When I type this, the Germany national soccer team has eliminated the French, and Brazil is going to play against Columbia in the quarterfinals of the world cup Soccer in Brazil.
Let us begin with time. A soccer game basically consists of two halfs of 45 minutes. Thus : 90 minutes of playing time.
Soccer has two types of time:
1. playing time: this is the time between a) a whistle blow of the referee (indicating the beginning of actual playing time) or a player bringing the ball into play (e.g. throw-in) and b) something happening that causes the play to stop (ball going outside the field boundaries, a player who commits a fault, a goal).
2. non-playing time, or “dead” time: This is the contrary of playing time: the time between something happening that causes the play to stop and a whistle blow of the referee or a player bringing the ball into play.
Since the total amount of time always equals 90 minutes(*), during the non-playing time, the players have the opportunity to stall, which means to act non-sportsmanlike and steal playing time from the opponent. This is typical behaviour towards the end of the game of the leading team.
Example: when the goalkeeper catches the ball he can chose to immediately return the ball into play, or wait several seconds. There is a limit to that, but not fixed. It depends totally on the currend mood of the referee.
Solution 1: the goalkeeper only is allowed to punch the ball, not to cath and immobilise it. So the game would not be halted.
Better and more general solution 2: only take the actual playing time into account and stop the clock during the non-playing time. Eventually setting a limit on the actual playing time to 2 times 30 minutes.
Solution one and two are not mutually exclusive and preferably be applied both.
(*) there are exceptions like injuries in case of which extra time is added to the end, but the players never know up front how much this will be.
I already mentioned this. When a player sends the ball outside the field boundaries, an opponent must bring back the ball into play by throwing it in with both hands, over his head.
In Europe, soccer is called “football”, meaning that it is a game where you predominantly use your feet to play the ball. In fact, you can use any part of your body except your arms and hands. So it is completely illogical to use hands to bring the ball back into play.
Solution 3: replace throw-ins by a simple free kick from the spot where the ball has left the field.
This solution would immediately remediate the next weird fact: if someone sends the ball outside the field crossing the goal line, close to the corner the result is a corner kick for the opponing team.
But if the ball leaves the field on the other side of the corner flag, crossing the end of the sideline, the result is only a throw-in. With a free kick the result would be similar, in accordance to the similarity of what happens in both cases.
When a player commits a relatively severe fault inside the penalty area the opponent team can take a penalty kick: 11 meters from the goal. All field players must stay outside the penalyt area. As penalty kicks result in a goal in 85% of the cases.
The weak point here is the referee judgment, that consists of two parts:
1) is the fault severe enough?
2) was the fault committed inside the penalty area?
So in the doubtful cases it is up to the referee to decide to give the opponent team a 85% chance of scoring a goal. Which can be very close to influencing the game.
Solution 4 : apply the same set of rules to every free kick, with no distiction for penalty kicks:
- always taken from the spot where the fault was committed
- no field player between the ball and the goal
- all opponents must stay at least 9.15 meters from the ball. exception: if the ball is less than 9.15 meters from the goal, opponents may stay on the goal line.
Now comes the complete unfairness of an important rule. If a player commits a severe fault, explicitely hurting or endagering an opponent, the referee can punish him with a yellow (=warning) or red card (the second yellow means automatically red). The latter means that he has to leave the game and his team now counts one person less.
The big problem is the following: if the red card is given during the first minute of the game the receiving team loses a player for almost 90 minutes. If the red card is given during the last minute (for an equally severe fault), punition is quasi-non-existant.
Solution 5: each and every fault is punished with some non-playing time. In order not to exaggerate the interruptions, we can use a threshold of for example three minutes. Depending on the severity of the fault one (for a minor fault) up to 10 minutes can be given for one single fault.
This does not entirely solves the problem of the most severe error during the last minute, but this can be compensated by for example punishing two players instead of one.
And last unfairness: referee judgment.
A lot of rules are fuzzy in soccer. Perhaps not in the written rules, but certainly in the way they are interpreted by the referee (“in a manner considered by the referee
to be careless, reckless or using excessive force“).
In hockey they use video referrals to prevent severe influencing of the match result bij the umpire.
solution 6: this should also be the case in the most important soccer matches.
If FIFA would apply these solutions, soccer would become a much more fun game to watch, much more logical, much more fair. The results would be much less function of accidental events, referee moods or judging errors.
But on the other hand: the saying goes: soccer is emotion and passion. The major part of these emotions occur after the game, when fans of both teams discuss what happened during the game. And because of the unfairnesses and illogical rules and decisions there is always a lot to discuss. This part of soccer would not be the same any more. And perhaps it is exactly this part that is responsible for the enormous popularity of what, at the end only is “some people playing with a ball”.