Whatchamacallit - Football or Soccer?

If Americans were in charge of the rules in soccer  (foot ball for the rest of the world), the game would have been more modern and up to date.  The infuriating - and heart breaking for the losing teams - unfairness of the referees, that we saw would be eliminated.  There would be no place of such human recklessness.

A case for fairness in soccer?  Remember the game the U.S. played against Slovenia, a sure goal was erased by the referee's imaginary 'foul.’  Don't forget another goal by the U. S. against Algeria that was disallowed.  What about England's goal against Germany?  That ball pitched inside the goal and bounced back.  The whole world, except the referee saw it that way. 

When the goals come far and in between, at least the calls by referees should be fair.  Should they not at least institute 'instant replay' in those critical calls?  Even the stoic British have succumbed and instituted instant replay/challenge at Wimbledon.  Regardless as to which team one roots for, an unfair and botched call can make one sick in the stomach for a long time after the game is finished.  I admit that I watch soccer once in four years only during the world cup series, that too only if the games are shown in the U.S. at a decent time.  But I also admit, I have dozed off a few times during an inevitable ‘nil-nil’ match until the 89th minute.  Even I see the fallacy of the game and its referees, who often seem to have political agendas against certain countries.  While we are at it, trying to improve the rules of the game, why don’t we eliminate the personal foul entirely.  This will eliminate the agony for the fans of watching grown men acting like sissies, rolling on the ground in extreme pain, clutching their injured leg, until the referee gives the other player a yellow card.  Then miraculously they spring up and sprint down the field like gazelles.

That brings us to the game between Ghana and Uruguay.  I have no love for Ghana, after it beat the U.S. in the quarter finals.  I hated the way they were trying to feign injury and waste time towards the end of the game once they were ahead, just to kill time.  (But then I realized that was part of the game and everyone does it, once they were ahead).  But the Ghanians were superb athletes, who carried the weight of the entire continent of Africa on their back when they played Uruguay in the semi-finals.  They played their hearts out and dominated most of the game with their relentless offense.  When the overtime also failed to produce the winning goal for either side, in the frantic pace of last minute attack by Ghana, we saw a sure goal batted away by the hands of Luis Suarez!  In Basketball, that would have been called as goal tending and awarded points.  But the quirky rules of soccer awards the team with a penalty kick.  As fate would have it, the kick by exhausted star striker Asamoah Gyan ricocheted off the top bar and the rest is history.

Most popular game in the world, that which it calls 'football', is full of tragic stories like this.  Diego Maradona's goal in 1986 final against England was decided by his hand.  He had the audacity to call it a goal by the "Hand of God."  Suarez's defense of the certain winning goal by his hand (at least the referees saw it), was followed by a red card.  Suarez walked off the field in tears, not because he was ashamed to have fielded the ball by hand, but because he was sure Gyan will  not miss a penalty kick.  Later, Suarez was seen thanking providence and saying, “Mine was the real Hand of God!”   Now he is proud of his feat!

So Uruguay, with a population half of that of metropolitan Dallas got into the semi finals, by hook or crook.  Why blame Uruguay when the rules of FIFA make that possible in football?  FIFA is ruled with an iron fist by a Swiss man named Sepp Battler.  He goes by the moniker  “Battlersaurus.”  He is stuck in the last century.  The world loves the sport so much that they are prepared to put up with Mr. Battlers, despite his refusal to use modern technological tools in judging the game fairly.  The current rules were written when dinosaurs roamed the earth!

In the semifinals, Uruguay deservedly lost.  After the win over Ghana, there was no love left for the tiny country.  When Netherlands beat Uruguay by a goal that should not have been allowed because about five Dutch players were off-side, no one felt sorry for Uruguay!  It felt like poetic justice.  When Ghana lost in an unfair battle, the continent of Africa behaved like civilized people.  If it was a South American or European team that had lost in similar fashion, the continent of South America or Europe would have become incontinent, with rioting on the streets!

The world cannot get over the fact that the game of football has been tarnished by the Americans by calling it soccer.  That should be the least of the worries, fans of football worldwide should be concerned with - there are bigger problems with the game that need to be addressed.  The British lead the charge in this criticism of naming the game.  But most Brits are unaware that the word soccer was coined by an Oxford student, Charles W Brown.

This calls for an explanation.  The British Football Association came into existence on October 26, 1863.  Several football clubs from around the country gathered on that day and formed the new entity and the rules were laid down.  Charles W Brown had the habit of abbreviating long word with ‘er’ at the end, like ‘rugger’ for rugby, ‘brekker’ for breakfast etc.  So ‘er’ was added to the last three letters of Assoc.  So football became ‘soccer’ for Charles.

Soccer gained popularity in the United States after WWII. By that time, there was already a very popular game called Football being played in the United States, which resembled rugby. United States Soccer Football League was then started, named as such to distinguish it from American Football.  After 1974, this simply became United States Soccer Federation, and the name soccer stuck.  Other countries that use the name soccer include Australia (to distinguish it from Australian Touch Football), New Zealand and some parts of Ireland.

American Football is mostly played by hand.  Majority of the points come from throwing the ball to the end zone.  The rest of the world mocks the Yankees for playing a game by hand and calling it football.  But from what I have seen, many matches of the World Cup seem to be decided by hand balls.  Then would it not be better to call the game soccer instead of football?

Humorist author P. J. O’Rourke has some (blunt) suggestions to improve the game of football.  He takes his cue from his middle school soccer league, where his young children play, and often the final score is 12 to 8, or something like that.  It beats watching a scoreless game for 45 minutes at a stretch, and again for another 45 minutes, without even a chance for a bathroom break.  O’Rourke encourages the use of hands (use your hands, dummies).  He also wants to eliminate personal fouls and allow something he calls “full body blocking.”  See the fun when six people converge on the ball, tackling each other, while the fans anxiously wait for the ball to come of the pile with a single, triumphant player dribbling the ball away with fancy foot work.  The goal area should be larger so that more goals can be scored.  I bet there would be no more ‘nil-nil’ games after 90 minutes of running around.  The games would be decided by scores of 45 to 34.

So O’Rourke pleads with FIFA to allow full body tackling, with use of your hands and expand the goal area.  Break up the game for fans and TV audience to go for bathroom break and grab a beer or two.  Oh, then change the shape of the ball slightly so that it can be carried by hand easily.  Then all the countries on both sides of the pond can come to a consensus about the name of the game.  Then Americans would not mind calling the game Football, American style.  If not, the way this game is played with its antiquated and archaic rules will always be called soccer.    

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More By  :  Dr. Neria H. Hebbar

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