Category Archives: Football

Biting v headbutting or shit v skit

The Suarez saga has once again made me reflect on what value we put on actions and words. How they can vary, a lot, in different countries. I am honestly interested in why some consider biting so much worse than a headbutt, elbow towards the head just to give examples of fouls that happen off the ball so to say.

I remember when my eldest child was around two, there was a girl who used to bite. Her mother watched her and did all she could to get her to stop but it didn’t really help. Other children would hit out which was considered “normal”. At the time it seemed really bad that the girl was biting but why is it worse to bite someone than hit someone? In years gone by a bite could make us quite ill but these days tetanus injections and other types of medicine keeps us quite safe.

However following social media it is apparently much worse to bite someone that headbutt, tackle someone so they break a bone, elbow someone in the face, the list goes on. I really would like to know why? The pain and injuries that the other fouls can lead to are much worse. Why does biting make people so upset? I honestly don’t know! I am not condoning it in anyway but it has made me wonder on what grounds we judge? Physical injury? Career ending?  I have no problem seeing it as bad but why worse?

A different example but for me on a similar vein is swearing. In UK my kids come home from school saying sugar, honey, ice and tea as saying shit is BAD!  They then make a game out of it to get around the taboo. In Sweden, my native country, we use skit = shit an  auxiliary sentence modifier that emphasizes the meaning of an adjective eg skitbra which means “very good”.  Swearing in Sweden is generally not considered as very bad but more of a stage children/ teenagers go through. Many continue to use some swear words but again more looked upon as modifiers in the sentence. The use of four letter words are an issue mainly among the young as we get older we look upon the use as childish and uneducated. We generally don’t take offence as much as we judge the person using the word. Obviously there are situations where it can cause problems say if alcohol is involved and other issues are present causing tensions.  Another sport related word that I have learnt is really bad in the UK is “cheat”. I can’t even find an equivalent in Swedish.

Obviously there is a different view on swearing in the UK and in Sweden. I am sure there are loads of similar example from other countries. It is clear that we add values to words and actions, positive or negative,  differently. From what I have read in social media the main outrage regarding the Suarez bite has been in the UK. I haven’t read the media in other countries so I can’t say for sure that this is the case but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. In Arabic countries men hold hands to show affection and friendship, in Western countries this would not happen.

So if anyone has an answer please let me know, all I have seen so far on biting is that it’s worse just because and I shouldn’t have to ask……




Football, rugby and referees

(Wrote this a few years ago but now organising stuff so I have it in one place)

When I was a little girl and started to go and watch football with my dad there was one thing he taught me from the very beginning. The referee is always right! My dad was a very good football player in his day. I never saw him play at his best but have been told that had the game been professional in Sweden at the time he would have been playing proffesionally. He had played games at all levels from local village games up to playing for North Sweden v North Norway and North Finland. For him it was a matter of course to respect the referee and as part of the game itself adher to the fact that the referee is always right. When I started playing myself this was deeply ingrained into me. I was captain of my team for most of 15 years and throughout my playing days the referee was always right. I didn’t necessarily agree with him/her all the time but I kept that to myself.

Therefore, I find it very hard to accept the way football is now treating their referees. I am saying football because even though it is the players that mainly hands out the abuse there are few laws that the referee can use to help him and in the end that is down to FIFA. The lack of respect from managers and players for the referees has led to football supporters behaving even worse at times. Anders Frisk a former Swedish referee felt that enough was enough after he and his young family received death threats from Chelsea fans after a Champions League match( ). We have seen Alex Ferguson recieve a 5 match ban for his behaviour. For me it’s clear that bad behaviour on the pitch or by the managers gives a clear signal to the fans that that type of behaviour is accepted and even asked for.

What’s worse, football doesn’t seem to do much about it. We seldom see any repercussions after atrocious behaviour on and off the pitch. What makes it even harder is that a sport that pretty much grew up next door has working laws in place but football has so far refused to even contemplate changes in that direction. I am of course talking about rugby union. I watch a lot of rugby and appreciate that the referee is so much better respected by the players and coaches. When I watch football it quite often makes me sad and disillusioned because of the way the players behave and their lack of respect for the referee. Especially as this is something that spreads and we now have a huge problem with abusive parents and young children behaving badly in youth football. One weekend there were three fights between parents, one fight between the children playing in my local area and that’s only the ones I know of.

There are some rugby laws that can be brought in directly to football and would increase respect for match officials and make football more enjoyable. There are three laws I would bring in to football to directly help the standing of the referee when on the pitch which are easy to implement. They are tools for the referee to control the behaviour of the players and have a direct impact on the player and the team.

•Penalty can be moved 10 metres forward (in football it would be the freekick)
•Sin bin
•Reversed penalties/freekicks
The first law would enable the referee to move a freekick forward as a direct consequence of
players questioning his decision or swearing at him for the decision made. The referee just says 10 metres and that’s it. The player has been given a clear warning that he is out of line and if he continues more severe sanctions will be implemented.

I think the yellow cards in today’s football are pretty useless. For example, van der Sar was given a yellow card against Liverpool at Anfield and what implications did it have, none! There was no incitament for him not to shout at the referee as he knew that a yellow card would be the only consequence. If he knew that he could be sent off for 10 minutes, would he have done the same? The introduction of a sin bin would increase the referee’s possibilities to directly deal with any dissent or foul play by the players, being a more severe outcome for the player and his team. In rugby, if you committ a yellow card offense you are sent off for 10 minutes. It is a direct punishment and has an impact there and then on the player and the game. The accumulation of cards in tournaments would become a non issue as the disciplinary action has already been meted.

Reversed penalties/freekicks is another but slightly different tool for the match officials. This law makes it possible to reverse an already given penalty/freekick and give it to the opposition. This option is mainly used if a player retaliates. The scenario could be that one player is brought down and is given a free kick. If he or any of his team mates then goes up to the offending player and pushes them, kicks them etc the referee can choose to reverse the penalty. I saw a very clear incident in a recent Magners League game. One player committed a yellow card offence and both penalty and a yellow card were given. However, the victim of the offence lost his temper and
threw the ball in the head/back of the offender. The reslut was that the yellow card stood and that player was sent off but the penalty was reversed. This law can also be used for dissent to match officials and if the assistant referee has seen something the referee didn’t pick up.

The main point of these three changes is that they stand for a direct punishment of unacceptable behaviour on the pitch, whether it is a bad tackle or disrespect against the referee.

In order to improve the game from a more general perspective I want to bring in citing. In rugby, if the match officials miss an incident and it is caught on camera the player can be banned after the game. I think that this something that should be used in football as well. The main use I see for it is blatant diving in the penalty box and when players pretend injuries (some exapmles at the start ), that is; unsportsmanlike behaviour. The main point being that it doesn’t matter if the referee saw the incident during the game, you can still be caught and punished for it.

Furthermore, I want to allow physios/doctors in on the pitch if someone is injured while play
continues. In football, we see players taking a dive, rolling around, pretending the injury is bad, ballthen being kicked out etc. Suddenly the player makes a miraculous recovery and seems to be fine.
In rugby, play continues while treatment is done on the pitch (there are a few exceptions like serious neck and head injuries). This means that the players don’t gain anything from pretending that an injury is worse than it was, in fact the team lose out as they have to play with one man less while treatment takes place. This would discourage football players to pretend that their injuries are worse than they are and the match would not be brought to stand still.

The last thing I would like to mention is goal line technology. Yes I want it! In rugby we are used to the TMO sign. We wait until the TMO has checked if a try was scored or not. This happens nearly every game, sometimes many times in one game. Not a big issue. To be fair in rugby it is usually a bit trickier to actually see whether a try has been scored compared to football where the ball some 99% of the time is either in the net or not. However, the main reason I want it for goals, unfortunately has to do with the referee. It hasn’t got anything to do with the flow of the game, being equal wherever or on whatever level you play football, or any of the other reason that FIFA seem to conjure. As mentioned above, there are referees that receive death threats for doing something that is vital for a football match to be played. We can play a game with less than 22 players on the pitch but not without a referee but who wants to be a referee now-a-days?. For the safety of the referees I want goal line technology. The use of technology works in many sports eg rugby, tennis, cricket, American football so I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work in football.

As a youth coach I am worried about the behaviour on the sidelines and by some players and I therefore think it is of utmost importance to deal with these issues. I think that the changes I have proposed are all easy to implement and stands for a direct consequence for any type of foul play. They would all help the referees and improve the game of football. It is my belief that a better environment on the pitch with respect for match officials will in the long run have an impact on the people watching the game. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to have empty sections when football is played to separate home and away fans.

Yes I know the offside rule

Do you know the offside rule? I have actually been asked the question a number of times even after having told the person (often a man) I am talking with that I have played football competetively for some 15 years. Sometimes I have probably even mentioned that I used to play in central defence and was the person in charge of said defence. I guess that the fact that they even ask me the question says more about them than about me.

I grew up watching football and in the dressing rooms of the team my father at that time coached, there were the U16 boys, the first division ladies team and the 3rd division men’s team. So, by the time I started playing football myself I already had a good grasp of the laws of football. The fact that many women know the laws of the game and even the tactics of football seem to threaten some men. We recently had a highly public situation when the assistant referee Sian Massey’s knowledge of the offside rule was questioned by two Sky Sports commentators (Richard Keys and Andy Gray) .

What happened to Sian Massey and discussions I, over the years and especailly more recently, have had with men about football made me think about how and why men respond the way they do when I talk football with them. (I also get it to a smaller extent with rugby).

I get the ones who ”give up” early and admit that even though they go to the Pub to watch football every week they don’t actually know football, it’s just an excuse to drink beer, which is fair enough. They express amazement that I am genuinely interested in the game and tend to be impressed by the fact that I have played football.

However I also meet the Mr Keys and Mr Grays. These are the men who for some reason seem to believe that not knowing as much about football as a woman will somehow make them less of a man. At least is that the impression I get. Recently I started to talk football with an acquaintance. I later remember that earlier I had made a mental note to avoid talking football and rugby with this man. It usually starts off fine, but as soon as I start to get more technical, talk tactics and more knowledgeable than he, the jokes/slights meant to put me down starts. Things like ”you should join the FA and sit on a committee and sort these things out”, when discussing referees. (If you have read my previous article in Swinging Balls you know that I have strong feelings regarding the way players treat match officials.) All said with a smile but the undertone is always there. Should I be offended, I don’t know? Similar things happen often, is it worth the effort. Also as I said earlier, it probably says more about them than about me. This might sound a bit arrogant, but I am confident in my knowledge of football and don’t have a need to prove myself to anyone.

Something which is quite interesting is that the offside rule often comes up in discussions with men . When I then start to mention that I played with a slightly different interpretation of the law and how it has changed etc, it becomes obvious that I know much more than some of them about the offside rule and once again the jokes start. The start of the jokes has become my cue to understand which category a particular man belongs to when it comes to talking football. I do want to ensure you that many of these men are perfectly normal and nice people when not talking football with me:-). What I can’t understand is why the offside rule has become some sort of watershed, if you know it you know football. I would say that we all disagree much more about when it is a freekick or a penalty, when a yellow card should be given etc.

I also meet men whose common nominator is that they love football just as much as I do and they don’t think they become less of man if a woman knows more about football than they do. There are also lots of men who know more than me especially since I have had around 10 years with small children and at that time football has been on the backburner.

A couple of years ago I started to talk football at a party with two brothers. One of them knew me from before and had never started with the jokes when we talked football even though he’s a Manchester United supporter and I am a Liverpool supporter. The three of us started talking football with all of us supporting different Premier League teams and ended up talking about World Cup football from the 90s. The discussion was interesting and lively. At the end, the brother I hadn’t met before expressed how impressive he was with my knowledge, maybe to some extent because I was a woman but also in general terms. Another recent incident comes from my son’s football training.

As you do when watching the little ones train, we talked football. This time we started on Spanish football as it was just after Barcelona had won against Arsenal. We then ended up talking about Italian football. People who know me will now that I love Italian football as I find their defensive play fascinating and Franco Baresi is my all time favourite footballer. Everyone knows what Italy will do if they score a goal but there are not many teams that can do anything about it. When I started to talk about the defensive tactics of Italian teams he gave me a strange look held his hands up and admitted that he loves football, to play and watch but tactics is not his forte.

I meet many people who know more about football than me which is great as it helps me to learn more. Being ”new” to rugby one of the ways to learn more for me is to discuss rugby with others who are interested. I stay away from the discussions that go over my head and try to learn by reading/listening. However there are quite a few Mr Keys and Mr Grays out there. The big question then being ; why are there so many men who feel threatened by women who are knowledgeable and love sport?