Monday, 25 June 2012

Aaaghhh Not Penalties!

It was all over the moment the ball left Ashley Youngs boot. Half a foot lower and it would have thundered against the inside top of the net, and England would have kept an advantage. By the time Ashley Cole stepped up the body language said it all, and I, like all England fans new it was over.

Cats were thrown, dogs kicked, wives hid, grown men cried and children didn't understand what was going on. Yet again penalties had crushed the dreams of a nation (though to be honest if Italy could shoot straight it should have been over long before that). 

Again there will be national morning, the result talked about in the pub and on TV, but the reality is the penalty curse is growing into a self perpetuating myth that players are scared of. So what started this? Why are crucial games decided on a game of nerves? Why deep down do we love, yet hate it?

It is exciting, a sanitized version of Russian Roulette where players pull the trigger. The weight on the players shoulders are immense, it's time to prove your worth. We want the player to score, to mock him if he misses and cheer when the keeper saves it.  My father in law still likes to remind me how close he was to catching David Beckhams penalty from Euro 2004 that ended up in the stands. But it wasn't always this way.

FIFA introduced penalties in 1970 at the request of the Israelis after they were eliminated by a coin toss. Yes after 120 minutes off football, games could be decided by a coin toss or drawing lots. Could have saved everybody the bother by doing that before the match.

The shoot out had been used before that in many games. The Yugoslavian Cup used them as early as 1952, the Italians a few years late (perhaps that's why they are good at them). As a way of deciding a match it is fair, it seperates the men from the boys. They are cruel to fans and players but if it is not your team it is exciting.  For a player that lone walk to the spot must be terrafying unless you have the confidence to do it.  Really it should not be hard, walk and kick it hard at the goal.  Don't try anything flash. Placing it in the corner, just outside the goalkeepers reach looks good.  Deftly chipping it in as the goalkeeper goes the wrong way, looks good.  But these techniques and many other show pony moves like the shimy up to the ball or a stop start run up make you look an idiot when you miss (and often you do).  Just look at the keeper and smack the ball towards the centre of the goal, nine times out of ten he will miss during his hero dive and your reputation in safe.

This morning watching England lose again on penalities I yelled obsentaties.  I dropped my heads in my hands.  I cursed and muttered and new it was all over.  But as I did this I new that tomorrow I will have forgotten who missed, but the player will know, and they must live forever knowing they are a failure.  As a long suffering England fan I can take comfort in that.

Note; PensPlanesandProcrastinations does not condone animal cruelty in away, verbal cruelty to professional football players is fine. 

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