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An observer
 
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Soccer is a strange game

21 January 2013, 07:01
I have just watched the opening game of the CAF tournament between South Africa and Cape Verde. I last watched soccer during the last World Cup, and was intrigued that people actually watch soccer. I am not a soccer follower, so I watch rather dispassionately. Just an observer.

I find it quite curious that you have 20 men running around chasing a ball, and 2 men protecting the "goal", and they run all over the park for 90 minutes and neither team can score a goal. In fact South Africa have played for 365 minutes without scoring a goal. That's 5 hours without scoring a goal. It would be like watching a 20/20 cricket game without anyone being able to score a run. Is that possible? Would that be entertaining?

Here are some of my observations:

Surely the aim of the game would be to score goals? Yet, what I observed is players seeming to have no game plan to achieve this. In order to score a goal, a team would have to work their way into the opposition's half and create goal scoring opoortunities. Possession and territory. It seems quite simple to me. Surely coaches teach their players that if a team mate is in possession of the ball, those closest to him should run and work themselves into space (away from the opposition) in order to retain possession and to create opportunities for working the ball closer to the oppositions goal line. This should be a continuous process until a gaol is scored. What I saw was a player in possession and other players watching and waiting to see what he was going to do with the ball. I can't understand this. Surely a plan could be worked out that achieves this. It's not rocket science.

The next observation is that there was a lack of accuracy of execution. Not only tonight but in all soccer games I have watched. These men are paid to execute accurately, yet they don't. It all seems pretty much hit and miss. In practice sessions they may be able to it, but on the playing field they don't. Perhaps in the on-the-field situation there is pressure to execute, and so it is not a practice session. Players are easily forgiven for their ineptitude to perform under pressure. Surely practice sessions should be games under pressure. I watched AB de Villiers throw a ball at wickets from 30 m to run a man out. He was pinpoint and under pressure, and was on the button. I appreciate that kind of skill. My suggestion would be for soccer bosses to introduce an incentive scheme. It would work like this. Players are offered R 1 million (for instance) and for each inaccuracy of execution, R 10 is deducted from their fund. At the end of the year, they would receive the balance, probably nil at the current show of ineptitude. The only South African player who executed consistently well was their goalkeeper and his distribution which was pinpoint. The only other people who executed well were the referee, the linesmen and those blowing their vuvuzela's.

I can understand the entertainment value for some. The theatrics of players bumped and then seeming to have legs of jelly and mouths as wide as the diamond hole in Kimberley, was entertaining. Or the moans and groans when a ball was totally miskicked and ended up in the crowd. The coach with his passionate pleas and expressions of anguish, derision and disappointment added to the theatrics, but the game (you have to be kidding me if you think otherwise) was not entertaining.
The players were in superb condition and were indeed athletic. More so than during the World Cup, I thought. Their mental attitude also seems to be improving.

It seems that all they have to learn is, what the purpose of the game is, and that is to score goals. Perhaps they should call together another indaba and invite coaches from around the world whose teams have a high scoring rate, and to learn what their strategies are, or send the coach to them for one-on-ones (which would be more cost effective perhaps).

My view is that we have the players, but you need to give one or two individuals the freedom to be creative, when you get closer to the opponents goals. These players use their intuitive skills and creativity around the opposition goal. Unpredictability can be very creative in a packed goal. There seems to be a lack of flair, imagination and execution in this department. Surely, in a nation as soccer-mad as ours we can find a few.

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