Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Soccer Thoughts: Proposed Rule Changes and Who To Root For

with 4 comments

by Weiner

Before I offend any diehard soccer (or football, to the rest of the world) purists, let me say off the bat that I like the game. Liked playing it as a five year old on my local team, Dontatello (the four teams were named after the Ninja Turtles, not the artists), playing it again occasionally in the school yard in elementary school or gym class or summer camp. I even enjoy watching it: my family spent a month of the summer of 1994 in Vermont, I had broken my foot and had nothing else to do but watch the World Cup hosted by the USA (and the Expos cruise to the best record in baseball in the strike-ended season, but that’s another story).

Ever since then I’ve enjoyed watching the World Cup, and maybe the odd European championship or Premier League or qualifying match or whatever. But like most other North Americans, I feel like the game could use some more scoring. I know, I know, the fact that goals are so tough to come by makes them special, which is why announcers can scream “gooool” for half an hour. But seriously, too many nil-nil ties. So here are some ways to make the game more offensive minded:

1) Change the off-side rule.

The rule should not be eliminated. Obviously we don’t want a striker cherry picking the entire game behind all the defenders. But the rule as it stands is stupid. So I think it should be altered to be somewhat closer to the off-side rule in hockey. So the rule can remain as is with this crucial exception: create offensive zones. Once the offensive team takes possession of the ball in the offensive zone, the offside rule is no longer in effect and the player can make and receive passes anywhere in the zone. If the ball leaves the zone, the players don’t all have to leave, they simply cannot receive passes from outside the zone unless there is a defender behind them. It sounds  a little confusing here but think about it and it works.

This is the most important rule change. They should try it out in college, or MLS or something. See what happens.

2) Create a back-court like rule.

You should not be able to pass the ball all the way back to the goalie. But obviously backwards passing is an important part of the game, so the rule can’t be exactly the same as basketball. Here creating offensive zones would again come in handy. The rule could be then: you are only allowed to pass the ball backwards across one line. So from one side of the “neutral zone” to the other, from offensive zone to the offensive half of the neutral zone. When the ball is in your half of the field, passing backward is unlimited.

3) Free subbing.

There is no reason why players shouldn’t be able to come in and out of the game. Let’s give the starters some rest and see them on fresher legs for longer.

So those are the rule changes I propose. If FIFA tried even just one of them, I think it would improve the game dramatically.

As for who to root for, this has always been an interesting question for me. Generally, I believe in supporting the country you hail from (in my case Canada) and any country you have ethno/religious/cultura/historical ties to (in my case, Israel, not Poland despite the fact that all four of my grandparents came from there). Unfortunately, neither Canada nor Israel typically make the World Cup. I do have the nice fall back of rooting against Germany, and they seem to always make it.

Beyond that, I like to root for the underdog. So while I root against the USA in almost every other sporting event, I occasionally root for them in soccer. I like England, because I speak English, and I appreciate the passion they have for the game, not because I’m technically a subject of the Crown and member of the Commonwealth.

I like to root for African teams because I think it’s good for the the world if they win. To a lesser extent, I root for Asian teams. If I rooted against countries that had a legacy of anti-Semitism, that would eliminate too many countries (rooting against Germany for all my lifetime is good enough, I think). I rooted for Iran in 1998 over USA because they were the underdogs and I think sports can represent positive, progressive values on the international stage (though not necessarily domestically, more on this later). But generally I think sports should be divorced from politics, at least modern politics. For example, I am a critic of the current Israeli government, but the players on the team, particularly the Arab players, have little to do with the government’s behaviour.

Weiner adds: Another bunch of rule changes: Introduce stopped time when the play is dead, and get rid of the absurd “stoppage” time. It’s 2010. C’mon. Also, how about some rule that say the team has 30 seconds to get the ball past midfield after the goalie touches. Or maybe even less time? Sometimes they really dally.


Written by David Weinfeld

June 12, 2010 at 17:51

Posted in culture, nationalism, sports

4 Responses

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  1. I, for one, heartily second Matt Taibbi’s take on the World Cup:

    “The old Spy magazine once did a list of the 50 most annoying things about rock music, and one of the notations involved guitarists who raise their eyebrows in shock during their solos, like they’re surprised at what an awesome note they just hit. Soccer managed to bring that exact same facial expression to sports, only it added a wrinkle — now when a player scores a goal, he drapes that stunned/surprised expression over his face, slaps his palms on his cheeks in amazement, and then bolts in some random direction tearing his shirt off, as if to say, “Do you believe what an awesome goal I just scored? I’m so amazed I can’t even stay dressed!”


    June 13, 2010 at 18:47

  2. Here’s another rule change…


    Currently and outfield player can “save” a shot or header on 0r near the goal line and be red-carded. The shooting team then gets a chance to take a penalty. Many of those penalties are missed. The defender thus gambles cynically on his sending off NOT costing his team a goal.

    So get rid of the rule and replaced with:

    “If in the opinion of the referee an outfield player prevents the ball crossing the goal line with his hand or arm, ie by a handball, the goal stands as an “automatic goal”. The said hand balling player will receive a red card and be ejected from the game.”

    Get this in circulation and see what FIFA has to say on it.


    Sean L

    Sean Laffey

    July 14, 2010 at 07:52

  3. Rule Changes, really?
    The beauty of football is its simplicity and the flow to the game. I really think everything you have just suggested would seriously detract from that. If you cant understand that then I will break things down for you:

    Offside Rule:
    We don’t want to run up either end of the field and be able to score all the time, which with the size of a footy pitch and the fact you cant use your hands, would definitely be the case if we had an altered offside rule. In any case, an alteration to the rule would fundamentally change the whole dynamic of the game which I’m sure would be strongly opposed.

    Rolling Subs:
    We like having to be very tactically astute in our team selections and balance. If I’m right, American football has players who are specialized for almost everything. So a player comes onto the pitch to take a kick and then leaves seconds later? I personally wouldn’t want to be that player and i wouldn’t want to have the game constantly stopped for substitutions and other endless stoppages I have encountered watching ‘American’ sports.
    It is about the balance of the team. You need players who have to correct attributes in each position, but you also must take into consideration other factors: The opposition you face and the setup they employ.. what can you do to combat their tactics? Do you have any players who aren’t necessarily the best on the team but their attributes and style counter the opposing key players? Fitness is also a factor and plays a part in many tactics, some teams will start slow and build into the game and some will start ferociously fast but drop off towards the end. I like the fact you cant just bring on endless fresh legs, it brings another dynamic to the tactics and really makes you think about the correct substitutions to make.

    Pass Back?
    I’m not quite sure what you were getting at with this, if you meant actually passing the ball back to the keeper for him to pick up then I urge you to watch a Liverpool game from the 70’s, you’d find it much more boring than you do now!
    Another point I feel obliged to make is that I dislike watching all these ‘American’ sports (no offence) with their offensive, defensive zones and whatnot. It makes the game too complicated. Do you know why football is played throughout the world, no matter its economic status? Because all you need to play is a ball, and maybe a few jumpers as goal posts. How great is that? I love it. No need for any pads or other expensive equipment and the most difficult rule to understand is offside.

    On Sean’s point about the handball/automatic goal thing. I wouldn’t completely oppose that, it wouldn’t have any bearing on the way the game is actually played (unlike all 3 of the other changes mentioned). However I have to say I love the controversy of injustice.. even when it happens to my team (swings and roundabouts). That is why I disagree with goal line technology and extensive use of cameras, I just feel it detracts from the heart of the game. Then again I really don’t mind these implementations if it prevents any of the above 3 I am sorry to say Weiner!

    Saying that there is one rule I wouldn’t mind seeing. I think it is too unfair that a player can be sent off (for something as little as a shirt pull in the area) and the penalty is also given. Yes, if the challenge was reckless (would’ve been a red outside the area) then by all means give a red and a penalty but I think the double blow of a sending off and going a goal down is so harsh. Because if you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. The red card is given for denying a goal scoring opportunity, but the team are then awarded that opportunity (usually from a better position) so should the red still stand? However the last man rule would still have to apply, so if the player is through on goal and is denied a clear goal scoring opportunity by outside the penalty area it should still be a red.

    Finally, I must say. I mean no offence by this rant.. But I really cant understand why you want to change the rules of such a beautiful game? If that’s what you really want then go create another sport.. call it… unjustified overly complicated soccerball or something.

    Thanks for reading to the end (if you actually did). Hope you can see it from the side of an English football fan who watches every single match he can and wouldn’t change it for the world!


    May 4, 2014 at 16:19

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    February 4, 2015 at 00:39

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