offer in this regard, in which one is also invited to think: what was the cause of the decision that was made in this way — but later found to be wrong?
A very illustrative example should be given at this point only an inserted example (which are otherwise outsourced) : on 21.1.2012 in the match 1. FC Kaiserslautern – Werder Bremen (final score 0:0) this action occurred after 23 minutes: a good cross from the half field comes into Kaiserslautern’s penalty area, first a Rosenberg from Werder hits the post with a good header, the rebound comes back to him, he doesn’t hit the ball correctly, however, it becomes the perfect template for Sebastian Prödl, who would only have to manoeuvre the ball over the line with his head from a few metres, as the goalkeeper, due to the expected follow-up shot, is standing on the other side of the goal. The accidental shot comes high to Prödl, who is tall himself, and he goes towards the ball with his head, neither jumping nor lowering his head, so the ball is probably about 1.80 metres high. In this attempt, however, instead of the ball itself, he finds a defender’s foot, which flies into the middle of his face.
He goes down, badly hit. The other Werder attackers protested vehemently and immediately threw up their arms, but out of concern for their team-mate they immediately went to the “scene of the accident” to tend to the severely bleeding Prödl. Prödl had much more than just the immediately recognisable broken nose. It was also a fracture of the upper jaw.
Everyone agreed immediately: it should have been a penalty kick and a red card. Mentioned in the Sky summary at the time that “the referee had a clear view”. Nevertheless, there was no reaction. The Werder officials were naturally beside themselves (Schaaf made no comment at all, sporting director Allofs recommended that the referee have an eye test), the law on their side. But what use is that to them?
This scene alone would be “proof” that there is something wrong with foul actions in the penalty area, but of course rule officials would still talk about “a regrettable individual case” here. “Although he was in a favourable position, the seriousness of the offence escaped him”. Shouldn’t happen, but can happen.
Furthermore, all the apologies from acrobat Kouemaha (the one who easily brought his foot up to the 1.80 metre height, while only having ROUND in view, whether face or ball), which trickled in later, are to be regarded as flimsy. Not because he is malicious or a particularly conspicuous foul player. No, only because his motive is a universally recognised one. More on this later.
First of all, the change of perspective is encouraged here – and if you get used to this changed perspective, then at some point you can’t help but put yourself in this position again and again in comparable situations.
The scene you would have to call up in your mind’s eye would be this: the same cross sails into the penalty area, the header also hits the post, the rebound comes back to the shooter, he fires his shot, everything as before. The only difference is that in the following scene, the defender is the one who is standing more favourably to the ball and wants to head it out of the danger zone a few metres from his own box, when suddenly an attacker from the side breaks his nose bone and jaw with a side kick.
Here now, without a doubt – favourable or unfavourable refereeing angle — that there would have been an immediate red and a free kick. An outcry, so to speak, even through the Werder stadium, but much more through the entire nation and even neighbouring nations and those further away would get wind of it: something very bad has happened. A one-year ban or much more would be discussed, rule changes, civil suits, everything around it. Because: the motive of the attacker is NOT the recognised one.
The attacker would have to say, just as “flimsy”: “Yes, what? I just wanted to score a goal?” “Yeah, what’s up?” He would be countered. “Just score a goal like that? This is a defender’s zone and we don’t like goals at all. Off you go! Jail!”
The defender, on the other hand, who does nothing of lesser or greater value, says: “Well, I just wanted to prevent a goal?” “Oh, well then, no, ok, we can let that stand.” Because just imagine: a goal here, a goal there, where would you get?
In principle, this is what happened not only in this scene. It is what happens permanently. The goal-preventers have the right of way. They pursue noble intentions, while the attackers just want to “cheat” goals somehow.
You even hear in the comments when a rough foul happens on the halfway line: “How can he go DA like that?” That means: on the halfway line, where there is no recognisable danger of a goal being scored, you can’t allow yourself to get involved like that, can you? If he had done the identical same boarding in the defensive area, what would be the logical alternative explanation? “Here he HAD to go like that, because otherwise there might have been a goal.”
A word about the referee in the Prödl scene (which could possibly also be a selected one for the proposed experiment): it is by no means a problem that he did not recognise a rough tackle. It’s just that in the same (tenth of a) second he is not 100% sure whether a penalty MUST be given here. As soon as there remains a residual percentage of doubt about the justification against a penalty kick, which only admits the possibility that it could be called afterwards, even just as a question, “but was that really a penalty kick?”, then he already decides to rather not give it (applies to this, but also infinitely many others).
Enough evidence? Enough evidence?