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Igesund’s Untold Stories

Football Is Going In The Wrong Direction!

Football is constantly changing and over the years FIFA have tested and implemented a multitude of changes to try and keep the game exciting and fluid.

Some of which, have without contention, certainly added to the game.

The introduction of the “no back pass “ rule for example that prevented the goalkeeper from picking up a back pass with his hands, (unless from a header), thus preventing unnecessary “negative” play has been a welcomed success.

Previously teams used the back pass rule to run down the clock and kill any momentum, with its prevention FIFA has successfully managed to encourage “positive” football.

Another successful introduction in more recent times has been the use of goal-line technology, its fast efficient and eliminates any doubt on whether the ball has crossed the line. A far better and effective solution than having two additional assistant referees manning the goal lines as was tested by FIFA for a period of time.

Goal-line technology coupled with the introduction of the communication systems that allow for all the officials to be interlinked, is a great example of how modern technology can be used to add benefit to the game with minimal impact on play, or fan experience.

Personally, I am all for changes to the game that will keep adding value just as long as the proposed changes are not detrimental to the game as we know it.

This brings me to the question of the video assistant referee (VAR), or even FIFA’s recent suggestion of extending the duration of games and whether such additions are/will be good for the game.

In theory, both arguably good ideas on paper to resolve / combat issues currently under the spotlight, but are they good for the progression of the game or are they taking away from the beautiful game and the fan experience as we know it?

VAR was brought in to improve football. But is it having the desired impact?

A host of  players including the likes of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester City midfielders Jack Grealish and Kevin de Bruyne have all spoken out negatively about controversial decisions made by VAR recently.

Its clear the inconsistency in the decisions being made by the VAR referees, is what’s causing a lot of frustration for players, coaches, and fans.

These inconsistent decisions are being made and causing frustration because no two incidents are identical. There will always be similarities but a host of different variables to consider (speed of play, distance between action, intent, etc.) thus causing different outcomes for what’s perceived to be the same kind of incident.

Its because of this, I think the mechanics around VAR’s implementation need to be reviewed and additional actions for the betterment of the game need to be considered.

Football is a real time game, and a margin of leeway in my opinion needs to be permitted.

Nothing frustrates me more as a coach or football-loving fan for that matter, than when a goal is disallowed because a striker was adjudged to be offside by millimeters. The same millimeters which are impossible to see in real time, and further could be easily negated when considering the fractions of a second that are currently being overlooked when determining at what point the ball left the foot of the player making the pass. There should be a degree of attacking grace because of this.

VAR’s impact on the ability to celebrate a goal, and the time it takes to resolve a decision is another. It takes the spontaneity and instantaneous pleasure out of celebrating out of the game.

Its of no surprise to me that Jose Mourinho has been quoted as saying "We're going in a direction that's really bad for the beautiful game, the game that everybody fell in love with." and If I’m brutally honest, I have to agree with him to a large extent.

Until we can relook and resolve these issues, keeping the decisions true to what the beautiful game stands for and the elements which keep it entertaining and exciting I don’t think we should be looking to introduce any further game changing measures.

Any additional changes without fine tuning and improving the current that are on the table, in my opinion will just keep us stumbling down a road which may have dangerous consequences.

I mean with FIFA’s suggestion of increasing match running times up to 100 minutes for the World Cup in Qatar in order to combat “the amount of time the ball is not in play”, how much longer will it be until we lose the model of two halves, in favour of four quarters??  I’m sure a decision the FIFA executive board have already pondered considering the economic benefit having more television advertising time during matches would bring.

Football is and has been for a long time, the number one sport in the world. It’s exciting, fun and action packed.

Let’s try keep it that way, let’s not in pursuit of perfection or greed, lose the elements that make it beautiful and so loved across the globe. Let’s leave the beautiful game the way its supposed to be – beautiful.

Before signing off this week please let me know if you’re enjoying the stories and if there any stories you would like to hear about. Also feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to answer them in my next column. That’s it for this week. Make sure you head to www.soccer6.co.za to go play the TAB Soccer pools this week and keep the above story in mind.

Yours in football,

Coach Gordon Igesund

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