Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Quit 'playing' and start playing

Players faking and/or exaggerating injuries and writing in faux agony on the ground is one of the least defensible parts of soccer, especially if you're an American surrounded by people who still hold firm to the stereotype of soccer being a sport for sissies, foreigners and women. I know I can't stand the rampant cynicism and time-wasting, regardless of whether the team engaging in it is one I support or not. It seems that such behavior will always be with us, though, especially with certain cultures treating players who con the referee into giving undeserved penalties or sending off a fellow professional as clever or skilled in gamesmanship instead of what they really are – cheats.

While it likely won't have any effect on the widespread cynicism or people who feel any action is justified in the pursuit of victory, it's heartening to see the Asian Football Confederation make an effort to cut down on time-wasting. From an AFC press release:
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has launched the ’60 Minutes – Don’t Delay. Play!’ campaign in an effort to reduce time-wasting and encourage more playing time in matches.

The actual average playing time in all AFC competitions is around 52.07 minutes, according to studies undertaken by the confederation.

This figure is 7.25 minutes less – or 12.2 per cent less – than the average for matches in FIFA competitions, which are considered a global benchmark, and 11.50 minutes (18.1 per cent) less than major European leagues.

Targeting eight more minutes of actual play to match the FIFA average, AFC believes an increase in playing time will lead to greater value and excitement for the fans, improvement in technical quality of play and more broadcasting interest.

A concerted effort to promote ‘60 Minutes’ will be undertaken with a series of measures, including education programmes for referees, coaches and teams, and proactive application of the advantage rule and minimisation of fouls.
How well this is implemented and how much of a dent it makes in generations of learned behavior remains to be seen, but kudos to the AFC for trying to improve things instead of blithely accepting the status quo.

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