Football should follow hockey’s lead

2010-07-02 00:00

HOCKEY people love soccer — the sports are similar, except a stick is used to beat a much smaller, infinitely harder ball.

They cannot suppress a smile when, as Hilton businessman and former hockey player Andrew Tedder told me on Wednesday, “soccer players go to ground at the slightest contact, a la Ronaldo, as if pole-axed by Bakkies Botha”.

That aside, hockey has taken soccer’s lead in many respects, copying the best of the self-styled beautiful game to do away with so many of the silly rules that slowed down the pace of a hockey match. The result? An incredibly quick, thrilling game that so inspired Britain’s celebrated sports writer Martin Samuel that he wrote on it in the Daily Mail.

Samuel stumbled upon a hockey clash recently after turning away in disillusionment (and this is a soccer man through and through) from another dreary soccer match.

He said: “I saw Reading defeat Beeston to stay top of the England Premier Hockey League in front of no more than 100 spectators, most of whom were friends or family.

“When I asked the price of admission the chap laughed. The programme cost two quid and he must have sold about five. Yet the day before, Reading Football Club, who are in the Championship, drew 18 008 for an FA Cup tie with West Bromwich Albion. In an ideal world, those numbers would be reversed.”

Do away with offside, as hockey did, and you will see the same 6-4 international thrillers. And as Tedder says, use technology, like hockey, rugby and others.

“How does a Fifa official believe that by not showing replays of controversial decisions on the big screen, it will avoid upsetting fans? It will help in the stadia, but what of the billions watching worldwide? TV gives viewers slow-mo replays of tackles, handballs and diving.

“Soccer in its entirety has become controversial. Fifa forgets the millions of kids learning from their heroes. The diving, the celebration — go to a Saturday U10 match with me to witness the ‘flying’ goalscorers.”

A fourth of fifth official should be watching a monitor and tagging players for cheating, which could influence whether the player is eligible for the next game.

“My biggest gripe is the amazing abuse of match officials. This aspect could be tidied quickly if Fifa applied similar protocol to hockey, where players who show dissent are sent off for a time.”

Indeed, at Maritzburg College’s U18 boys’ nationals, a player said after a match that an umpire was incompetent; he was banned from the crucial next match.

The abuse of officials by managers, coaches and players at the recent U21 men’s Interprovincial is an area of concern for umpire bosses, but it pales into insignificance compared to soccer, precisely because hockey is determined not to allow conduct to degenerate into the beautiful game’s scenario.

Tedder summed it up: “Denying soccer the benefits of technology is akin to denying your teenage child access to a cellphone.”

Meanwhile, the SA Country Districts Women’s Interprovincial took place at GHS’s Greenfields Turf last week and KZN Inland did everything but win the final.

A big Saturday afternoon crowd saw Inland dominate three-quarters of the match and top goalscorer Nikki Kelbrick netted first. Free State came back twice to change ends 2-1 up. Inland again dominated, but could not find the net and Free State added a third. Inland B came third in the 12-team competition with Coastal sixth and an Inland Invitation side 10th.

The SACD A and B sides were picked to compete in the National Women’s IPT in East London from July 20 to 24.

Inland have Kirsten Skead (captain), Corrine Landman, Taryn de Winnaar, Merald Smith, Shea English and Mariska Roberts in the A team, to be coached and managed by Inland’s Gregg Bye and Tracey James.

The SACD B side, to be managed by Inland’s Sally Neave, includes fellow locals Carmen Grobbler and Robyn Kenyan. Coastals players in the B team are Richelle Lywood and Deidre Potgieter, while Elodie Pienaar made the A team.

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