Marco Van Basten, FIFA's chief technical development officer, has proposed an audacious set of rules in a bid to revolutionise the beautiful game.
Although the FIFA has merely floated these ideas to gauge public reaction, a few suggestions have caught our attention — no offside, introduction of orange cards that sin-bin players for 10 minutes, no extra time and replacing penalty shootouts with eight-second run-ups (in a more hockey-style dribbling towards the goal post).
That's how he wants to preserve football as the world's most popular sport. Really?
Basten has managed to stump players and fans alike. Many would argue that the offside rule has played a significant role in the game as we know it today. To quote Arsene Wenger, offside is what makes the team good together.
|Basten has managed to stump players and fans alike. (Credit: AP photo)|
After all, it is a classic example of a battle of nerves between a robust defence and a crafty attack. Contrary to popular perception, both attack and defence make use of each other in their own ways and virtually build their strategy around this one single rule. But Van Basten laments that the modern game has become too defensive (like handball) and removing offside rule could be one of the solutions.
While many managers, including Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino, have argued that offside rule was part of what makes the game, we need to be extremely cautious as it may even cause disruptions to team formations, strategies and affect the tempo of the game.
In order to make it dynamic and exciting, as Van Basten intends to do, he might end up scoring an own goal with this one.
Also, diehard fans are not comfortable with the Americanisation of the sport by replacing penalty shootout with American-style dribbling and bringing in more discipline when it comes to confronting the referee.
"An 8-second dribble towards the penalty post to showcase one's talent" is what has been suggested. This, he feels, should come into action immediately after 90 minutes, removing the "extra time".
Most fans won't like it as it's mostly during this extra time when they get to see players pushing their limits, physical and mental.
It is arguably the time when one witnesses the utmost levels of concentration. Penalties as a substitute for extra time, along with the weird dribbling idea, sounds unfair since an open game looks much more competitive compared to shootouts that come with a heavy quotient of luck.
Also, Van Basten thinks introducing four quarters could be advantageous. But how will it impact the game? Constant interjections in the name of players being addressed thrice by managers during these breaks seem unconvincing, especially if the larger idea is to sustain the attacking flair of the game.
Having said that, FIFA has made a few more suggestions which deserve appreciation. One of the most intriguing change is the introduction of "sin bins". That would see orange cards being shown to players (instead of yellow cards), who would then have to leave the field for the next 10 minutes of the game.
The argument for this is a possible reduction in reckless challenges and an overall clean game that sees less number of red cards eventually. That would also check field injuries. Secondly, referees would be given more powers to reprimand players who use aggression and verbal abuse. This is likely to bring in more civility to the game.
The introduction of video referees is also something that will add to the increasing use of technology in football (after goal-line technology). According to one of the suggestions, small monitors will be placed by the wayside to call for replays of particular incidents.
Notwithstanding the merits and pitfalls of Basten's suggestions, the first reaction among all football lovers is certainly that of surprise and concern for the beautiful game.