I noticed today that FIFA is reminding us all through letters and proper media channels of the governing body’s ‘Handshake for Peace’ initiative.
That’s swell and all. I’m in 100 percent for peace, love, soccer and understanding.
But wouldn’t we all like to see a little less action on the fluffy-wuffy of PR campaigns and a little more action on the nitty-gritty of rules that actually affect the game? Yes, there is a FIFA process by which laws are made, revised, tweaked, etc. But we all know that influence from high places can goose this stuff in necessary directions.
And once again, we have a “necessary direction” staring us in the face.
The laws have long been quite clear on fouls inside the penalty area that check all the so-called DOGSO boxes – “denial of goal scoring opportunity,” that is.
But does the punishment fit the crime? In theory, we might think that awarding a penalty kick and reducing a team to 10 men sounds like an outsize punishment. Then we get these real-world instances and the point is driven home with a vengeance.
A red card to Manchester City’s Martín Demichelis will go a long way to settling the Citizens’ encounter with Barcelona, now halfway into Champions League history. (Say, has anybody asked Manuel Pellegrini how he felt about that one?)
But the one that always seemed particularly harsh popped up a day later as Arsenal’s (admittedly rather slim) chances were undermined when ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny (and his naughty hand …. tsk, tsk) were sent packing in the first half.
This one just seems so simple. Once the man in the middle has pointed to the penalty spot, the “goal scoring opportunity” has been restored. And how.
I have no problem with the red card issued to the trailing defender outside the penalty area. In that case, the defender’s cynical calculation is clear: a foul here may be worth the risk considering a much higher chance of seeing a goal scored once the penalty area is breached. FIFA should never undo that one.
But inside the 18? And especially as it relates to goalkeepers?
Make the game better, FIFA. Then those handshakes will be all that much more meaningful.