Unsure Footing

Roman Mars:
This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
The most popular sport in the world has been relatively slow to catch on here in the United States. There’s this episode of ‘The Simpsons’ that I think captures the disdain with which some Americans regard the rest of humanity’s favorite game. It starts with the family watching TV.

Hank Willams Jr.:
“Open wide for some soccer!”

Announcer:
“The Continental Soccer Association is coming to Springfield! It’s all here. Fast kicking. Low scoring. And ties? You bet!”

Bart Simpson:
“Hey Dad, how come you’ve never taken us to see a soccer game?”

Homer Simpson:
“I don’t know.”

Roman Mars:
So the Simpsons decide to go to the game and the stands are packed (crowd cheering), but the fans’ enthusiasm quickly evaporates as the game gets going.

Kent Brockman:
“Halfback passes to the center, back to the wing, back to the center. Center holds it, holds it, holds it.”

Homer Simpson:
“Boring!”

Krusty the Clown:
“Come on, you snorers! Do something!”

Emmett FitzGerald:
I think it’s fair to say that Homer and Krusty the Clown are echoing a common complaint about soccer that you hear in the United States a lot – that it’s not exciting enough.

Roman Mars:
That’s producer Emmett FitzGerald.

Emmett FitzGerald:
“They don’t score enough points!” lament these narrow-minded touchdown lovers. I completely disagree with this perspective, but even I have to admit that soccer can be a low-scoring affair. Professional teams routinely win games one to nothing or, worse yet, battle for 90 minutes and settle for a zero-zero draw. But whatever your feelings about the relative excitement of the beautiful game, soccer was undoubtedly more boring 30 years ago.

Adam Hurrey:
The world was in general agreement that the game was too slow and it needed to be made more dynamic.

Emmett FitzGerald:
This is soccer writer, or football writer, Adam Hurrey, and Adam says that the main culprit slowing the game down was the goalkeeper.

Adam Hurrey:
The goalkeeping became very useful in controlling the pace of a game.

Roman Mars:
Basically, teams would score a goal or two, and then they would do anything they could just to kill time and protect the lead. The easiest way to do that was just to pass the ball to the goalkeeper.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Who, back then, could just pick the ball up and run a few seconds off the clock before throwing it back into play. And you could do this as many times as you wanted.

Adam Hurrey:
It kind of resulted in real, sort of, almost comical scenarios where they would kick the ball back to the goalkeeper from the halfway line, from free-kicks that they had in the opposition half, just because they knew that that would waste precious seconds. The opposition team simply couldn’t have the ball.

Roman Mars:
People finally got fed up with this uninspiring tactic during the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Adam Hurrey:
Now, nostalgia kind of paints the World Cup of 1990 as a wonderful tournament, but at the time it was regarded as the paragon of cynical football.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Lots of low scoring games, lots of passing the ball back to the keeper, lots of time-wasting.

Adam Hurrey:
There was one story about a game at Italia 90 between Egypt and Republic of Ireland where someone totaled up the amount of time that Irish goalkeeper, Pat Bonner, had the ball in his hands, and it added up to six minutes.

Roman Mars:
In other words, fans spent about 7% of the game watching the goalkeeper just hold the ball.

Adam Hurrey:
Sepp Blatter, who was the General Secretary of FIFA at the time, he said, “This is not why people go to watch football.” It’s one of the rare things he did get right in his time at FIFA, but he was spot on. He was absolutely right, this is not entertaining football. This does not inspire people, and there was no skill in simply standing there holding the ball in one’s hand.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Something had to be done. So in 1992, the International Football Association Board, the committee in charge of determining the rules of soccer, made a minor change to the laws of the game. From that season forward, in every league throughout the world, if a player intentionally kicked the ball back to the goalkeeper, the goalkeeper could no longer use their hands.

Adam Hurrey:
So any deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper from any place on the pitch could not be picked up.

Emmett FitzGerald:
FIFA put out a press release about the new rule where they came down really hard on the goalkeepers.

Adam Hurrey:
It was entitled ‘Goalkeepers Are Not Above the Law’ and they were very strong about this. They said the goalkeeper has a very rare privilege in football, the use of his hands, but it is a privilege that should not be abused. Time-wasting is one of the worst forms of unsporting behavior because it attempts to deny proponents a fair chance of using the full allotted time to use their skills to win the game.

Roman Mars:
The backpass law might seem like a pretty subtle tweak to the rules of soccer, but over time it would completely transform the game in ways that FIFA could never have envisioned. This little rule change would become one of the most consequential in the history of the sport and force nearly every player on the field to adapt. But, in the short term, the rule change would cause an existential crisis for one player in particular, the goalkeeper.

Emmett FitzGerald:
The goalkeeper has always been a unique specialist position, like a field goal kicker in American football or a coxswain in rowing. They even wear a different colored shirt from their teammates as if to signify, “I am not like the rest of you.”

Roman Mars:
The most obvious difference is that they’re allowed to do something that no one else on the field can – touch the ball with their hands. Goalkeepers have this strange superpower, which they use to ruin everyone else’s fun.

Justin Bryant:
Soccer’s the most popular sport in the world and what most people love about it is the goals. It’s actually our ambition to prevent goals from happening, so we’re sort of trying to disappoint the entire world.

Emmett FitzGerald:
This is Justin Bryant, a former professional fun ruiner who is currently the goalkeeping coach for the North Carolina State women’s soccer team. Bryant is from the United States, but he played professionally in England in the ‘80s and ‘90s for a really small club called Boreham Wood FC.

Justin Bryant:
They paid me, I think, 50 pounds a week.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Plus room and board.

Justin Bryant:
So, by the slimmest of margins, I made a living. But I did.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Justin was this kid from Florida living out of a bed and breakfast, trying to follow his dreams. But it wasn’t always easy. The fields were in bad shape, fans were sometimes hostile, and the style of play in England at the time wasn’t very sophisticated. Teams would just kick these long balls forward and hope that their big, bruising striker would make something happen.

Justin Bryant:
I had to very quickly get used to balls being played into the box and three or four great, big, bald-headed, tattooed guys flying in, trying to run me over, essentially.

Roman Mars:
It’s the goalkeeper’s job to go grab that ball no matter what.

Justin Bryant:
Yeah, it’s actually counter to several million years of human evolution, throwing ourselves, hurling ourselves in front of a ball that’s moving at a high rate of speed.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Some people say you have to be crazy to be a goalkeeper. Justin doesn’t love that word, but he says that goalkeepers are just wired a little bit differently than everybody else. If he spots a soccer team at the airport, for example, he can recognize the goalkeeper right away.

Justin Bryant:
It’s a different personality type, it’s a different mindset, a different mentality. They carry themselves differently. They express themselves differently.

Emmett FitzGerald:
What are the telltale signs of a goalkeeper?

Justin Bryant:
I don’t know. Goalkeepers tend to have kind of a knowing smirk. That’s the best way I’d put it. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Yeah, I know. I know what you think, but I still like to do this.”

Emmett FitzGerald:
I grew up playing soccer, and I never wanted to be the goalkeeper. In part because it felt like such a thankless job. When goalies do everything right, they get taken for granted, but if they make one mistake, everyone notices.

Justin Bryant:
We can make utter fools of ourselves. We can make just the most horrific mistakes that lose games, and it’s very evident to everybody watching when that happens.

Commentator:
“What a fatal error! What on Earth is he doing?”

Commentator:
“But what happened to the goalkeeper?”

Justin Bryant:
I think that’s every goalkeeper’s nightmare, where you have nothing to do the whole game, and then the other team gets one chance and it squirms right into your hands and into the goal and you lose by that goal.

Commentator:
“Whoops-a-daisy. What a mistake! How on earth did you do that? He completely misjudged it! That has to be the worst mistake that I’ve ever seen, from an excellent goalkeeper.”

Justin Bryant:
That’s a recipe for a sleepless night or two.

Roman Mars:
For that reason, the goalkeeper developed a reputation as kind of a lonely outsider. French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus was a goalkeeper, if that tells you anything.

Justin Bryant:
Obviously, I’ve been around goalkeepers now as my profession for a quarter-century, and there were a lot of individualists, iconoclasts, loners, whatever you want to call them. We are kind of alone, tasked with keeping the ball out of the net with our hands.

Roman Mars:
For Justin Bryant’s whole life, that had been his one job, to keep the ball out of the net with his hands. That is until 1992.

Justin Bryant:
I didn’t hear about it until it actually did happen. I think anecdotally somebody mentioned, “Oh, starting next season you can’t pick up a backpass,” and I couldn’t believe it because there were an awful lot of goalkeepers that weren’t suited for it at all.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Goalkeepers in England were trained in how to block shots, catch crosses and fight for loose balls. All things you mostly do with your hands.

Justin Bryant:
A training session in the old days, a goalkeeper session in the 1980s, wouldn’t involve playing the ball with your feet at all. At no point.

Roman Mars:
But now, if someone on their own team passed them the ball, the goalkeeper would be stripped of their superpowers. They would need to use their feet just like everybody else.

Emmett FitzGerald:
That turned out to be a bit of a problem because a lot of them just didn’t know how.

Roman Mars:
1992 was a big year for English soccer. It was the start of a brand new, highly-commercialized league that would go on to become the most lucrative in the world, the English Premier League.

Emmett FitzGerald:
There were big-money sponsorships and a new TV deal, the whole country was watching soccer, but that first weekend of games in this critical season were pretty sloppy.

Adam Hurrey:
We had a weekend full of goalkeepers making horrendous errors because they just didn’t know what to do.

Emmett FitzGerald:
That’s Adam Hurrey again.

Adam Hurrey:
Goalkeepers were in a blind panic. The ball would be kicked back to them as it used to be because defenders had a habit of doing that. But then, once the ball was at their feet, they had sheer terror.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Over the first few months, it was as if all the goalkeepers in England were working together to collaboratively produce one long blooper reel. There were slips, falls, and bizarre own goals. There was a particularly comical episode involving the goalkeeper for Sheffield United, a man named Simon Tracey.

Adam Hurrey:
Now, I’m going to take you through this kind of calamity point-by-point because it really does sum up the immediate effects of the backpass law. He was passed the ball back, very simple pass, he could’ve dealt with it quite easily.

Emmett FitzGerald:
But now that the ball was at his feet, a striker from the other team started charging at Tracey, fast, knowing full well that he probably didn’t have great foot skills, and Tracey clearly panicked.

Commentator:
“Tracey. He’s going to get caught here if he’s not careful.”

Adam Hurrey:
Then he tried to do a little bit of skill to get away from this attacker running straight at him and ended up running sideways towards the side of the pitch.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Tracey ended up dribbling the ball straight out of bounds.

Commentator:
“It’s a typical example of just how the backpass rule…”

Emmett FitzGerald:
Then, it went from comedy to farce because the other team just needed to do a throw-in and they could shoot on an empty net since Tracey was so far out of position. So Tracey tried to stop the ball boy from giving the ball to the other team.

Adam Hurrey:
He ended up kind of wrestling the ball from this small child.

Sports Commentator:
“Oh, and he’s marauding him…”

Emmett FitzGerald:
Tracey then tackled the player on the other team to prevent him from throwing it in. He was given a red card and kicked out of the game.

Sports Commentator:
“He has to go for his second bookable offense. Simon Tracey, the Sheffield United goalkeeper…”

Adam Hurrey:
So within about, maybe, 15 seconds, the whole drastic effects of the backpass law had been summed up. Goalkeeper receiving a pass, not knowing what to do, trying to be clever, then ending up in this kind of calamity where he got sent off because he just didn’t know what to do.

Roman Mars:
More often though, when someone passed the ball back to the goalkeeper, the keeper would just kick it away as far as he could, sometimes straight up the field but often the ball would end up out of bounds.

Justin Bryant:
Sometimes 15 rows up in the stadium, sometimes completely out of the stadium. So it wasn’t a very aesthetically pleasing development at first.

Adam Hurrey:
The first reaction was, “How has this improved our game? If anything, it’s less enjoyable to watch because now the ball’s in the stand instead of the goalkeeper’s hands.” World Soccer Magazine launched a ‘Save Our Backpass’ campaign.

Justin Bryant:
I remember thinking that, as a fan of the game, “Yeesh, this is not the greatest thing to look at, and I think they’re going to regret it.” I even wondered, in the early days, if they would change it back.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Another goalkeeper from that time, Craig Forrest, remembers the rule change causing friction between goalkeepers and defenders. Forrest played for a Premier League team called Ipswich Town, and he says that, that first season, his defenders would forget about the rule change and pass him the ball in these really dangerous situations.

Craig Forrest:
They would pass a ball back to you forgetting, when the rule came in, that you couldn’t pick it up. Sometimes it would slip their mind, they would lose focus and pass you one back, and not realize that, “Oh, no, no, no. You can’t pick it up,” and you’re under too much pressure.

Emmett FitzGerald:
He remembers one moment in particular where a teammate whipped a hard pass right at his chest.

Craig Forrest:
He’s yelling at me, why didn’t I just pick it up?

Emmett FitzGerald:
The two goalkeepers that I spoke to for this story were the lucky ones. They had decent foot skills and so, over time, they were able to adjust to the rule change, but that wasn’t the case for every goalkeeper.

Craig Forrest:
If anybody wasn’t at all comfortable with playing with your feet, you got found out really quickly. You could be good at everything else, but if you’re not good at playing with your feet or striking a ball first time and dealing with that, you’d be out of the game in a heartbeat. A lot of guys, it did kill the game for them as well.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Over the course of the ’90s, lots of goalkeepers were just weeded out because they couldn’t adapt to this new reality.

Adam Hurrey:
There’s a tragic element to this because there are hundreds of footballers who simply were of no use almost straight away. Suddenly, they were forced to do things that they simply weren’t trained for, that a whole generation of goalkeepers who had been brought up to rely on their hands only, were suddenly rendered kind of redundant.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Right. It’s almost like jobs lost to automation or something.

Adam Hurrey:
Yeah, exactly right! It’s a little bit like that. Once this law came in and wreaked havoc with their entire existence, they looked even more lonely than before because they looked almost obsolete.

Roman Mars:
And you’ve got to feel for these guys. The goalkeeper was already this isolated, lonely player, and they just pull the rug out from under them with this rule change and tell them, “Well, now you need to have this whole new set of skills that you weren’t trained for.”

Emmett FitzGerald:
But over time, the rule really became quite successful. For one, it completely did away with time-wasting, which was its initial purpose. Then, after a few rough years, goalkeepers really started developing the necessary foot skills.

Justin Bryant:
Then what happened is we changed the way we train goalkeepers, so it didn’t take long for coaches to realize, “Gosh, we’ve got to prepare goalkeepers for this demand.”

Emmett FitzGerald:
Justin Bryant says he had a goalkeeping coach at Boreham Wood who really made a point of this.

Justin Bryant:
Once the new law came into play, he started adding an element of playing the ball with your feet to every session, almost every activity, every drill. So we just started adding this kind of thing to training. Everyone did it. Took a while, but everyone started incorporating it, and then the goalkeepers got better.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Was it fun to suddenly have this new challenge?

Justin Bryant:
It was. It was fun because I liked the feeling of being a more complete player. It made us feel better about being goalkeepers because now we weren’t just these weirdos who stood back there and swatted at the ball with our hands. We were soccer players.

Roman Mars:
But the goalkeepers weren’t the only ones who had to adjust to the rule. From the perspective of the defenders, the game changed a lot too. Before, when they got into a sticky situation, they could just pass the ball back to the goalkeeper who would pick it up.

Adam Hurrey:
Now they didn’t have this escape route, they didn’t have this kind of fail-safe, so they had to kind of evolve very quickly as well.

Roman Mars:
As defenders and goalkeepers adjusted to this rule and got more skilled with their feet, it completely changed the way the game was played. Instead of just booting long balls forward, teams started focusing on keeping control of the ball with skillful passing.

Adam Hurrey:
Possession of the ball became imperative. If you had the ball, the other team couldn’t score. That was pretty much the ethos here, and that starts from the back. If you can have a goalkeeper who’s fully capable of joining in with the play, then he becomes an extra player than what you may have had 20 years previously. So it became an opportunity rather than a restriction.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Adam Hurrey says that the rule change even made players more physically fit. Before, whenever anyone passed it back to the goalkeeper, the outfield players have this moment to catch their breath. Now there’s no let-up. The action is nonstop. The average outfield player today runs about seven miles in a single match.

Adam Hurrey:
Now, they’re all like Olympic decathletes. They’re all built like middleweight boxes. I think what we have now is a completely different sport. It’s quicker, it’s more dynamic, players have to be fitter. Football has become so quick and so spectacular, again, as a direct result of the backpass law. It is, to me, an underrated moment in football history.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Everyone that I talked to for this story brought up the same player, a goalkeeper who really represents just how far the game has come since this rule changed back in 1992. His name is Ederson, and he’s this incredibly athletic Brazilian. He’s got a neck tattoo the size of his neck. Ederson is a very good goalkeeper in the traditional sense, he’s a big guy with really strong hands, he’s very agile, good at blocking shots. But Ederson has spellbinding foot skills.

Adam Hurrey:
He’s incredible with the ball at his feet.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Ederson plays for the English club Manchester City, who have one of the best coaches in the world, a man named Pep Guardiola. Guardiola started using Ederson in a way that basically no goalkeeper had been used before.

Adam Hurrey:
Ederson is a playmaker. He starts attacks for Manchester City. He’ll hit the ball 50 yards, he can hit the ball five yards, but everything he does with the ball is with a purpose. He’s treated as part of the team because of that.

Emmett FitzGerald:
In many ways, Ederson feels like a unique talent, but at every level of soccer, coaches are treating goalkeepers more like full members of the team. Today, Justin Bryant is the goalkeeping coach for the North Carolina State women’s team, and he says that when they’re recruiting, they like to look for goalkeepers who can play the ball with their feet and possess the ball out of the back. Last year, NC State had a star goalkeeper named Sydney Wootten.

Justin Bryant:
She took us to two sweet sixteens. She had shutouts against schools like North Carolina Chapel Hill, University of Virginia.

Emmett FitzGerald:
Wootten was very short for a goalie, but she was an incredible athlete…

Justin Bryant:
… with great leaping ability and very fast feet. But mainly, she was such a good striker of the ball, such a good passer.

Emmett FitzGerald:
So the team developed a whole tactic of playing the ball out from the back based around Wootten’s foot skills. Wootten wasn’t just known for preventing the other team from scoring, although she did that too, she was a valuable part of the team’s offensive strategy.

Roman Mars:
So, in a way, this rule that initially seemed so unfair to goalkeepers has ultimately made them a bit more like everyone else.

Adam Hurrey:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the grand narrative of the backpass law is that it had disastrous early effects, it caused goalkeepers to question their very existence, and then over the course of the next 10 or 20 years, it brought them back into the family.

Justin Bryant:
You still have individualistic, iconoclastic, loaner personalities, but we are, in a very real sense, more a part of the team now.

Emmett FitzGerald:
This year, the International Football Association Board made a few more tweaks to the rules. There’s one change, in particular, that’s causing a few little problems – from now on, goal kicks don’t have to leave the penalty box. And teams are struggling to figure it out. Players are making mistakes just like they did back in 1992.

Roman Mars:
It’s hard to say right now if this will be an important rule change. We probably won’t know for a couple of decades, but if we’ve learned anything from the backpass law, it’s that anytime you tinker with the rules of a sport, you never know what might happen.

Credits

Production

Producer Emmett FitzGerald spoke with Adam Hurrey and author of Football Clichés; Justin Bryant, former soccer goalkeeper and author of Small Time: A Life in the Football Wilderness; and Craig Forrest, former goalkeeper.

Special thanks to Michael Cox, who we also spoke with for this story. His new book, The Mixer, is a great look at the evolution of soccer tactics since the backpass rule.

  1. Andrew Davidson

    Loved the story, but wanted to hear more about the Georgian guy who claims to have come up with the back pass rule: who and what is he? And how did his idea get to FIFA?

    And could you not get any better confirmation of the authenticity of the fax than it looks genuine from a couple of you? Couldn’t FIFA be asked to comment or corroborate that part of the story?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Ike

      My guess (hope) is that if and when they hear back from the Georgian man, it will be the basis for a sequel episode

  2. peter

    Just a short remark:
    The last video cannot be watched from germany:
    “Video nicht verfügbar Dieses Video umfasst Inhalte von Bundesliga. Dieser Partner hat das Video in deinem Land aus urheberrechtlichen Gründen gesperrt.” which translates to “Video not available. This video includes content from Bundesliga. This partner has blocked the video in your country for copyright reasons.”
    Which does not diminish this interesting article about a very uninteresting topic.

  3. Jimmy

    Long post, but thank you for a brilliant article about a genuine game-changer.

    2 points;
    1. Liverpool FC, the dominant European team in the 1980s, have not won a league championship since the back pass rule came into effect. Before the rule came in, you’d see the last 10 minutes of tight games with the winning team playing keep-ball. The players with the most touches would be the goalkeeper and 2 defenders, and Liverpool had perfected it. 3 players – Hansen, Grobbelaar and Lawrenson – could have exclusive possession during the most critical 10% of the game. It was a boring and frustrating anticlimax for all but the ardent Liverpool fans. This year, Liverpool have a chance to win it for the first time playing beautiful football for the full 90 minutes, and no-one will accuse them of being boring.

    2. The new goal kick rule mentioned. It might seems insignificant, but will change the game forever, for the youngest players. The sport’s governing body insist that the rules of the game are universal. Same rules apply for the Premier League and the cub scout league.

    The new rule says player taking a goal kick (which has to be taken within 6 yards of the goal) can now pass the ball to a teammate inside the 18-yard penalty box. Opposing players will still need to stay outside the box, but can enter as soon as the goal kick is taken. As of now, the ball cannot be touched by any other player until the kick is taken.

    This rule change will barely be noticeable in the Premier League. At the senior level, adult players have no problem kicking a standing ball 50+ yards, placing the ball in the opponent’s territory.

    For juniors, kicking the ball with enough power and trajectory to clear someone standing on the edge of the box is an emerging skill. They just don’t kick the ball that hard yet. Goal kicks at the under-10 levels present a great opportunity for your opponents. The ball is only 6 yards from goal, and a young kid has to kick it far enough to reach safety. Under the current rules, opponents can line up on the edge of the box, waiting for a scuffed kick to trickle into their path, giving them a clear shot on goal. That puts tremendous pressure on the kid taking the goal kick; mess it up and you’re likely to provide an assist to the opposition.

    The rule change means kids have more options to get the ball away from goal than relying on strength alone. We’ll see new tactics and less frustration for the youngest players. Looking forward to seeing that in the parks on Saturday mornings.

  4. Fabricio Ortiz de Montellano

    The best goalkeeper with footskills was left out of the story: Jorge Campos. Would have been interesting to see what others think of his skills. He revolutionized the position.

  5. Dan

    As a recovering goalkeeper myself, this was a great episode that highlights the eccentricities of goalies and our thankless job (unless you seal the win with a save in a shootout). But then to relive the moments of panic and dread after the rule change when a defender would pass the ball back and all sense of comfort on the ball would evaporate, thinking “what do I do? just don’t screw up”

    I was surprised that the keeper used as an example wasn’t Manuel Neuer from Germany/Bayern Munich, instead of Ederson. While Neuer is not currently regarded as the #1 goalkeeper in the world (he was not too long ago), he is the first keeper that comes to mind for me as an example of a “sweeper keeper” who uses his feet to get involved in the defense and move the ball out of the back. Neuer completely changed the position https://youtu.be/npiAfbtlwLc

  6. Mike

    As a soccer fan loved the episode.

    I wanted to add some potential info regarding the guy who allegedly invented the rule. I grew up in Georgia, and I always heard that there was this guy who invented a different rule in soccer regarding time-wasting!!!

    According to the story, back in the day, players would waste time by kicking the ball far out of the field. Since there were no ball kids around the field, it would take forever for them to get the ball back and the players would waste time this way. Well, according to the legend, this fan in Georgia wrote to Fifa, suggesting to have ball boys around the field who would immediately get another ball to the player. And that’s how that was introduced. I even heard the same facts about the fax of a thank you letter written by Fifa to him!

    Now I’m wondering if that story was true or not, or if this man is responsible for introducing both of these laws, which would be amazing!!! I hope you guys can investigate this a bit more :)

    Thanks!

    1. Ovidius

      I was at an Italian 7th division Promozione match a few years ago, last game of the season between the home side chasing the playoffs and the away side fighting relegation so it was a cliffhanger. It was 4-3 in the end and at times when winning the home side would kick the ball out into the stinging nettles around the pitch to waste time and let the away player dig it out, no ball boys at that level. When the away team did the same when the game was even the home side would produce a spare ball from the dugout. I myself play in a tournament every year and there is a tricky fence and sheep field behind one goal, if we are winning and I need a rest if I know I won’t score I won’t tap a speculative effort in but make sure I blast it over the fence into the sheep so the keeper has to climb the fence and retrieve the ball costing loads of time. Top shithousery.

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