Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gamesmanship By Field Modification

In an ideal world when two teams of gentleman face off on a soccer field, they would compete to the best of their given ability and despite the outcome at the end of the game, they would smile, shake hands, and honestly be able to say that the result was just. Well, the world we live in is less than ideal, and it seems that soccer has long since begun a slide from it's gentlemanly roots to one in which gamesmanship in the form of time wasting, diving, and today's topic of field modification is now more a tactic to be taught than an underhanded trick to gain an unfair advantage. Two recent field modification incidents have spotlighted the gamesmanship that goes on during the modern game.

The first incident in question occurred a few weeks ago during a Swedish league match. Goalkeeper Kim Christensen was caught on video moving each goal post a few inches together to make the goal smaller.

Now, I used to play in goal sometimes in my youth and would also do this from time to time. In fact, in a highly unscientific poll, every goalkeeper I've spoken to about this bit of gamesmanship has done this. When asked about it, Kristensen said, "I got the tip from a goalkeeping friend, and since then I have done it from time to time." Of course, it only works on posts that are not driven into the ground. Now, I wonder, if every goalkeeper does it, is there really an advantage gained?

The other incident may be a little more unique. During this past weekend's MLS match between the Columbus Crew and the Seattle Sounders, Columbus midfielder Eddie Gaven was taken down in the area and Columbus was awarded a PK. This is where the gamesmanship comes in. Here's what happened as described by the Crew blog "The Black and Gold Standard"
"After referee Ricardo Salazar whistled Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for bodyblocking Eddie Gaven in the box, Hurtado and James Riley undertook a lengthy appeal. Hurtado and Riley remained in Salazar’s face for nearly a minute, keeping the referee occupied. It was the perfect diversion for Sounders defender Tyrone Marshall, who went to the penalty spot and got to work with his cleats. Marshall earnestly dug into the spot as if he were a slugger prepping for a crucial at-bat. He raked his cleats and back and forth, back and forth, over and over again. He jammed his heel into the ground when more force was needed. By the time he was finished, there was barely any evidence left of the white dot. There was a crater in its place."
Photos of the area in question can be found here.

Columbus star midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto then stepped up and pulled his PK attempt wide.

To his credit Schelotto took the blame for the miss, but did mention the pitch defilement when he said, “It’s my fault, I know,” he said. “I feel terrible for the missed penalty. I shoot bad and put the ball outside. They broke the floor before the penalty, but it is my fault.”

Did this "yard work" get into Schelotto's head? Maybe and there will never be scientific proof as to the advantage gained through the mutilation of 12 inches of sod comprising the penalty spot, but I don't think anyone in Seattle cares to whether it actually made a difference. The fact is that the penalty was missed, and there is a precedent now for other defenders with a green thumb (or toe) to try this one out.

Maybe I'm a curmudgeon, but these incidents certainly confirm the old saying that soccer is a gentleman's sport, played by ruffians. Ahh, the olden days...

1 comment:

  1. its the small things....a quick tug at a forwards hip, a slight bump as he receives a ball...all just part of the game