Every other weekend… every (other? other?) weekend there are a bunch of so-called “upsets”. How are these subdivided, what are the categories of “upsets”? Has the paying spectator already become so jaded by a constant barrage of reporters that he or she is no longer interested in such questions, that he or she simply accepts the “getting excited” and has to be persuaded that “after all, it’s always been like this” and “these emotions are part and parcel of football” and finally even that “it wouldn’t be any fun without these constant upsets”?
Well, all this is questioned by the author. First of all, he puts forward the theory that justice in football would be a gain in any case – if it were to happen. So far, we certainly received both agreement and applause, but we immediately heard these objections from the other side: “They’re trying”, “mistakes happen”, “you are and will remain a dreamer”, “it all evens out”, “it doesn’t matter”, “one week they get upset, next week they cheer again” or “I know, I know, it just doesn’t work”. Just to name a few.
Yes, it does. There are a lot of approaches with which one can first try to classify the “exciters”. Then you can examine them individually. And one can ask oneself what the intention of each participant is and to what extent this intention is “unfair”. And you can also ask what action would actually be a punishment in the sense of “if you break the rules, you and your team will be worse off as a result than if you hadn’t”. That is a claim from pedagogy and it already existed when the word “pedagogy” did not even exist.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in football, the simple logic is suspended, so “crime don’t pay” is transformed into “crime DOES pay.” Delay when you’re in the lead. Helps. Commit a “tactical foul” because you get a yellow but it’s much less bad than letting the striker go. Foul or play hand if you have to, as long as you don’t concede a goal. Now and then, it is even worthwhile to make an emergency stop and get a red card for it, but still help your team to get the result it was hoping for. All these means are recognised and implemented on a daily basis and accepted by the whole world. Although the “upset” was still there. Your head turned red, you were angry, you cursed, you booed, you threw cups, you were ready to climb over the fence and you would have preferred to lynch both referee and opponent directly – if you had the opportunity. Even if that’s going quite far? But the feelings are there. And is that why you watch football? No, you just can’t accept that. There are injustices, and there are plenty of them, and there is no one to do anything about it. That’s exactly why these emotions are stirred up.
The expression “that’s not a foul worthy of a penalty” was put into the world one day. Whoever did that found many, many imitators who all found it “expressed exactly right” and who constantly refer to it. All those who use the expression almost daily do not seem to realise that they have “betrayed” both themselves and football. They have betrayed themselves by confirming and even subscribing to the statement that the author has already made many times: “Different rules apply in the penalty area” and “all these interpretations of the written rules are in favour of the defensive lines”. Of course, this is always accompanied by the thought that the very thing that makes football so beautiful – namely the goals – are thus prevented again and again. The fact that the fans (who are the only ones left to watch a game over 90 minutes; the neutral spectator is no longer to be found; he has long since turned away because of the multitude of injustices that have triggered the shaking of heads and anger and which one then gladly foregoes in order to witness them and to get that) get upset and feel this huge injustice is then simply interpreted to them as “understandable” but ultimately “partiality”. Besides, it would go in their favour again next week, the same injustice would give THEIR team the victory, and so they shouldn’t be like that. But they are. And very, very rightly so.
Whether the contradiction in the phrase “not worthy of a penalty” needs further elucidation? Well, yes. One would know very well what the person betraying himself with the statement would directly put forward, if one were to confront him with precisely this contradiction or agreement with the statement made (whistles are made AGAINST the goals, AGAINST the attackers, AGAINST football). The simple “conviction” is made with this simple logic: “If you classify the scene as NOT a foul worthy of a penalty, then surely you have admitted that it was a foul, just added an extra adjective to it to justify ignoring it?” Let’s just break the sentence down like this, “It was a foul.” “Yes, I agree, but what kind of foul was it?” A NOT ELSE foul.” “Ah, so. So there are different kinds of fouls. One of them is of the nature that there is no penalty for it despite the offence being recognised?”
The response would be this, “Yes, no, er, so it’s not a penalty. That’s what I was trying to say.” Or also: “You can’t give a penalty for that.” Or “that’s not enough for a penalty.” But all of these would be flimsy excuses. They would confirm exactly what the basic statement says. There WAS an action and there WAS an action to be assessed and there WOULD have been a foul whistle for this action if it had not been in the penalty area.
WHY can’t you give a penalty? For what was not to be assessed at all? For something that didn’t even happen? A cross pass on the halfway line: “You can’t give a penalty for that.” Correct. But you wouldn’t say that here. There’s no corner kick for that either. “That’s not enough for a penalty.” This foul or what is not enough? “If you give penalties for that, then there’s twenty penalties in the game.” Right. Or not. Because: the defenders would have to “learn” what you can and can’t do. They HAVE learned something. Only they would have to relearn. Because: up to now they HAVE BEEN allowed to treat almost all the rules in the penalty area in the same way as the opponents: by trampling them underfoot. And it always works out in their favour. If they knew that the rules were meant exactly the way they used to be meant, then they would also get used to them. You can call it “the way they are interpreted”, because you don’t have to change a single letter. You could just add, as ridiculous as it would be, “We’ve written down the rules and from tomorrow we’re going to make sure they’re followed.”
It would benefit football, it would benefit the spectator, it would benefit justice. It would provide goals, because from one day to the next the attackers could suddenly hold their own in a duel and because you could see what you enjoy so much, namely being able to watch good footballers playing football instead of the defenders who have all the advantages on their side and can only do one thing and are allowed to do that, namely prevent football.