1) Preliminary considerations 1
Apart from offside, the penalty decisions are the most important to support, verify and derive the basic statement. It is about increasing the attractiveness of football by increasing the number of goals, using only the existing rules. The assertion remains that the tendency of interpretation against the attackers is reflected especially in offside and penalty decisions. The theses put forward are all daring and will initially, on first reading, meet with tremendous resistance. However, it is precisely here that one is reminded of the two possible techniques of proof that should first be employed before the rejection of the assertions is rubber-stamped.
The first “technique” is that – also analogous to the offside – of carrying a statistic of critical decisions. In this sense, any decision that causes discussion is considered “critical”. On every match day, the sports programme runs a number of scenes over and over again, with slow-motion replays from all perspectives and subsequent expert assessment: “Was that one or was that one not? Now we are asked to count only those decisions where the unanimous verdict is: “That was one”. Or “That was not one.” The assessment is made by the experts, and it is clear. Each of these situations, where the judgement is unambiguous, is now compared with the decision made in the game. Only those situations are counted in which these two judgements differ. This one was not a goal, but it was given, or this one was a goal, but it was not given. As soon as these statistics are available – and here comes the first risk of a thesis: the divergent judgements from the situations “this was one, but it was not given” will vastly outweigh those “this was not one, but it was given. – one can begin to think about this.
The author has already done this work and written down his thoughts. There must be causes, there is no question about that. But the statistics should first be confirmed, because a specially created one – with a postulated but only estimated result of 10:1 against the attacking party, i.e. a clear superiority for justified penalties that were not awarded in the game – would at least be very questionable, especially since the intuition, “that was a clear penalty” , although the experts have decided on “may decision”, would enter here. Incidentally, the “may-decisions” should also be counted, as they could very well serve to support theses. “He could have given” but he didn’t, versus “could have given” and he did.
The second evidence technique is that of cutting together a few random, critical foul scenes. Of course, with a certain goal in mind: it’s about proportionality, which means that some of the scenes take place inside the penalty area and some outside. So it results in a motley mix of fouls in which one or many, preferably referees — since they should have the best judgement — but other experiment participants are also welcome, are supposed to judge the situation: Was there foul play or not. Simple task: foul or no foul. Since there is no distinction in the rules as to where the scene takes place, the small complication that is now added should not actually be one. For the scenes are played in full – but not up to the referee decisions of course, only the scenes — but without a view of the place on the pitch. This means that goals and lines would have to be retouched away. You can’t tell if it’s near the goal, near the penalty area, in midfield or in your own penalty area. Nevertheless, the experts should be able to recognise what is a foul and what is not. Here it was a hold, a tug, a shove, there it was a leg-hold, here it was a run-on, there it was a block.
Then the decisions made by the assembled (one is enough) experts are compared with those made in the game. How often do the decisions made coincide, how often are there discrepancies?
Of course, there is no question that discrepancies will occur. There are human errors that the referee makes in the game, there are plain oversights, awkward angles and whatever. But the question that is really being asked is: How often has a foul been recognised in retrospect that was not penalised in the game because the scene took place in the penalty area? In order to make this “error frequency” – which of course has its own cause to be investigated, as above – obvious, random scenes have been cut together here. The experts called upon to judge are not supposed to answer the question of whether it was a penalty, but only whether it was foul play. Since the scene can occur in all areas of the field – but not specifically in the penalty area – one is forced to be objective. As soon as one recognises the problem (as shown later), one will probably no longer engage in the experiment. However, this would also support the theses.
2) Preliminary considerations 2
The penalty kick is basically the greatest of all goal chances. It is true that there is often enough talk in the game about a “one hundred per cent chance of scoring”, but this expression is in itself contradictory. Because as soon as you hear it, you know that the chance has been missed, because otherwise the word combination would not be used but the statement would be “there is the goal to…”. The absurdity only becomes fully apparent when one considers that the logical statement of the partial sentence “one hundred per cent chance” is of exactly the same significance as “it is a goal”. Indeed, 100% is impossible to miss; it denotes solely the occurrence of the event. On the other hand, the truth is that the chance referred to with this reporter’s comment was certainly a very clear one, but it rarely reaches the size of the scoring chance of a penalty. And at that, the chance of converting a penalty is “only” about 75%. Nevertheless, the moment the penalty whistle is blown and the gesture is unambiguous – i.e. the whistle blower unmistakably points to the mystified spot – the tension for the spectators automatically reaches a special high. This alone would be enough to realise how valuable and significant such situations are for the entire game of football, in which it is precisely this work here that attempts to show that an increase in the same would have to ensure that spectators are so spellbound more often. Critically, however, it contributes to the fact that the circumstances have to be very special for one to be able to enjoy this rare pleasure.
A decisive thesis derives from this: the penalty kick is the only penalty that can actually be considered as such. Because: In a football match today, the game situation before the whistle is practically never even close to being as favourable as the one after the whistle. The attacker has created a goal-scoring opportunity. (The extent to which this is the only one is discussed in more detail in the section “What is a penalty?”).
This leads on to the second essential thesis, which, however, when expressed, involves a high risk: The referee does not want to give a penalty. Every argument that could speak against it is considered back and forth five times until the chance for the whistle is lost. Only if there is no other way is there a penalty. Surely outrage, but this thesis can and will be well proven.
Even more daring is the thesis that a penalty has to be earned with great effort. It is therefore not a question of foul or no foul. If you have one questionable situation, you don’t get it anyway. If you have the second, still not. If you have the third one, the man occasionally softens up, provided that party is not yet in the lead and/or the course of the game is clearly in favour of the party for which he would have to be imposed.
In order to bring this chain of provocative statements very gradually closer, some prejudices will have to be set aside. One sees, then, with calm and deliberation….
1) For foul play in the penalty area: penalty kick?
The game of football was officially introduced about 150 years ago, with the first rules and the first competitions. Yes, in the mother country of football, that’s why it’s called that, England. Since 1891, so today, 2010, for just under 120 years, the penalty kick has existed, as you may like to convince yourself on Wikipedia. For just under 100 years, it has been taken in a fairly uniform manner. There were certainly simple, good reasons why the attacking team was given such a monstrous chance to score. In those days, there were guaranteed to be more goals than today. Logical consequence and cause at the same time: There were often attackers who stood around quite freely in the opponent’s penalty area and showed the intention of wanting to sink the ball into the goal at the next moment. Then there were soon sneaky defenders who thought of doing something to counter this intention. After it had been established on a number of occasions that unfair means had been used to this end, which simply prevented a clear goal situation – further thought often clear goals – it was agreed that such behaviour was undesirable and accordingly punishable. At that time, there was certainly absolutely no thought about possible inconsistencies that might arise later. They drafted the rule paragraph which read: “In the case of foul play in the penalty area, a one-time situation is granted in which an attacker is given the chance to take an unobstructed shot from 11 metres directly on goal. All other players — except the shooter and goalkeeper — shall remain outside the penalty area until the ball is touched. The goalkeeper may (note: until 1902 and again since 1997) only move on the goal line before taking the shot, but may not leave it.”
This is certainly a more than sensible rule, which is still valid today. However, there are certainly some modern observations to be made, at least to scrutinise the rule and its application today, and even to present possible alternatives. Please bear in mind that we are talking about a time in which many games are decided by a single goal, i.e. a penalty kick awarded is equivalent to a match decider in many cases.
a. General considerations
In general – as mentioned above – the penalty is the only penalty that in most cases nowadays is an enhancement of the previous goal opportunity. Only the very rare cases where a defender intentionally prevents the ball from crossing the goal line with his hand, or a striker strives alone towards the empty (!) goal and the goalkeeper, rushing after him, actually fouls him. Otherwise, in practically every situation, the scoring of a goal would be in the far(er) distance, but due to a penalty whistle it would be imminent. On the other hand, the gigantic increase in the size of the scoring chance has the negative effect that it makes the referee extremely reluctant to award this penalty. Again, the argument is psychological and intuitive. But here, too, it is difficult to escape this argumentation, especially since there are statistical means to verify this.
Often enough one hears the comment “you can’t give a penalty for that”. Should we supplement this with “…as much as one would like to”? Because one would not like to. Comparable to the offside decisions, here, too, the concern prevails to have a penalty whistle sounded, to have made it 1:0, to have decided the game and to be confronted afterwards with the analysis: “That was never a penalty. And that, as with offside, would be very, very serious. When in doubt, you decide: don’t blow the whistle.
A statistic as evidence would also be useful here. This would be set up as follows: How often have the post-match analyses confirmed the view that there should have been a penalty here, which was not given, and, in comparison, how often was one given that was deemed to be incorrect in retrospect?
The claim is clear and, as long as the statistics are not kept, had better not be doubted: The ratio would be as shocking as that relating to offside decisions. There would be a clear swing to the disadvantage of the attacking party.
Why, by the way, is it not being conducted? Despite the certain digression: Again, the argumentation remains intuitive, at this point it becomes almost cheeky: even the reporters would be afraid to see it. Somehow there is this consensus that a penalty should only be awarded for very special offences. Precisely for the intuitively pointed out reason that the penalty is almost always seen as too harsh, because if the offence had not taken place there would have been no goal, and now, because of the penalty kick awarded there is a goal in about 75% of cases.
The penalty is perceived as too harsh, so people agree if it is not awarded “just like that”. Often enough you hear, “That’s not enough for a penalty.” for a (foul) action where there would have been absolutely no discussion in midfield about the justification for the whistle.
The alternative evidence technique that is particularly applicable here is that of watching the foul situation to be judged without a view of the lines and the goals, and then playing it to referees. They would struggle to be right from time to time and would soon be forced to justify themselves. “Was that a foul?” “Yes, it was,” “but there was no whistle for it in the game, because it would have been a penalty.” “Oh, aha, maybe he didn’t see?” The only thing is: if the scenario repeats itself, it starts to become critical: constantly overlooking something? Surely something is wrong?
Incidentally, the problem has long been recognised in England. The comment there – albeit still without recognition of the cause – is “anywhere else, thats a foul. In the area, it’s not, Why?” (anywhere else, that would be a foul, in the penalty area, it’s not, Why?).
There is another point which, if looked at closely, lends itself to the exposure of referees. You quite often see situations where foul play takes place very hard on the edge of the penalty area. If the whistle man recognises this, he is decidedly relieved, hurries to the “scene of the crime” – namely, exactly on the line – and one may still eagerly listen to a naïve reporter’s commentary that a) “the scene of the crime was moved outside” and b) that “the defenders were lucky here, because actually the offence was inside.” The man in black … decides on a free kick.
Well, they were not lucky insofar as, if the offence had been committed only half a metre further on, there would have been a “wave on”, a “play on” as a decision – which would then, however, also have had nothing to do with luck, only for other reasons — and furthermore the “luck” was on the side of the attackers, as they thus at least received a free kick, and otherwise – action further forward — would have received nothing at all.
b. Historical development
Well, at the time of the introduction of the rule, one should assume that foul play was the exception and that the fouling player was looked at crossly, as he had violated the originally most important rule of fair play. It was more of a moral debt that the man incurred. Later, foul play was certainly used deliberately at some point as the competitive nature of the clashes increased, in order to thwart a (great) goal-scoring opportunity. As soon as this became conspicuous and there was no real remedy apart from the evil eye, someone considered a compensatory (!) penalty to be appropriate: The man was fouled in a promising position, the person committing the foul ruined a clear chance, now there is another goal-scoring chance replacing this one. Since there were certainly more goals in those days, there was no need to worry, not even on the part of the referee. A goal like that, a goal like that. All was well.
When it became apparent in much later times that with a skilful dribble in the penalty area – even without a direct approach to goal – you could occasionally find a leg to trip over, the chance was recognised that you could sneak a much bigger, a huge scoring opportunity in this way. In the days of little TV monitoring and no referee observers, this was used in exactly the same way as offside decisions: The home team could “flay” and get it, the away team – apart from the fact that they were probably much less often in front, in the opponent’s penalty area – did not get it. The referee felt protected in the home team’s stadium and acted in the interests of the spectators. There were several critical and also wrong decisions, which even had a quite uniform tendency: Pro home team. However, they were far from being against scoring goals. The home team got one too many, the away team one too few.
Today it is quite different. The referees are monitored, the foul situations are accurately recorded by cameras from all sides. The swallow kings can be unmasked, but so can the tomato referees. But the same applies as with offside situations: If you don’t give a penalty although it would be justified, relatively little happens to you. “Yes, he should have given it, he didn’t see”, and so on. But the game is decisive? It couldn’t have been. There wasn’t even a goal! See above. The decisive mistake is the one that leads to a goal that should not have counted. Never the one where a goal could have been scored if…. These remain the arguments of the losers who do not want to accept their defeat. For the referee, there is a simple “rule”: when in doubt, no penalty. And even if there is no doubt, the inhibition threshold is extremely high and people are happy to give up. Consequences? None. “He was wrong here.” That was it.
Incidentally, this phenomenon has also long been recognised in England: “It is hard these days, to get a penalty.” (It is hard these days to get a penalty). Are we to assume that the defenders, especially in the most dicey of all zones, will become completely lamblike and well-behaved and adapt their usual defensive behaviour because of the fear of conceding a penalty, and accordingly no longer foul? On the contrary: they foul more and have hardly any consequences to fear. “You can’t give a penalty for that.” Thinking further, the sentence reads: “Because then it would be an almost certain goal, whereas as it was, it wasn’t even a goal-scoring opportunity. Never ever a penalty.” The defenders are reassured and take shameless advantage of the match officials’ graciousness, what else? Not for that, no, and not for that either, can’t, because there’s never been for that. Actually, there never is. Do what you want as a defender. Chop off a leg? Well, then it gets dicey. But otherwise?
c. The attacker would like to have a penalty kick
almost always, but does that mean that there should not be a penalty for foul play?
Here, too, a little psychological reasoning is required: The fact that an attacker, as soon as he enters the penalty area, almost always agrees to a foul and makes this obvious (!) is one side of the coin. The referee knows this very well. But on the other hand, does it mean that just because he knows that the striker would like to get the penalty, he should not award it even though the foul was recognised? Sure, the comment is often: “Yes, he wanted it” or “maybe he’ll get it if he doesn’t fall so theatrically” or even “he’s making too much of it”. But these comments have one thing in common: an illegal handicap has been recognised. Here, it’s all about the most skilful behaviour, how to get it awarded. The advice is abundant and varied, but the (mis)success remains the same. You don’t get it. Playing on is stupid, because it suggests to the whistle-blower that you weren’t fouled, gives him an alibi (the ref thinks: “Well, if he had been fouled, of course he would have fallen. So it was nothing.”). Dropping him is stupid, because it means that he’s being fouled. Shooting at goal would be quite stupid, because then “you already had your chance.” That he missed because of the foul? “Yeah, bad luck!” You don’t get a penalty. Ouch.
d. What is a “foul worthy of a penalty”?
While we’re on the subject of psychological arguments, we might as well include the reporters’ comments, which are often just standard phrases, but nevertheless have a significance as such. Where does the term “that was not a foul worthy of a penalty kick” come from? Feel free to reflect briefly on when you heard it and what you spontaneously think of it.
Well, it’s nothing cryptic, it’s just what one intuitively thinks, feels and then pronounces (comparatively unreflectively). If you take the rulebook into account, there is no distinction between foul play inside and outside the penalty area. There would be no reason to differentiate a foul play, if it were in the penalty area, from an action in the field. So if it wasn’t a foul, it would easily suffice to say, “That wasn’t a foul.” If it was a foul, and if it was assessed as such – of course only subjectively, intuitively recognised as such by the speaker at that moment – one would have to say: “It was a foul. Since it was a foul and the action was in the penalty area, it should be a penalty.” Finished the story.
The construction “that was not a foul worthy of a penalty” describes the following action, which is actually interpreted in this way, but which is not subject to even the slightest restriction by the rules: “It was a foul. I saw that. But since the action took place in the penalty area, there is no penalty for it. I know that from experience. And I’m right. The game is going on!”
The speaker recognises, the whistle blower obeys – or vice versa. There’s great agreement: “There’s no penalty for that. Haha, then there would be 20 penalties per game.”
Even Ewald Lienen as coach once realised: “I’ll have to check if it’s in the rules that you can’t get two penalties in one game.” His team had got one and deserved at least two more. However, if you say that as the coach of a team concerned, you are biased and therefore not heard.
At this point, I would like to add that the defenders are anything but primitive beings. They know very well what is allowed and what is not allowed, but they also know, based on some experience, what is punished and what is not. On the one hand, this leads to the daily observed and often enough irregular boarding, because it is not punished due to experience. If they were to experience a few times that there are penalties “for such things”, they would simply refrain from “such things”, not 20 penalties, but 20 additional exciting scenes (by the way, the 20 are exaggerated either way; the thesis comes from Berti Vogts).
e. Is there an alternative penalty?
So now experience has taught us that increasing the chance of scoring in very many cases stands in the way of penalising recognised foul play in the penalty area, provided one follows the argumentation up to this point. In the USA, a solution would be ready in a flash in such cases. The grievance is recognised – certainly also a question of ability, but given there – and the cause is investigated. A solution is needed, a solution is found, a solution is implemented. It is different with the dinosaur egg – which, by the way, can be moved as ponderously as the brachiosaur – which must not be touched under any circumstances. “Leave football as it is.” Emperor Franz has spoken. Annoying every day, lots of boredom, lots of injustice, never another really great game , but “leave it as it is.” After all, the egg is not broken yet.
At this point it may well and vainly be noted that for the author the finished plans have been lying in the cupboard since the age of 14, inspired by his father. Here’s an idea for a new rule: “In the event of foul play in the penalty area which does not prevent a clear goal situation, there shall be a short corner from the penalty area baseline touch position.” Alternatively, “…there is a free shot from 16 yards with no opponent in the way. Minor goal scoring opportunity thwarted, minor offence minor goal scoring opportunity in return. The other foul plays that prevent a clear goal scoring opportunity will still be penalised with penalties.
Ask the emperor. What will he say? “No, you can’t do that.” “Why not?” “Well, because football has always been like that.” “Oh, yes, that’s right. May I kiss your feet once, please?” Always been unfair, always will be unfair. That’s right. Can’t be that an egg is so stable?
f. The execution of today
The rules stipulate that when a penalty kick is taken, all players, except the kicker and the goalkeeper, must remain outside the marked area – the penalty area and an extra line around the penalty area, which has been set at a distance of 9.15 metres (=10 yards) from the penalty spot.
Even if this critical remark is of little relevance here: Why is it that today one can practically never observe a correctly executed penalty kick?
What is certain is that the players – this applies equally to attackers and defenders – run into the penalty area long before they touch the ball. Certainly, this is due to the understandable intention of being the first to reach the ball, provided it rebounds. But on the surface it should be possible to prevent this?
Usual psychological and philosophical objections result here: Even if the execution is practically never correct, it is difficult for the referee to distinguish who was the first to make the mistake. Everyone sinned, that is not the problem. Who was the first is the question? Since, in order to increase the complexity of the decision-making process, the result of the penalty kick would have to be taken into account, the man in black capitulates without further ado: if it was in, it’s a goal, if it wasn’t, the game goes on. That’s diplomatically simple, isn’t it?
There is a distinction to be made: Was it a goal and did the attackers enter the penalty area first? Then it would have to be repeated. Was the penalty kick blocked and did the defenders enter the penalty area first? Then it would have to be repeated.
Just brush the whistle-man’s skin for a moment: What if you whistle back a converted penalty where you clearly saw that a defender crossed the penalty area line first? There would be – for good reason – a lot of crying: “We score a goal, the other one makes a mistake. And that’s why the goal doesn’t count? Unbelievable!” The referee would have even applied the rule correctly. How complicated is this (football) world, anyway?
By the way: Goalkeepers also practically never abide by the rule of not being allowed to leave the line. At least one leg is always in front of the line at the moment the ball is touched. An additional factor to make it basically impossible for the referee to be right.
You can see that even a rule that seems so simple has a lot of pitfalls. Above all, the observation: Why has no one ever said anything about this? Football is what it is, and it has to stay that way. What are you worried about? Not about the emperor’s clothes but this time you’re quarrelling about his beard….
g. Is it a fair chance?
This consideration is also quite relevant, isn’t it? Why was a goal chance actually invented that gives a recognisable preference to one side? The goalkeeper, as is correctly pointed out, actually has nothing to lose. He is the clear underdog in the duel. He can do what he wants. If the ball hits him – no problem, there was nothing he could do. If he saves, he’s the match-winner and hero. Conversely, just one step harder, the position of the shooter: Put it in or be the loser.
Why not create a situation that gives both sides equal chances? It may be a philosophical digression, that may be so. “A penalty is a penalty. What do you want to do about it?” Maybe it would already be the case that there would be equal chances with a shot from 13 or 14 metres? It would be a possibility to try that out. Why not? Maybe the perceived tension would be quite different? Maybe it contributes to a perceived justice if one knew that both sides had equally much to lose here? That one would actually say “skilful” with this execution, just as with that save? Instead of giving this goalkeeper hero status, which he owes only to an accidental diving save in one direction instead of the other, but giving him the eternal stigma of a perpetual loser? Who always spontaneously comes to mind? Of course, Uli Hoeneß. Just because Germany failed to win a single penalty shoot-out. If it were based on equal chances, then we would know: one goes in, one does not. One is blocked, one is not.
Only due to the fact that the odds are clearly in favour of the striker, predicates have been invented that are taken out of thin air, and in principle stem from simple probability calculation. In truth, that shooter has only had the bad luck that inevitably hits you at some point, this goalkeeper the corresponding luck: not everyone can go in. Just because it is more likely, even known to the public, that he will go in, the expectations are raised to too high a level. Especially nowadays (2010) you often see enough strikers already high-fiving each other after the team has been awarded the penalty kick (deliberately, we are not talking about “taken” here, since the few that are actually awarded are almost always justified; only the knowledge that you have to overcome such abundant willpower resistance on the part of the referee to do so has made the phrase “taken” topical again). It reflects the exaggerated expectation: this will be a goal. Although statistically it only really succeeds in 3 out of 4 cases.
Incidentally, the USA also had an immediate contribution to make on this subject: the “penalty” was introduced there: An action in which a striker from 35 can strive alone with the ball towards the opponent’s goal and is given a total of 6 seconds to successfully score. A really great alternative to the penalty kick. First of all, the situations that arise are highly variable, regardless of any equality of opportunity. The goalkeeper can wait at the back for a long time or come towards him quickly. The striker can try to shoot early and placed or play around the goalkeeper. The action can take place far out or just in front of the goal. A gigantic variety of game situations in which an optimal strategy might develop only gradually, or perhaps never. Perhaps how one executes it is really only subordinate to individual skills?
For the spectators, this is a spectacle that promises far more excitement than the boring (and usually incorrect!) execution of a dull penalty kick. Is it really because the FIFA officials would find an additional line 35 metres in front of the goal “not so pretty” or “unusual”? In any case, another example: give the Americans, who are guided by the only relevant factor, the spectators’ interest, only a small chance to make an intervention – and it’s good. What if they were allowed to draft all the rules for half a year and the overall result could be examined – and adopted? Presumably the effect would be like that of this book: “It cannot be that there is something new and better which we (Platini, Beckenbauer, Pélé and Cruyff and consorts) have not yet considered.”
h. What if…
One must always keep in mind a general “rule”: It is enough for the defender to cause an action to fail in order to fulfil his task. For the striker, it is by no means enough to make an action succeed in order to force a goal. It is, so to speak, the necessary condition for anything to happen at all (except in the very few cases where unsuccessful defensive actions lead to a goal being conceded). If you consider this, you also know that the slightest obstruction of a striker – let’s deal with the question of irregularity later – is enough for him not to score a goal. So today you very often see actions in which the striker just before or during the finish only gets a very small body or leg touch – and already the successful finish is impossible. The strikers are prevented from making a fuss by the “swallow and yellow card” rule. Even the slightest twitch in the manner of “Hey, ref, he obstructed me” is left out, for reasons of acknowledged hopelessness coupled with caution worries reason. However, obstruction did take place. From this point on, it is a question of interpreting a rule.
Even here, it is worth looking a little deeper: of course, a single referee cannot apply his interpretation of the rules as he sees fit. In the case of such a minor obstruction, it is not possible to simply award a penalty, even if the obstruction was correctly recognised. In that case, the above statement “You can’t give a penalty for something like that” applies. The only difference is that the reasoning is supplemented somewhat by the consideration that “there has never been a penalty for something like that, so there can’t be one now either”. That is absolutely correct and part of the argument. Because it calls for a general rethink. It calls for a uniform interpretation of the rule, so to speak, but it should read, which is actually not a demand but the original formulation: if there is foul play in the penalty area, there is a penalty.
Incidentally, these obstructions are particularly conspicuous when strikers win headers. As soon as you turn your attention to it, it quickly becomes obvious. A striker is the first to the ball (already an exception as such, because nowadays an attacking team a) cannot afford to be outnumbered in the penalty area, b) has to deal with mostly more robust defenders who are especially selected for this and these c) also already have a clear advantage from the rules, since an obstruction of equal value on both sides is invariably interpreted as a forward foul, while d) the action also only takes on a countable character when “everything fits”), he even, as you can see, gets enough pressure behind the ball, but now, of all times, the small, so imperceptible push is almost regularly executed, which causes the ball to rise unexpectedly into the air. Was there something? Well, minimal, not even worth a slow motion. But if there was, one would realise that there was exactly the size of an obstruction that stood in the way of a successful finish. No one says anything, as no one is allowed to. “Normal duel toughness” and “Football is do keen cotton wool blowing” they say, and on they go. “No, football nix cotton-puffing, normal toughness, everything right, only I’m already gone and don’t want to see it any more. And who, if not me, is supposed to pay the fees for this pantiomkin theatre?”
Well, if penalties were now correctly awarded for every irregular action in the penalty area, what would the future look like? One opinion: The defenders would adapt their defensive behaviour to the knowledge that they must expect a penalty as soon as they foul. So: arms away from the man, use legs only when the ball can really be reached, and elbows in a header duel are an inadmissible part of the body for the duel. The men learn quickly. It’s like in kindergarten: misconduct, threatened penalty, renewed analogous misconduct, penalty executed, misconduct stopped. Takes about one and a half duels, and everything would be in order. “Ouch, what has that man done to football? Suddenly there are goals! And excitement! And excitement! And who wants that? Because I’m weak of heart!”
2) For handball in the penalty area: penalty kick?
In the case of handball, of course, many things apply that also apply to foul play: the referee does not want to give a penalty. So this handball is regarded as “unintentional” and that one as “shot”, the third one as “that wasn’t arm but rather upper arm” while the fourth one is simply dubbed “he must have missed that” – and is forgotten a few seconds later. In the newspaper you can read that “they were lucky that there was no penalty” and then you can talk about the miserable game, in which nothing happened and nothing exciting happened at all, except for the (ouch: “unjustified”) red card, after which the flow of the game was finally gone, once again very benevolently ignoring the fact that one is still in the process of sawing off parts of one’s own apparently so stable seat – the branch – on which one still finds sufficient support: “Football? Always has been. There always will be. No matter how bad the games are.”
The fact is that the defenders have long since made their experience here, too. It goes like this: “In the penalty area, you can actually have your arms where you want. If a ball goes against it, it’s the striker’s fault. And there are no penalties.” The defenders use this experience and essentially behave like handball goalkeepers. They don’t react consciously with their hands towards the ball, but play the jumping jack, widening their bodies in this way, hoping to prevent a successful goal. The touch is neither intentional nor deliberate. This is what today’s defenders do.
Even if you are sceptical about this polemic once again, observing it can very quickly give you the answers you need. If, for example, a striker hits a cross into the penalty area, it is now common in the industry for the defender to intervene with a straddle with his arm raised. The ball quite often flies against this arm. The whistle does not blow. The arm, it is mildly judged, was only touched by accident and there was no intention. It is also often the case that the defenders pretend to avoid the shot at the last moment, only they do not succeed. The arm is far from the body, also goes to the ball, but the movement alone, with which he indicates that he did not want to stop it at all, is enough for the referee to grant him the desired “extenuating circumstances”. I don’t need to blow the whistle. A very important sentence for a referee in the repertoire of interpretations: If I don’t blow the whistle, nobody will hurt me. There are enough justifications to save my head, if I were to be addressed at all.
The oversight does not exist. It’s pure fantasy. As a referee, you think about whether you could find some acceptable reason that this handball would not be irregular after all. And you find one, that’s almost certain. But if you don’t find one, then this failure to find one has taken up so much time that “now, of course, you can’t whistle.” Since the human mind is capable of working quite quickly, especially in emergency situations, this at least earns the whistle-blower the reporter’s insight: “Here he hesitated for a moment,” which in turn suggests to the (paying and milked, since he is being cheated) spectator that it was only a hair’s breadth past a penalty. Well, even in this crime thriller there would have been a corpse by a hair’s breadth — if the poisonous drink mixture had not been spilled by the potential victim at the last moment.
Quintessence: There is no penalty.
Swallows have become thoroughly disliked by footballers, especially by those who are addicted to the game, those sneaky attackers who are only interested in their own advantage, those attackers who constantly act unfairly themselves and then pretend to be innocent. This, and precisely this, was one of the last, but thickest thorns in the side of the FIFA officials. Swallows must be prevented at all costs. And this has been achieved. Yes, these charlatans, these enemies of true and fair competition have been relentlessly caught out. There are no more swallows! Hooray! Hurray for Sepp Blatter!
The fact is that the strikers are so intimidated that one of the following scenes has become commonplace: a striker is clearly fouled and, as usual, has the technique of cutting the scene without seeing the lines and the goals, without knowing where he is on the field, and playing it to the referees. But he also knows that it would be pointless to draw attention to this foul by theatrical falling. Because then there is guaranteed to be nothing. So he tries desperately to stay on his feet despite the clear foul. But if the foul was too serious, he does not succeed. So he stumbles, falls down. The intuitive intelligence of this player, however, immediately teaches him that – although following a recommendation from a commentator that he should not let himself fall so theatrically – that since he has continued to play, he has in turn clearly indicated that he has not been fouled at all. The logic behind this: If someone had been fouled, surely he would have fallen down to signal that to the ref and the world, right? Well, if he continues to play, it was certainly nothing.
But the scene is not over yet: the foul was committed on him, the attempts to stay on his feet and possibly claim the ball failed. The man has gone to the ground, Now that he has done so at the wrong time, he has finally forfeited his chance of being penalised in the form of a penalty. For his part, this realisation has also long since been intuitively gained. The striker decides as follows: “It is true that I was fouled and, because of this foul play, I also managed neither to claim the ball nor to stay on my feet, let alone to make a goal situation possible. Perhaps, however, if I behave very, very well now, I could be spared a yellow card and, what’s more – those who are very obsequious deserve a reward, don’t they? – Could I really get the corner kick to which I am minimally entitled in this case? I know very well that the defender didn’t hit the ball but only his leg, so the correct decision would be a penalty. I don’t get that anyway. In this respect, however, I have the chance — if I can make the opponent and the spectators believe that the defender did not play the leg but the ball, simply by holding back and getting up quickly — to get a corner kick?” In very rare cases, this behaviour is successful: the very good ones get a corner kick, the slightly less good ones just don’t get a yellow, in normal cases there is still a yellow. All that is right, isn’t it? Away with the swallows! Simply disgusting, this drudgery!
4) Where was the first action?
If one may still look at this phenomenon: Often there are actions in which the defender simply does not want to succeed – by alternating legal and illegal means and above all following an old coach’s instruction to please always foul in front of the penalty area — in stopping the striker, who evades every single foul play and inexorably enters the penalty area, but then, after the last foul play committed, really can no longer keep on his feet and falls. In this literal “case” the referee has the option, which relieves him, of penalising all possible foul play. Of course he has seen it. A foul is a foul and a penalty is a must. He blows the whistle, if possible quite early, and gives the …free kick…. of course, he refers to one of the outside foul plays.
In that case, it is so indifferent what the rules say. The possible excuses and explanations are so varied that no referee’s instructions could dissuade him from moving the scene of the offence outside. The simplest, by the way, is the one most often used: blow the whistle as long as the foul is still taking place outside, disregarding the fact that one may also recognise the striker’s breaking away and moving on, his unconditional will: you interrupt. The comments from all sides are relieving anyway: “He had already interrupted then” and ” he probably penalised the first foul play, no excitement (a very important sub-sentence, because one has to do justice to one’s responsibility towards the heart patients! If the referee then realises that it was a particularly unsportsmanlike tackle and that the attacker had held the ball until he entered the penalty area, i.e. the latter was about to score, he uses the last option that serves everyone’s good: he draws the yellow card! In doing so, he let everyone know why he blew the whistle. This foul simply had to be punished abruptly and spontaneously. You can’t put up with that. Proof: he has the card in his hand (immediately). And as an attacker, you can gladly do without a penalty or a goal for that, can’t you? After all, someone has now been cautioned! And the seriousness with which the yellow card was rubbed in the defender’s face shows that from now on there will be no compromises: From now on there will be no more compromises! Yes, football is fair!
There should be penalties when an action is, according to the rules, foul play or handball in the penalty area. The concern that the penalty is too harsh is understandable – because it is in most cases – but it would not be up to the referee to decide, but the rule makers.
However, if the rules were respected, one would first have to wait and see the consequences. Firstly, more goals would do the game good — it is even a fundamental assertion that it is primarily through more goals that it becomes more exciting and attractive –, secondly, defender behaviour would follow the rules. Consequently, it would only lead to more exciting scenes in the penalty area, as the defenders would reduce the risk in one-on-one tackles so that strikers would be able to score more often from play, and the tiresome topic of handball would also play a much less important role. The arm belongs to the body. If it leaves the body and the ball goes against it, there is a penalty. The learning effect came very quickly.
If, however, the penalty still seemed too harsh, an alternative penalty could be introduced for minor offences, which would result in an interesting, promising situation, but not a fairly certain goal.
Alternatives include: Free shot from 16 metres (another distance would also be welcome; this would have to be tried out), short corner, penalty with run-up from 35 metres with completion within 6 seconds, where the behaviour of strikers and goalkeepers is otherwise optional.
All in all, one should at least allow oneself to think seriously about this whole problem and, above all, not treat all the rules so rigidly according to the motto “it’s always been like that”. A little flexibility would be good in all circumstances.