THICK AS FIFA

This article was originally featured in MEHSTG Vol. 1. No.7 - issued February 1991.

Our undercover reporter, Walter Gates, reveals the proceedings from Geneva and takes a sly look at hush-hush developments to improve our game.

Well, it was the thought that counts, I suppose, although I thought it was goals that counted. And goals are a major topic here at FIFA HQ these days. Due to the lack of them in last summers World Cup (That's funny, I saw one at each end of the pitch every game - Ed), the idea has sprung into the mind of FIFA officials to make the game more suitable for American consumption, what with the approach of 1994 and all that. Yes, so that American Joe Public will flood to the attend the matches at the greatest football tournament of them all, Joao Havelange ( That's Portuguese for 'Joe-I-think-there's-a-lot-of-money-in-it- for-us') has been looking at methods to make scores higher and thus align football with gridiron.
The basis of their idea is that because goalkeepers are now taller than when football began, that goals should be made bigger to prevent them benefiting from this entirely natural phenomenon. I know some forwards who wouldn't profit if they doubled the size of the goals, but that's a different story. Having watched most of the 1990 World Cup matches, it seemed to me that it wasn't the size of the goal that was the problem, but the amount of shots, or lack of them, that was the over-riding concern.
It was put forward by the Canadian FA that the growth of goalies could be controlled, not by steroids or anything like that of course, but by custodians having to pass through a standard template designed by FIFA committee (so it would probably look like a camel). This would regulate the height and width of a keeper and if he did not pass through the regular cut-out shape, his team would have to find a smaller or thinner man for the job.
As an alternative to making the goal bigger, FIFA considered the proposal put forward in a recent issue of When Saturday Comes (It seems they really do look at the fans views !!!!) to make the ball smaller.  They were not going to go as far as that particular contributor would like in reducing it to the size of a tennis ball (Although this gained strong support from the English Schools FA), but would set up an investigating sub-group to review the possible use of a volleyball or handball(Favoured by the Argentinian FA) size ball to make a more exciting goal-wise match and to increase the skill factor.
The discussion on the ease of scoring then continued. One suggestion involved the goalkeeper having to play one half of the match with one arm inside his shirt, leaving him with only one arm to protect his net or whatever else he chooses. Another more radical view to be raised was that the goalie should have his hands tied together, but in Scotland's case this was seen as an advantage.(0nly joking). A proposal from the Luxembourg camp that the goalkeeper should be tied to the goalpost with a strong piece of elastic (OoohErrr), so that he could not roam too far from his line (I thought this had already been introduced at WHL on occasion), a la "It's a Knockout". This would give the attacking player more opportunity to collect the wobbly bucket full of water. Er, no, I mean, get nearer goal before having to shoot. The Chilean FA raised the idea of blindfolding all keepers, but FIFA upheld an appeal by Amnesty International. The English Schools FA (ESFA) put up a marvellous idea that was close to capturing the imagination (What all of it? - Ed) of the footballing top brass. Having had loads of experience in this field, they put forward the idea of 'one-and-in', thus, once the regular goalie had conceded a goal, he swapped positions with an outfield player and so on. The only drawback on FIFA's part was that although it gave an ideal break in play to screen more adverts, the Americans would be having enough trouble with the rest of the oh-so difficult laws, that they would lose interest. (If only we could be that lucky-Ed). This decision puzzled me, as they don't have a problem with the constant interchange of players in ice-hockey.
After exhausting the possibilities put up for discussion, they moved onto the next item on the agenda, which was the final one, the resolution of drawn Matches. With protests still ringing in their collective ears about the penalty shoot out method, they investigated various options to define the winner of the contest using a fairer and more skilful process. These were the proposals for the FIFA committee to consider:

  1. The number of free-kicks conceded - One of our own Jimmy Hill's pet theories, The idea was a loser from the start, as FIFA, like everyone else, realise that referees couldn't spot a foul if Vinny Jones upended them himself. Too much room for argument.
  2. The number of shots on goal - The problem here was who decides what is a shot on goal? Would one of Mitchell's wayward crosses that floats two feet over the bar be counted as a shot? Who knows? (I do - Ed)
  3. The number of corners a team gains - It was foreseen that this could result in teams running up the wing, stopping on the dead-ball line and waiting far an opponent to challenge to win a corner, rather than go for goal. You remember the Leeds team of the 70's in the last 10 minutes of a game they were winning 1-0. Again, refereeing was pointed out as a weak point in this suggestion, as how many times have you seen goa-kicks given instead of corners (in the recent home game v Filth)?
  4. Reduce the number of players - This seems to be a good idea, but in reality, players who have given their all for 90 minutes plus 30 mins. extra time (Not including Diego here I hope? - Ed, will not relish playing on in a dwindling team. It could bring a more defensive attitude as both teams could pull off attackers and choose to defend their goal. And how would it work? Would opposing managers choose a player from the other side to be removed every 5 minutes or would they choose one of their own players? Would the reserve official shuffle the numbers used for substitutions and both players of that number leave the field? Where would the removals end? Would we get to the stage where the two keepers were left to battle it out? The way refs flashed the red card around, there wouldn't be 22 players left on the pitch at the end anyway. Look at Cameroon - they beat Argentina with only 9 men! An excellent idea then.
  5. Remove booked players from the game - Like (i) too reliant on good sensible refereeing. No chance of working.
  6. Team with least back passes wins - One of the better ideas. This would reduce the amount of time-wasting and boring football, but then again, is a throw-in to the goalkeeper a back-pass? Needs further investigation.
  7. Play until next goal - A good professional way of deciding the game. Only one problem, will US TV schedules be willing to screen a 7 hour match between Egypt and Argentina?
  8. Tie players legs together - After every 5 minutes of added time, two players from each side shall have legs tied together in a 3-legged race style (OoohErrr).This would reduce their pace, increase the amount of space available and provide great entertainment for the fans.
  9. One touch - Another idea from the ESFA. A game of one touch (OoohErr) could sort out the more skilful teams from the dross. This was considered but with only 2 or 3 Wimbledon players touching the ball once to propel it from one end of the pitch to the other, the idea foundered.
  10. Players may only used the wrong foot - Free-kicks would be awarded if a player used his wrong foot. Problems occurred in the selection of use one foot - with claims of 'footism' from those of the other foot persuasion. Other difficulties arose from the dreaded "two-footed" player.
  11. Remove the players boots - This would give the players a chance to shine if their balance and skill are up to the job. However, in rainy climates this move would provide marvellous fun for the fans.
  12. Do away with offside - The ESFA strike again. The installation of 2 or 3 goal-hangers would lead to a glut of goals, as witnessed in the early 70's in the Watney Cup, where this tactic was experimented with. However, there would be an equal and opposite reaction with the opposition pulling back an equal number of defenders in order to counter the rule change.
  13. Shoot for points - A Dutch suggestion this one. A board is placed across the goal with holes cut out to a size just bigger than a football. Each hole corresponds to a certain number of points depending on it's location in respect to the goal. So, a hole near the top left hand corner may score 20 points while one in the middle at ground level might only be worth 5. Each of 5 players has two shots each to score the maximum that they can. If still undecided after this, then the other players would have one shot each in a sudden death round. This idea is well worth thinking about.
  14. Replay matches - Oh, no, no, no. Couldn't possibly do that!!

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