'Let's settle matches like we did in the park'

By Duncan Hooper 25/05/2012 14:18

After Fifa's top offical proposes abolishing penalty shootouts, Iain MacIntosh considers how he would like to see stalemate finals decided.


How to replace penalty shoot-outsI wonder what it’s like inside Sepp Blatter’s head. I bet there’s loads of cushions and a buffet. There’s probably a free bar and a stripper’s pole too.


I know there must be an ‘idea klaxon’ that goes off every hour. It’s the only explanation for his behaviour.


HONK! “Make the ladies play in their underwear, everyone will tune in!”


HONK! “Stage the World Cup in a 50 degree desert state! Don’t worry, we’ll invent a cloud machine, it’ll be awesome!”


HONK! “Get rid of penalty shoot-outs! We can’t have Chelsea winning stuff!”


"It’s Russian Roulette, but with significantly less mess on the carpet at the end."


I love a penalty shoot-out, personally. Footballers live in a bubble, protected by clubs, by agents, by hangers-on, by giant, balance-affecting headphones, and once every now and then we get to see them stripped bare and battered with an emotional mallet for our own titillation. It’s Russian Roulette, but with significantly less mess on the carpet at the end. But even I wonder if it ever delivers a satisfactory result.


Can you really decide the outcome of a long game with a mini-game of just one discipline? It doesn’t feel like we’re that far away from deciding the destiny of a trophy on keepy-ups. And knowing Blatter, that’s probably exactly what he’s got in mind.


If we’re going to change the system, we should at least try and make it about the football. When I, and I suspect you, played football in the park after school, we had a very natural way of resolving stalemate. Our parents.

"There’s a chance that this too will end with two exhausted, red-faced multi-millionaires running against each other in the centre circle"


As the sun slipped below the treeline and the 99p plastic ball became ever more elusive in the gloom, mums and dads would appear at random, summoning key players in for their tea. Eventually, there would be only two combatants left, exhausted and red-faced, running against each other in a last, brutal duel. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work now.


Granted, we probably don’t need to bring the mums in, though if Javier Hernandez is involved, I’m going to insist on it. But we can slowly reduce the players, can’t we? I’m torn as to whether it should be a strategic decision, leading to glorious tantrums as players find out exactly where they sit in the pecking order, or if it should be random and broadcast on the jumbotron, allowing pundits to say, “Oooh, they’ve lost their goalkeeper. That could hurt them.”


Eventually, there’s a chance that this too will end with two heavy-legged multi-millionaires chasing each other around the centre circle, but who wouldn’t want to see that? If Blatter is going to insist on something other than penalties, I can’t think of a better conclusion.


Iain is a football writer whose work regularly appears in publications from Dublin to Singapore. You can follow him on Twitter @IainMacIntosh


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