As the 2010 FIFA World Cup is about to begin, the tenth since its first edition in 1974 (no, it was not called that before, it was the Jules Rimet Cup, contrary to what anyone else might say), I cannot help thinking back of 1974… me and my brother glued to the television screen to watch every single game … it almost seems like a different game now. I have to confess to being somewhat nostalgic of the way things were in those days.
It may be hard to believe for people in their 20s now, who have always seen football the way it is now, but, at the cost of sounding like the old fart that I am becoming, I am going to take a seat by the fireplace, my 6-yr old nephew (my brother’s son) listening to me mesmerized, like, you know, I actually know what I am talking about… there used to be a time, my dear Luca, many years ago, when…
1. Players wore jerseys carrying meaningful information…
… not some company logo or some other bullshit. You see, I, the spectator, want to know what the player’s role on the pitch is, I could not care less about his name. Thus, player jerseys should be numbered 1 to 14, each number being associated to a specific position on the pitch that the player will have to keep throughout the game anyway, lest chaos ensues.
Numbering went as follows:
- 1. Goaltender
- 2. Right back
- 3. Left back
- 4. Defensive Midfielder
- 5. Stopper
- 6. Sweeper
- 7. Right Forward
- 8. Right Offensive Midfielder
- 9. Striker
- 10. Left Offensive Midfielder
- 11. Left Forward
Sitting on the bench:
- 12. Substitute Goaltender
- 13. First Substitute Player
- 14. Second and last Substitute Player
What the beep is the deal now, with numbers such as 17, 34, 99… ? There are eleven players per team on the pitch, for beep‘s sake. Oh, and if you need to read the name on the back of the jersey in order to know who is who, you surely have been dragged to the stadium by a friend and would much rather not be there. Please stop whining about not knowing who the players are. You do not care anyway.
As for commercial advertising — really, do sales go up if the company’s logo is featured on a player’s shoulder, belly or crotch ?
2. This is what the ball used to look like.
What a beautiful object… just like the one I received as a gift for Christmas in 1972. It is (essentially) a truncated icosahedron, with black and white pentagons (12) and hexagons (20). That’s it. No frills. No nonsense. Nothing yellow, orange, red, green, no glow-in-the-dark malarkey. No artistic imagery. It’s a football. Its purpose is to be kicked and fly.
3. The goalie could handle the ball inside the penalty box.
And yes, that included on back passes from team mates. For a team that is winning, or in any case content with the score, resorting to back passes in order to run the clock is an acceptable strategy. Remember, we all can go on and on about “keeping the game spectacular”, but ultimately it is all about winning . The other team can counter it by aggressively seeking possession, putting pressure on the goalie and on the defenders — whining about it for months is for beeping sissies…
OhDearJesusInHeaven, it is not a complicated rule ! Listen to me, listen carefully: if I, a player, kick the ball forward, and the ball passes the midfield (or, I was already in the midfield of the other team when I kicked it), and if one or more of my team mates find themselves closer to the goalie of the other team than any of its other players, those team mates of mine are in offside position.
The game must be interrupted and a free kick awarded to the opposite team. Offside must be signalled by one the linesmen.
Still not clear ? OK, here is a diagram:
Simple enough, right ? OK, now, you see, back in those days offside was determined by the position alone. That’s right, it did not beeping matter whether the blue player in offside position was paying attention to the pass or, oh, I don’t know, picking his nose or what have you, whether he was “actively participating” to the play or just a “passive observer” (no, I am not kidding, that is what people argue over these days). There was no such thing as “active” or “passive” offside. Offside was offside. Then someone started complaining that offside was signalled too often, that too many beautiful goals were disallowed for offside, and that is when people started differentiating between “passive” and “active” offside. What is the difference ? Do not beeping ask me, because I do not know it. It is like that famous definition of pornography — I know it when I see it, problem is, we all see it differently.
If you ask me, it really should not matter. I do not give a flying beep about your resident psychologist, arguing based on camera footage, that from the facial expression of the player one could infer a certain lack of concentration, inducing one to believe that he would not have been able to contribute to the play in any substantive way. I give even less of a beep about your first principles Molecular Dynamics simulation, showing me that, given the initial conditions of position and velocity of the ball, that player would not have been able to catch that pass anyway, given the wind, conditions of the pitch and whatever crap you want to add — he is still in offside.
But, I do not really have an opinion, or feel strongly about any of the above. Not at all. After all, they are just little things. Except for the offside one. Kidding. Not really. All, right, I am. Then again, maybe I am not. OK, fine, I am really kidding.
Now, let’s all sit back, relax, and enjoy this World Cup. May the best team win. Yeah, right, as if… whom am I kidding…
FORZA AZZURRI ! (yes, even with that coach).
 Yes, in those early days of football broadcasting one would be stuck watching all games for free, live, with no commercial interruption, on the state-owned television. How much better it is these days, with all of these private networks competing to offer viewers the best product at the lowest price. Now technology, coupled with free market, makes it possible for all of us to pay top money to watch a marvellous blend of games and commercial advertising…
 I know, I know, some people say that they would prefer to see their favourite team lose a spectacular game, rather than win a boring one. This is technically called “lying”.