Now and then in the past, a rule was modified, now and then a new one was introduced. Of course, one should assume that it took some time for these ideas to take hold, because the rules are somewhat rigid, but if it is possible to intervene, then there should at least be a noticeable improvement.
This is called into question in connection with the display of injury time: what has this display achieved in comparison to what had been hoped for? In the opinion of the local experts, the suspense in this phase of the game has not been favoured. Not because in the past one simply could not know when the game would end and this alone ensured a lasting form of suspense. No, that’s just not it, even if there could certainly be that aspect.
It used to be open, it was left open, and football continued to be played. Usually at least one of the teams had an interest in it and, if the score was even and neither team was noticeably dissatisfied, the whistle was blown a little earlier by mutual agreement. Nothing had been withheld from the spectators, so why not? If one team wanted to score a goal, be it the winning goal or the equaliser, they often had the fans behind them in this phase, threw all restraints overboard, while the opponents threw everything they had into the breach. However, something like “playing for time” was rather rarely represented. Perhaps because the defending team felt that this would only prolong the suffering, as the ref would simply add on the seconds stolen in this way, perhaps even multiplying them? There were a lot of exciting games that just got really hot in the match phase. Will the one goal still succeed or will the bulwark hold? Great scenes, lots of action and suspense, “open end” in the sense of: both the outcome and the continuation open.
Today’s display of injury time is more of a farce. Especially the one-sided “anti-climax” that took place in it. Simply nothing happens any more, apart from a few substitutions and a few throw-ins and messy fighting scenes and scuffles on the touchline. A counter attack? Not even that. The goal of such an attack would be the corner flag on the diametrically opposite side of the pitch.
The injury time is displayed – this alone is a farce, as the duration can almost be set to a kind of “regulation time”: first half: one minute, second half three minutes extra. At least common practice in this country for years. Why declare that as “injury time”? A farce, front and back. 46 minutes half-time 1, 48 half-time 2, done.
After the three minutes of stoppage time are displayed, the score, as usual, 1:0, the tension increases considerably. Namely, the question that immediately arises: who will the coach substitute? Immediately after the board shows the additional minutes, the substitution announcement is made. The exciting question can be easily answered from here: it will be the one who “least expects it” and who “purely by chance” has the furthest way to the bench at the moment of the substitution – this is the selection criterion. If, however, he has already been informed by word of mouth, he will use the last few seconds before the substitution, which is a bad surprise, to shift his position to where he has the furthest distance to the bench.
Another few seconds pass before he realises that he, who deserves it the least, is to be replaced. He points to himself, shakes his head indignantly at first, but then takes it as an honour, as he is now the only one to be thanked by the fans. He takes full advantage of this by waving to them in all directions, saying goodbye to this or that teammate, thanking the referee, but still recognisable and now finally noticeable to him – the coach had obviously noticed this before him, as a reason for substitution – his legs are very, very tired and he now needs a total of 40 seconds for the distance for which he had needed just as few seconds a few seconds before, which in principle deserves admiration, because in this state others would not have made it at all, he suggests.
Then the usual high-fives with the coach, then the substitute, who of course has to take up the same position on the pitch first and is to be given the time to do so, and no sooner has one minute of the three displayed elapsed than the parody of a football match can be continued. Because: the coach still reserves the right to make a second substitution, during which one can once again witness this impressive spectacle.
However, the three minutes are no longer being shaken. Here and there, the referee points to his own clock when the substitute refuses to leave the field, but just as regularly, this only leads to a throw-in being awarded when 3:26 are on the clock, the only meaningful ball action possible in the entire injury time, and even a kind of build-up of play, but then the referee finally draws the line with an extended whistle at 3:42, shortly before a goal is about to be scored. “I added something, didn’t I?”
The possible game situations in this stoppage time go like this: the team needing the goal has an attack, as one example. They even shoot at goal. The shot is blocked. The blocking player goes down. This can take time… Such a hard shot on such a clueless man? Pain, pain without end.
Or: a random duel. One of the two remains on the ground, whether fouled or not. Which jersey do you think he’s wearing? That’s right. That of the team interested in the final whistle. Or: a goal kick for the leading team. The goalkeeper makes no move to continue. One could also interpret the behaviour as: “Please, referee, give me a yellow card or how long may I delay?” The yellow card costs more seconds, which the ref finally viciously rubs in his face. But is the goalkeeper now thinking of continuing? No, he leaves the ball and runs towards the referee to give him a few stern words. It simply doesn’t go any further.
Or this situation: the leading team has the ball. Even a lot of green in front of them, few opponents in their half of the pitch. The ball is headed straight for the corner flag. Why go for goal? Afterwards, only the ball is gone. At the corner flag, a scramble begins, to everyone’s amusement. Yes, this is what makes football fun, isn’t it? The ratings shoot up, everyone wants to see that, no, everyone has to see that. A scramble and finally an opponent loses his nerve. He attacks the player holding the ball. Whether regular or not, the attacked player goes down gesticulating wildly. The reward is usually a free kick. To take the free kick, however, the free kick specialist has to be called in. That can take time. It just so happens that he is not around at the moment? A specialist is also needed for the alternatively awarded throw-in. It’s possible that the specialist will have to be called in first.
So there are only senseless scenes to watch, which can spoil any enjoyment of the game. The fans of one team will still celebrate, those of the opposing team will be angry. But then we’ll do it the other way round next week. Nevertheless, the loser: football and the neutral fan who is not there anyway (but would perhaps be there if it were fair and exciting?).
One might urgently include the further effect: all attacks that the team needing a goal carries out in injury time are shaped by their previous experiences, which correspond to the descriptions given. As a result of these experiences, the attackers know: just don’t lose the ball, just don’t engage in a duel, don’t even shoot or cross – because even then opponents go down as if struck by lightning and don’t move until time is up. You can’t do anything and you can’t afford to do anything, the goal is so infinitely far away. The consequences accordingly: the attacks increasingly take on the character of acts of desperation, which at the same time does considerable damage to the chances of success.
The conclusion: the injury time is displayed – and instead, one could simply blow the whistle. All that would have happened is that a few ridiculous and unpleasant scenes would have been spared.
Of course, this should not be taken as a complete condemnation of the officials. The underlying idea makes perfect sense. The referee should be deprived of some of the “arbitrariness” that was previously conceivable and sometimes used (example: Tony Mottram was banned for life after he added a total of 8 minutes of injury time during the 1994 World Cup match between South Korea and Bolivia with a final score of 0:0 without this being justified by stoppages in play; told from personal observation, however: both were desperate for victory, as only such a victory would have meant serious chances of advancing; in the phase of play between minutes 90 and 98, there was therefore not a single favourable moment to blow the whistle, as after a defended attack on one side, it went straight to the other goal without a stop, ad infinitum; In this respect, Tony Mottram should not have been penalised according to the opinion expressed here; the whistle simply could not be blown before a goal was scored, which ultimately had to happen; for the neutral spectator, by the way, the game was a great pleasure, not only in this phase, despite the complete absence of goals; which would also call into question the thesis stated in the text: Which games are worth remembering? Not only games with a lot of goals? Here’s the proof!).
The display of injury time is therefore a way of putting a stop to this arbitrariness. However, the current practice of substitutions immediately after the display of injury time, with the intention and the resulting success that the remaining playing time can actually be shortened in this way, was perhaps not foreseeable. However, once the problem has been recognised and brought to the point, it requires a reworking of the rule.
The small rewrite recommended at this point reads thus:
Delays that occur in injury time may by all means be tacked on. Since these delays are usually caused by the team (at least the deliberate part) that agrees with the current score, one should definitely consider doubling the time by which the delay is to be added. The intention behind this would of course be: these annoying substitutions would be completely eliminated. Likewise the corner flag attacks. In the kindergarten it would also be the task, if the children do not adhere to a rule and try to torpedo it with the available childish measures (in this case, however, not deviating from the adult professional), to ensure that it is adhered to, if necessary with punitive measures, which would quietly have to bear the predicate “sensitive”. The only conceivable consequence: the childish measures on the football pitch and in the kindergarten would immediately become a thing of the past. Who would want to harm themselves and their team?
Annoying, annoying or just obviously ridiculous (mis)behaviour should disappear from the playgrounds. Surely that should serve the cause? At the same time, the spectator should enjoy it more and, always remember, the “real” spectator should be the neutral one. The fans of the two camps neutralise each other in their needs and at the same time in general numbers. The one who simply watches the game for the joy of it – and nowadays often only does so out of old tradition and attachment and has no real joy any more because there are a multitude of such and comparable annoyances, at the same time violating the intuitive sense of justice — would be the sought-after addressee for the improvements and this one would definitely benefit, be won back or be won over anew.