Wanja talks to his children, today about…
The rules in Putoia
Not that much had changed on our cosy little planet. Whereby “small” was as relative as everything else. Because the Earth-like conditions also referred to the size, of course. Whereas the possible travel through the gigantic universe had changed the proportions and the perception of size considerably. What was 10 to the power of 624 light years, as it used to be measured? That was how far Putoia was from Earth.
So what was it that made football here, despite only minor changes, so much more entertaining, more exciting, fairer, more attractive? First of all, it was the changed spirit that took hold. Without having to say it over and over again, players and coaches agreed that they had to orientate themselves to the needs of the spectators. What would the spectators like to see, how do they enjoy the game, what might annoy them and what would they feel was unfair? After all, it was clear to everyone: the spectator is ultimately the one who, through his multitude and each with his small contribution, has to get the whole business going and keep it going later.
In general, surveys – which, unfortunately, were never conducted in Earth’s time – had confirmed that people prefer the ball to roll than for the game to be interrupted. A goal chance from open play was more popular than a goal chance from a standard situation. Foul play was not necessarily excluded as an element of the game at first – the interviewees lacked the experience and imagination to do so – but it was nevertheless immediately clear to everyone that a violation of the rules must be punished in such a way that the offender is put off, i.e. a repetition of the same is not advisable. A foul can happen, the survey results showed, but it should never give an advantage to the team that committed the foul, as the further question then revealed.
The results were not entirely clear regarding the close and, as it used to be called, “dirty” victories, which owed their name primarily to the fact that they were undeserved, but at the same time also that they required a greater number of rule violations that at least took advantage of the rules. In the beginning, there were a few advocates who put their cross in the answer “rather a dirty 1:0 than a nice game with an unfortunate 3:4”. Whereas “inconclusive” here simply means that the overhang for the alternative was not as large as for other questions.
Equally unpleasant were injuries caused by foul play. People on the ground seemed to think that football was a combat sport and that injuries were therefore to be accepted. However, since many of the duels that triggered injuries were caused a) by particularly unfair tackling and b) by the unconditional need to win, which was the main requirement in Earth times, and since these two points proved to be not necessarily tenable in other responses, it was soon very well recognised that it was much nicer to watch – not only for the players concerned, who were often absent for months and yet one felt for them, but also for the spectators – if there were no constant injuries. This point, however, was an almost inevitable consequence of the fact that there was an appropriate – i.e. basically demotivating – punishment for rule violations of any kind.
The polls were unanimous on what was the most pleasing action in the game. These were clearly the goals. However, in order to really get to the bottom of the matter, there were quite differentiated sub-questions. So: a goal-scoring chance already provides a high entertainment value in any case and the thwarting of the same can also be attractive, worth seeing, but clearly not on a par with the final impact in the net. At the same time, of course, there was a distinction between goals that one wanted to see and those that one would rather not have seen as a spectator because they affected one’s own team. However, thanks to the differentiation, it became clear that a beautiful goal conceded by one’s own team would be bearable – could even win some appreciation – if it was not undeserved, and if a higher number of goals in the game in general could ensure that one did not have the terrible feeling that the game was decided with this one goal. This was brought into the survey as a comparison to ice hockey, handball or basketball, where one goal, one basket, is not so much appreciated against one’s own team, but is accepted and replaced by the “there is still enough time, ours will score again soon”.
In contrast to earthly football, where very often, at 0:1 and still twenty minutes on the clock, one looked into bleak faces, which expressed: “We’ll never turn this thing around. In this case, “turning it around” meant equalising, as Chancellor Merkel so beautifully put it after the final whistle of the 2006 World Cup quarter-final match against Argentina: “Great how our boys turned the game around.” Yes, really great and hard to believe: first it was 0:1 and then it was 1-1! The penalty shoot-out went, as always, to Germany. Crazy, really. Such a dramatic game, turned around, from 0:1 to 1:1. So that’s pretty much the ultimate drama in a football game?!
Unfairness, time-play, play-acting, discussions, pack-building, injustice were generally regarded as absolutely superfluous and fun-destroying. Whereby this differentiation was always necessary, whether it concerned one’s own or the opposing team. It turned out, however, that the only reason why people did not find the injustices committed by their own team so unpleasant was because the opponents did the same or had done it before. The spectators, who claimed to be fans of one team, confirmed in an additional question that they already had the clear feeling that their team was disadvantaged in the long run and that the injustices did not outweigh each other. Here, too, however, they could additionally indicate whether they thought this feeling was justified or whether, on reflection, they thought it was subjective. Reflection revealed: probably subjective.
Translating the results of the survey into the rules, transferring them to the pitch, integrating the ideas into the game were basically easy. As soon as it was understood and internalised that results were NOT everything and that any victory, however achieved, was NOT the only thing that would make one blissfully happy, there was already such a high degree of unity among the spectators – including the various “fan camps”, whereby the importance of these representatives and the entire guild dwindled due to the many alternative neutral spectators who simply wanted to see a nice game – that it was generally very peaceful on the approach, around the stadium and in the stands. You could compare the atmosphere with that of the traditional DFB Cup finals in Berlin: there was nothing but celebration. There was peace on the pitch and in the stands, the result was not the only focus, it was a huge party to which everyone was invited and everyone who attended the spectacle had secured a nice memory of it and was determined to repeat it, even if, as in Putoia, it was not so easy to get a ticket because of the high demand.
There was one difference to the DFB Cup final: in Putoia, apart from the huge party, the beautiful and mostly fair game and a winner who was warmly congratulated by the loser, there were a few more goals.
Back to the implementation: fouls were rarely seen, due to conclusive rules, but also due to the unity of what one liked to see and what one did not like to see. It did the sinner and his team no good, so he refrained from it and thus, in terms of linguistic logic, did not become a sinner in the first place. In this respect, the correct formulation would be: foul play would not have done a potential sinner any good, so he refrained from it and thus avoided becoming a sinner. The game was played fairly.
The counting of personal fouls as well as team fouls – as usual in basketball – was anchored in the rules, but was almost never applied, precisely in the form of a personal or team penalty. Precisely because the penalty was so disproportionate to the offence that the old adage “crime doesn’t pay” had the right of way – to everyone’s benefit. No fouls, no stoppages, attacking players who could go one-on-one and finish and, as a result, many more goals as well as many more exciting games.
A tiny little change had also ensured that there was much more justice: there were differentiated penalties for infringements inside the penalty area. The main reason for this was originally that although many rule violations were recognised – i.e. a large number of those involved and the spectators — the referee obviously found it difficult to award a penalty for them, as they were disproportionately likely to be conceded and, in addition, due to the small number of goals, often resulted in a match-deciding penalty. This psychological hurdle was to be made smaller, as it was too difficult to overcome. But also in other respects it seemed logical that there should be an alternative penalty for minor offences – although this was in some way in contradiction to previous comments that rule violations were generally not wanted to be seen and in this respect harsher penalties seemed quite appropriate for the purpose of demotivating them.
The alternative penalties available to the referee were: a short corner and a free shot from sixteen metres – as opposed to the still-held penalty, which was still available for not thwarting clear goal-scoring opportunities in accordance with the rules.
All this was so recorded, but turned out to be almost superfluous. Fouls or troublesome handball that triggered discussions simply almost never happened again. As it turned out, players and coaches had soon internalised the spirit of the times and stuck to the rules. What was curious and striking was that the hand games that were so frequent in Earth times hardly ever happened any more. The players had their arms to their bodies. a) they didn’t want to break the rules, b) hand games, like any other rule violation, would be punished in such a way that it wouldn’t be worth it. And if one was worthwhile today, then a tightening of the rules was guaranteed to occur soon in order to get rid of this kindergarten fuss, which had caused so much unpleasant fuss on earth.
Similarly, the distance between the walls was increased to ten metres for free kicks. It was only a single metre – keeping the distance was no longer a problem — only it turned out to benefit the shooters enormously. Even this tiny change was as good as superfluous. Every potential offender knew, even in situations near the penalty area: do NOT play foul. It’s guaranteed not to pay. Profiting from the non-foul? Again and again: everyone. Above all: the spectator.
If you now want to compare football with the penal code: the intention is also to prevent the repetition of offences. Compliance with the rules is the top priority, in social life as well as on the football pitch. So a penalty is set that, as best it can, prevents offences. Translated to the football pitch, “offences” are violations of any kind.
These are the similarities. And, as is usual with any comparison, when comparing, one can initiate the search for commonalities, but also the search for differences. So: “You can’t compare apples and oranges” is an unfortunately nonsensical saying. You can compare any number of things and look for similarities or differences. Which outweighs the others? You can decide that afterwards – or you can just as easily leave it alone.
After this little philosophical digression, let’s move on to the differences: the problem in jurisprudence is that the number of unreported cases cannot be determined. Potential criminals here would perhaps be petty criminals, gladly also larger criminals, but possibly also everyone who has to file his tax return and is looking for smaller, medium or larger opportunities to save some: whether covered by the law perfectly or not.
So the problem in a nutshell: a potential offender against the law would have an additional consideration to make: what is the chance that I will be caught breaking the law? One would possibly be prepared to do it – as mentioned in the case of tax returns presumably usual?! Everybody may question himself — even consider it morally and ethically justifiable, with the bogus justification “who am I harming?”, but still consider the risk too high. “If I get caught, I have to pay this fine, no, I’d rather not do that”, without actually being able to weigh up the risk exactly. Perhaps also with the ultimate certain inhibition by the moral-ethical level. “No, you don’t do that.”
The legislator has the complex task here of finding an appropriate level of punishment with which to achieve the deterrent effect. The unknown size of undetected crimes in this regard contributes significantly to the fact that the sentence may occasionally be completely wrong.
To make it more vivid, one could cite road traffic as an example. A red light: you stop. Maybe not EVERYONE and maybe not EVERYONE ALWAYS? Why does one do it? Because one always fears the eye of the law, because the punishment would be quite considerable, up to driving licence suspension PLUS fine, a certain element of danger and, in contrast, a relatively small gain by reaching the goal faster. So: it’s not worth it. But maybe here and there it is? At 4:30 in the morning, no cars for miles, no benefit from standing still, no traffic risk, hardly any danger of being caught, just step on the gas?
Now for the situation on the football pitch: here, everything is just about out in the open. Thanks to the many cameras, of course, but the pitch is also open and everything can be seen. In this respect, it should be easy to catch a sinner and at the same time set the penalty in such a way that he is discouraged from repeating the offence? It may well be that one could provoke one’s opponent in passing with an insult that escapes the referee’s notice. It is also conceivable that one could get away with a short jersey tug in a crowded penalty area. But could such “concealed” and thus clearly “intentional” offences ultimately be countered with an increased penalty in the event that the offender does become conspicuous? One possibility would be for the opponents to draw the referee’s attention to this and for him to look or listen more closely if the player who has perhaps already been slightly conspicuous before – “before” could also be other games – again tries to stretch the rule in his own way.
In any case, there is this considerable difference to road traffic and jurisdiction thanks to the disclosure of the entire game. If, however, one should NOT be able to cope with a certain, recurring unsportsmanlike conduct, for example by several players complaining afterwards about what their opponent would have done and what the latter would have used recurrently for the purpose of gaining an advantage, then one could quite simply set the penalty so considerably high at this point that it would not be worthwhile again. It is true that one is only caught in one out of ten cases – transfer to case law and road traffic – but in this one out of ten cases the punishment hurts so much that one has to refrain from it from a calculative point of view. It’s not worth it here either. It still occurs? Raise the penalty again if caught. Until it stops.
By the way, this idea could easily be applied to any other rule violation, and perhaps it has been made clear before. You don’t want to see it, yet it occurs. Set a punishment that exceeds the previous one, until the thing you didn’t want to see finally stops. Basically, any rule violation can only occur repeatedly because the penalty is set wrongly. If it were still to happen later, very occasionally, the original victim would have to laugh up his sleeve: “Do you know how stupid he was? He fouled me! Hihi.”
One tiny little change was this: an advantage should be an advantage. Here they borrowed from ice hockey. As soon as a violation of the rules was detected, the referee indicated it by raising his arm. A whistle was not necessary and did not occur immediately. The foul was therefore one to be counted, both for the individual foul statistic and the team foul statistic – handball counted — but play continued until the ball was lost. The additional penalty could still be decided afterwards. The attacking team therefore had the chance to attack with all players until the ball was lost. This not only made for additional exciting game scenes, but also ensured that the situations occurred much less frequently – which, however, was also in everyone’s interest.
To sum it up simply: there had been a few minor changes in the rules, which were recorded but whose use was not at all necessary. The rules were followed. For all the reasons mentioned. The rules were: eleven men, one ball, try to get it into the opposite box as often as you can, it’s advantageous if you do it no less often than the opponent. You know what is a foul and what is a handball. Don’t do it, otherwise you’ll harm yourself and your team.
And, curiously, everyone had fun because of this logical behaviour. There were many goals and many beautiful celebrations to be had, every day and for everyone.
Football in Putoia, long live, long live, long live three times high!