Wednesday, April 13, 2016

To Play On, Or Not to Play On

A lot has been made in recent weeks about the ethics of playing on, or playing the ball out of bounds when an opposing player goes down with an injury. In multiple instances this season, we've seen teams opt for the former, one drawing a tongue-lashing from an irate USMNT captain Michael Bradley, and another leading to the only goal in a 1-0 game which left New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch furious. Do Marsch and Bradley have a case? Were the 'unwritten rules' of the game violated?

In short, no, they do not. This isn't U-10s where we teach players to play the ball out of bounds when there's an injury because we're concerned about the safety of the children. This is professional soccer, and everyone knows that there's a problem with players taking dives and faking injuries. Are some of the injuries real? Of course they are. Just ask Steve Zakuani, or Stuart Holden among others. The PROBLEM is, that players will go down for no reason, require medical attention, and then bounce back up as if nothing happened. Wasn't it the 2011 women's World Cup that a player got taken off the field on a stretcher and then upon reaching the sideline jumped off and ran back into the game? I seem to recall a sequence in the 2002 World Cup in a game between Brazil and Turkey (maybe?) when a Turkish player kicked a ball towards a Brazilian player who was getting ready to take a corner. The ball hit the Brazilian player in the shin, the Brazilian goes down holding his face, and the Turkish player gets sent off. So with that kind of culture ingrained in the game right now, why would you ever stop play unless there was blood, some sort of compound fracture, or a clear-cut head injury?

It sucks that that's what the game's come to, but at the professional level, I don't feel like there's any obligation for players to stop for an opponent's injury. Do you know whose job it is to determine if the injury is serious enough to warrant a stoppage of play? The referee's! You play to the whistle, something we teach at every level. It's unfortunate that the injury to New York's Kemar Lawrence was real, and then it led to New England's game winning goal, but if teams want to gripe about that, then people can't go down like they've been shot every time they take a nick.

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