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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:05 am 
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The Problem of Reductionism

The Chinese have a good proverb that says “may you live in interesting times”. That saying has been quoted by various public figures and it has always fascinated me. The current World Cup has been throwing up interesting results, but some like I have wondered why I am not finding it fulfilling so far. Some incredible analysts and theorists are now firmly of the view that we are in the reductionist era.

There is a particular play pattern that crept silently into football around 20 years ago (or thereabouts), which refs, before then, blew as a foul and then all of a sudden was accepted as norm, and it has now become a or the mainstay of modern football. Today, if a ball is in motion heading towards a throw-in line or a bye-line, a defender can block the path of the attacker such that the attacker cannot get to the ball until it rolls out of play. When I was young, it was called as a foul for obstruction, but then strangely it was accepted as norm. Today, the blocker can use all methods physical to block the oppositing player from getting to the ball and if the opposing player uses far superior methods to get the ball, the ref can blow a foul against him. Hmmmm. It was never like that.

The current World Cup will not be a classic because unlike in the innocent past, reductionist moves are being skilfully and gainfully implemented right across the pitch. Anywhere on the pitch, a player swiftly blocks the path of the opposition, manufactures a bump and falls over to gain a foul. Also, at set pieces (corner kicks, free kicks etc), rather than for players to jump and head the ball, players look to wrestle opposition down.

Not only that, anywhere across the pitch, players shout loud on contact and fall over meaninglessly and expect the game to be stopped. If the game is not stopped, the crowd supporting the team on the disadvantage (often the player on the ground) whistle and whistle until the game is stopped. Once the game is stopped and attention switches to the player, within seconds, the fallen player rises up having gained a miraculous recovery. His aim is achieved. His motive? To stop everything, to stop momentum, to stop advancement, to stop the game. You stop the opposition not by becoming better than them (which in itself is the definition and essence of sport), but by using reductionist methods. You stop progress not by maintaining or improving upon the status quo but by reducing it, by regressing it, by pulling play back. Yet, it is considered legal.

The block play is now depriving the game of the dribbling skill which is becoming rare; players just want to pass the ball rather than take on the opposition player. If an opposition player is dribbled, all he has to do is get his body between the other player and ball, get bumped, fall over, gain a foul. It is ugly. The Maradona and Peles would never have thrived if that foul existed. They dribble you and simply move on. If you block them, ref blows against you for obstruction.

Also, in 90 minutes, it will be interesting to know how many minutes of match play we actually get. Keepers hold onto the ball for well over 6 seconds and fouls are never called on that. Refs blow every few seconds or so, and you just wonder what the hell is going on? There is no momentum for the watcher. What is this? Sometime you just want the ref to be invisible. After all, when the great teams of the past played, we sometimes never even see the ref to label him stupid etc. Today, well it is ugly. It’s football, Jack. It’s just not football as we know it.

So what is FIFA’s next challenge? To address this reductionism. How?
1) Each time a player goes down and the game is stopped, the player should be removed for a minimum of 5 minutes to get full recovery.
2) Bring back the foul for obstruction. Each player must address the ball and not block the opposition player’s path to the ball. Anywhere the block happens on the pitch, it should be blown as a foul.
3) Players wrestling players in the box to stop them getting the ball should instantly get a red card, not yellow.
4) A minimum playing time of 60 minutes must be assured. The minutes added at the end of 90 minutes should not only include the times allowed for injuries, substitutions etc, but must also include a factor that allows for a minimum playing time of 60 minutes to be achieved.

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