On the Spot

February 16, 2015 By Fabian Odhiambo

On the Spot

The other day at the site’s social interactive platform…yeah, I just said that. Alright, on the site’s WhatsApp group, there was a discussion about a hypothetical technicality during post match penalties. It elicited quite considerably varied responses and to be honest, got me flip flopping on the stance I had taken initially. The question was, suppose in a penalty shoot-out, a goalkeeper suffers injury and his team had exhausted all their allowed substitutions, what happens? Is there special dispensation for the stricken custodian to be subbed off and be replaced by his understudy? Or is the team forced to have one of their outfield players grab the gloves and assume the role of shot stopper for the remainder of the shoot out?

As you think about that, let’s digress just a tiny little bit and talk about penalties in general. Now we all agree this is a cruel way to decide the outcome of a match/tie…well, if you’re on the losing side, that is. I’ll just be blunt. I hate penalties. For a team sport to resort to a kicker-versus-goalie spot kicks to break deadlock, something doesn’t add up somewhere. I mean, in a normal situation, five kickers and a goalkeeper will take part – essentially reducing the game of football to a 6-aside. You could argue that it represents a 54.5% part of the team and thus a plausible representative proportion, but fact remains, it is not a complete team.

Am I coming off too strong? Too resentful of spot kicks? Well, maybe. I’m a lousy penalty taker. Like really, really lousy. If I took three successive kicks, I would almost always miss two. No exaggeration, I’ve done that experiment, trust me. In 2008 during my final year of high school, I was actively involved in a shoot-out. My class, 4A was contesting the Kamoni Cup final against those bastards of 4C for the right to be crowned kings of Fourth Form football. It was an incredible match, by all standards. Now 4C were a formidable team, heavy favourites to be precise. We on the other hand had outdone ourselves just by making the final. But you know, however handicapped you are, when you are at a final you fancy yourself just as much, if not more than the opponent.

So onto the match itself. Luckily I had been picked to play somewhere upfront in a Mueller-esque roaming role. Yeah, suck it, I was in the starting eleven. The first half was a nightmare I tell you. I don’t know if we were just overawed by the occasion, or whether our deficiencies were being exposed finally. I don’t know. In like under half an hour we were 3-0 down. So bad was the situation that 4C were playing exhibition stuff, taunting and goading us at the same time. Good Lord! But this is football and like the overused cliché goes, anything can happen. We pulled a goal back and started believing, started playing something similar to proper football. Let me not bore you. By the end of the match, the score was 3-3. What I remember was the fear in our opponents’ eyes. If the match had extended for another five minutes…

Penalties! Now I called 4C bastards, and for a reason. Just before the spot kicks commenced, they subbed off their goalie for an outfield player. Oh, the nerve! And not just another player, but a beast of a thoroughbred, all rounded footballer. The guy could play any position with consummate ease! Psychologically, we were shattered. We had known that we’d have an easy time against their usual keeper, who, to be honest was an absolute cabbage between the sticks. Our captain Derrick picked me as one of the shooters. What a (insert appropriate or inappropriate swear word) pleasure! I was shaking like a leaf. When I stepped up to the new keeper, I couldn’t believe just how small the goal had reduced to. That guy was humongous! Ironically, he was called Beauttah. My rather tame, nerve-fuelled penalty was duly saved. Don’t give me that look! Even Brenton, our star missed. Our second half momentum couldn’t propel us to the finish line. The likes of Eugene in the 4C side however, were as cool as cucumbers. I’ve never felt as hard done by in my life.

It beats logic that a team has to lose like that on penalties. But again, titles are not deserved or undeserved. They are won. By the way I still don’t have an accurate answer for the puzzle that kicked off this piece. I guess if the affected team had already utilized the allotted three substitutions, then they would have to make do with one of the outfield players tending goal, I guess.

Three years ago when Bayern Munich outplayed Chelsea at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League final only for the Blues to steal it on penalties, there was talk of a committee lead by Germany and Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer being tasked with identifying a suitable alternative to post match penalties. I don’t know what became of that. Which is a pity considering how I was psyched about the whole thing, to the point of even offering to give free input to the panel. The question remains though, what would be a better alternative to penalties? I can’t seem to think of anything other than using ball possession statistics to settle ties. Of course that comes with a myriad of challenges that makes it almost impossible to implement. Ah! Drats!

The best solution surely has to be the Golden Goal and in all honesty, I don’t know why it was abolished. I mean, come think of it. The main reason why there is Extra Time is so that the deadlock can be broken. If a team scores, how exactly is this Extra Time serving its purpose if it still gives a leeway for the other team to equalize and thus prolong the stalemate and hence take us back to the dreaded penalties? I fail to understand. Anyway, I gather it is an effort in abject futility. Alright, just don’t make me take a penalty.

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