This book is about football. Football is the world’s biggest sport. This alone makes it difficult to understand why there should be thoughts about it that have not yet been thought, written down, spoken, discussed and — again — discarded. The book is divided into four major sections, all of which are intended to point out a few things that have not yet been considered. One section deals with the rules of football, which, even if it is considered that they have been sufficiently discussed and debated, still leave plenty of room for improvement.
Above all, as soon as one speaks of ideas for improvement, the sceptics are immediately on the scene: what is there to improve about something that is already the greatest? One has every reason to doubt both that there is anything new and that the new is capable of achieving any positive effect.
The three questions to be answered are: 1) Are there grievances that can be remedied by simple means? 2) Is it in any way necessary to change anything at all? 3) If something is changed, could the consequence not also be that the fascination diminishes?
Regarding point 1, each reader should ask himself when and what he was last upset about, at which referee’s whistle, at which penalty, at which wrong offside decision, at which rough tackle that was not punished, at which penalty or goal that was not given, if it was not the other way round? As soon as you watch a game, there will be a number of scenes that – for this or that reason – go against your nature. There are things you’ve had a firm opinion on for a long time, others where you’re firmly convinced that this is the way it should be, others that you’ve only just discovered at this moment or that are taken up by the media on a daily basis – for a given reason – and always bring up new aspects on which you gradually take a position. In any case, there is always a heated discussion. And excited too, hand on heart.
Now there are some who will certainly immediately mention that this is exactly what football is all about. You have something to discuss, you feel something is disgraceful, you have reason to get excited, to get involved, to protect your favourites who have just been put at a serious disadvantage, and in the referee, who just pointed to the spot, you have your enemy image. All these are the much-cited emotions that are simply part of the game, without which football would never have achieved its greatness.
Here, for the first time, doubts may be raised. First of all, it is recognisable that all those responsible – media, officials, those involved, spectators and fans, although the latter two are well worth distinguishing — are in search of justice, or at least its improvement. This suggests that it seems worthwhile to strive for justice, only that the means have not been sufficient so far. Furthermore, even without this preliminary consideration, it is easy to see that there would be plenty to discuss even without injustice. Perhaps the conversations would even develop in a positive direction? Did you see the great play yesterday, that shot on goal, the dribble, the hack trick or the save instead of just banging your heads about injustices?
On question 2), which has already been partly answered: Yes, it might be necessary. There are a few allegations that give cause for serious thought, if not concern, about football, its evolution and future. Now that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has just come to an end, please ask yourself, which games really made you leave your armchair? Where was the surprising turnaround in a game, where was the high-scoring game, with alternating goals, constant scoring scenes, where you were never sure who was going to win, and which ended in an inspiring, fair, just 3-3? Which was the game where you just couldn’t look away because there was such great football to watch? Which was the one where a tragic hero left the pitch crying at the end and you just had to cry with him – regardless of his background – because you felt so much for him?
Sure, especially in the German-speaking world one could say: Whenever Germany played, there were true celebrations. But it seems absurd to point the finger here in Germany. Even the whole world, which otherwise only looked with envious eyes at the successes, which often occurred even with less than exhilarating performances, bowed down before the performance of the Germans. There were highlights. But couldn’t there have been a few more? (More) spectacle, also in other games?
The next assertion is this: Football has become a pure fan sport. Of course, at a World Cup where only one real football match is taking place at any one time in the whole world, you can still count on a lot of TV sets being switched on. But, again, hand on heart, who was really watching, except when their own team was playing? Yes, well, one did, maybe, here or there. But it was the World Cup! What about when the league is in full swing? Who is supposed to seriously watch a single match for 90 minutes without emotional involvement? Watching a game as a neutral spectator doesn’t happen any more, so the claim goes. Too little happens, the sport itself is too boring. Then, they go on to say, it becomes necessary to think seriously. Why shouldn’t a game just be exciting and worth watching? After all, people even go to the circus to see great action? The demand: more goal scenes, more goals. If that were guaranteed, the neutral spectator would also get his money’s worth. Perhaps this would create more enthusiasm among the existing spectators, in addition to attracting many more newcomers who feel ,say the following sentences: “Today is football. I’m watching! Are you watching?”
On question 3: Sure, it’s the argument of the conservatives who can always plead that if you leave everything unchanged, you’ll get what you already know. A change? Who knows? Maybe then everyone will run away? Well, neutrally conducted but absolutely non-representative surveys have always revealed the same tenor: “Nah, I don’t watch (any more). Only when Hertha (… Schalke … Kaiserslautern … Bayern, …Werder) is playing. Or summary, on the Sportschau.” Experience a whole game? On TV? You can’t do that. The claim goes even further: for many fans, i.e. those of a team, the ones who are capable of suffering, they only go to the stadium for an event, for a big party, for a gathering of their peers, where they can celebrate and mourn, but also drink and dance. Only a few people watch football seriously. You are in company, you are outside, you move. That is the reason. Football? Yes, we can meet there.
You only get an answer as to what kind of results changes would achieve if you actually change something. The way back is usually arduous, if not impossible. So: better to keep it. The arguments of the innovators, on the other hand: as long as you haven’t tried it out, you can’t talk against it. You have to do it first. No backtalk. In addition, the arguments should simply be plausible, following a higher logic that cannot be ignored. The choice of means must also be considered very carefully. Large upheavals would be much more likely to meet with insurmountable resistance. Small, convincing measures, on the other hand, could very well be tried quickly.
So let us come to the choice of means: