There have been many changes in association football over the years, with new coaches coming into the game bringing their own new ideas.
We now have 3-4-3, 4-4-2 and even 4-5-1 formations, to name but a few playing systems.
The latest is what is becoming commonly known as the “draft excluder” applied during free kicks.
This is where a defending player will lie on the ground behind the defensive wall just in case some clever attacking player runs the ball under the “wall” should they jump when the free kick is taken.
I’ve been contacted by many referees in South Africa to ask if this is legal. The reason for this is that one of their colleagues in a PSL game recently refused to allow a team to apply this strategy.
The question boils down to this: It’s happening all the time in the Premiership in the UK, so why shouldn’t it be allowed in South Africa? The simple answer is, I don’t know.
I’ve checked with the International Football Association Board, through my friend Keith Hackett, himself a former Fifa referee, and they say there’s nothing wrong with that.
I guess only the referee can tell us why he wouldn’t allow it. I wait with bated breath for the answer to that one.
It certainly brings a new dimension to forming the “wall” and defending a free kick, but it is getting people talking.
The main problem as I see it is the lack of consistency, which will bring more unwanted attention on the match officials, and we can do without that.
One explanation being put forward is player safety. Could the player be putting himself/herself in danger by being in that position?
But then, you might argue, that players’ lining up in a “wall” could also be putting themselves in danger, given the power that some players are able to strike the ball with these days.
Should refs make statements to the media?
This is an age-old argument and one I totally disagree with.
I’m not against journalists looking for a story or trying to fill their columns, but I am against certain people looking to maximise their readership on the back of someone else’s alleged mistakes.
The recent statement by PSL referee Jelly Chavani following his suspension is a case in point. He was suspended from refereeing by the Safa review committee over alleged mistakes in a Soweto derby.
Within the refereeing community, Chavani’s “fall from grace” was disappointing.
What was even more disappointing was that the review committee decided to publicise his name, thereby making him a target for all the disgruntled fans from teams whose games he had officiated at.
Safa might as well have put a bull’s-eye on his back. His return from his enforced exile will most likely attract questions by all and sundry on every decision he makes.
I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be disciplined if there was proven wrongdoing, what I am saying is that punishment should not be broadcast to the world, due to the sensitivity of the work he does.
Also, match officials should not be allowed to give interviews to the media.
I would recommend that a media liaison officer be appointed to explain some of the more contentious refereeing decisions – otherwise known as controversial decisions – by match officials.
Referees and their assistants need to be protected from “loose lips” and idle gossip, which mutates into speculation, which then mutates into “fact”.
I would recommend to Safa that it appoint a person to handle these media enquiries regarding decisions made on the field of play. And it should ban all, and I mean all, referees and their assistants from giving media interviews, in whatever form.
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