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Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Americans are right.

The Americans are right. Not about everything. No, just about football or soccer as they call it. Compared to American football (which is more like rugby to us), football or soccer is boring and I fully agree to that. Many football / soccer games end in a tie (e.g., "0-0"). I even wonder whether the boredom might be a partial explanation for the riots that come hand in hand with football / soccer.

Frankly speaking, I should admit that I never liked soccer. The reason is simple: I just wasn't good enough. My parents made me join soccer as my dad had once been good at it. So the story tells. In my recollection, soccer was the only popular sport in those days. I can not recall well but I suppose that I used my studies as a good excuse to quit soccer.

To this day I am glad that my kids went to (field) hockey although the only Royal Dutch football club (est. 1879) is my neighbour. I never made any effort to promote football to my kids. Although female football teams are now popular, they weren't in the 90's when my daughter grew up. Girls went to hockey and so did she, along with her class mates. Originally her hockey club (est. 1899) was even only for females. My son was born a few years later and with a hockey stick in his hand.

The differences and similarities between hockey and soccer are striking. Yet hockey is innovative while soccer is conservative. The number of changes in hockey game rules has been high for the last 2 decades. Moreover, nearly all Dutch hockey clubs now play on artificial grass. Natural grass has become rare. The impact on the game has been huge: less faults in passing the ball and more speed.

Quite often the hockey game results are close to double digits as speed of the ball and of the players is a key game ingredient. Football suffers from the notorious and boring "0-0" outcome. In my view, it is rather easy to make football less boring especially when you are willing to introduce some successful hockey innovations.

The most arbitrary and game spoiling soccer rule must be the offside rule. That one should just be abolished. The impact on the game should be huge. No doubt it would introduce new soccer game tactics. The main advantage is that it becomes less likely that 23 men are scrambling on a "few" square meters. Once the game gets more open then more goals will follow.

Another potential game changer is the corner. In hockey only a few (attack and defense) players are allowed to participate in a (penalty) corner. Introducing this rule into soccer would give much more potential for goals and also less potential for nasty tricks or cheaters/fakers in the goal area.

When the speed of the football game would increase then the playing time should decrease to prevent exhaustion. Now they play 2 x 45 minutes. Why not 4 x 15 minutes like in American football? For international TV broadcasting (and advertising) this would also be more convenient.

Allowing unlimited replacements during the game should also help in using the more fit players, in reducing injuries, and would allow for fast changing tactics.

Despite all the proposed changes, hockey will remain my favourite but soccer would be less boring.