Despite India’s unexpected exit at the hands of New Zealand, the Hockey World Cup fever continues to hold on, particularly in Odisha.
The fast-paced, dynamic nature of the sport has forced it to evolve quite dramatically, with changes in rules and regulations aiding hockey to become more fan-friendly.
Here are some of the elements from hockey that football – a sport similar to it in many ways – can adopt to make itself better, ranked from less ridiculous to somewhat ridiculous.
NOT SO RIDICULOUS
A damning stat emerged after a Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle on January 4, 2023 – two of the best teams in the competition – which ended in a 0-0 draw.
Despite both sides having some of the best attacking talents in the league, the ball stayed in play for 51 minutes and 23 seconds, barely more than a half of football.
This followed on from the FIFA World Cup, where prolonged injury times were a common feature, as match officials tried to counter blatant time wasting from players.
This is where hockey’s practice of having a stop clock would make for a welcome addition to football, limiting teams from employing illegitimate means to drag out games, when they feel it is to their benefit.
In football, Video Assisted Referrals (VAR) have only opened up newer controversies. Fans and experts have often been confounded by certain decisions made with the help of technology.
This is often down to the interpretative dimension of football rules.
Video referrals in hockey, on the other hand, are aided by transparency, with the communication between the on-field and video referee made part of the live telecast.
It is utopian to dream of a sport where referee/umpire-induced controversies cease to happen. But by adopting hockey’s transparency in decision-making, football fans may have little to complain about.
A LITTLE RIDICULOUS
Unlike football, hockey has three cards as punishments for its players - green, yellow and red.
While the red card has the same penalty as that in football, the green and yellow ones have different consequences.
The punished player - leaving his team without a player - has to leave the pitch for two (for green cards) and five minutes (for yellow cards) - an idea similar to ice hockey’s sin bin.
This forces players to be more calculative of intentional fouls and has direct influence on the game rather than just a warning.
Think about how differently football teams would employ tactical fouls, forcing its opponent to play out a certain period with a player less.
In football, to prevent the VAR-induced breaks from disrupting the flow of games, the influence of technology has been limited to only certain incidents in the game such as red cards and penalties.
But often, there are certain moments in the game, which could be potentially game-defining - where the referee makes the wrong call, and the team at the receiving end is helpless, as it can’t even challenge the decision on-field.
What if, like in hockey, each team is allotted a limited number of referrals, which it can employ when it feels the on-field referee erred?
Hockey’s policy of rotational substitutions makes it hard for fans to keep track of who is where and when.
Just imagine that with football – an endless stream of players coming in and leaving – making for a tactically anarchical world of chaos and confusion.
That should be the vision of Pep Guardiola - a manager who revels in making frequent changes to his starting lineup - of what heaven looks like!
Football’s idea of one referee aided by two assistants is countered by hockey’s principle of two main umpires manning each half of the ground.
Half the running of a football referee and half the blame to take home!
Consistency may take a hit (if football adapts it), but what if it was a possibility to have two refs in one field.