The decision by the Chairman of the FIFA referees committee, Pierluigi Collina, to increase stoppage times in World Cup matches has caused much controversy. In the first matches of the competition, the fans found themselves in front of almost endless matches, with recoveries of more than ten minutes, especially in the second half.
There have been cases, such as that of the match between England and Iran, in which extra time was practically played, with 27 minutes of added time overall. Following the first two rounds of the group stage, the trend slowed, resulting in the return of not-so-infinite stoppages, but the message from the refereeing authorities was clear: lost time had to be made up.
Play more often.
As Collina himself said, FIFA has decided that games where the actual playing time doesn’t even reach 50 minutes are not good enough.
A problem that has always plagued football because, after all, wasting time is an art that some coaches have mastered. It is impossible to forget the lesson that Josè Mourinho taught John Terry: if two players from the same team go down at the same time, the referee cannot send them off the field to receive treatment. So you can relax, and in the meantime, let the stopwatch run.
Another master of the “dark arts” is the Spanish Josè Bordalas, whose Getafe team drove Ajax crazy in a double-header in the Europa League. In one of the two matches, he actually played for just 42 minutes, less than a half. Such incidents prompted FIFA to increase the number of extra minutes.
The idea of introducing effective time management
However, at this point, a question arises: wouldn’t it be better to switch to effective time, as happens in many other sports? A question that many have raised, beginning with Milan coach Stefano Pioli, who frequently complained about the opposing teams’ loss of time during the 2021/22 championship, which Milan unexpectedly won against Serie A odds.
Marco Van Basten, who, in addition to being a three-time Ballon d’Or winner, had become the manager of football innovation for FIFA, proposed it some time ago.
The “Swan of Utrecht” had argued that the introduction of a basketball-style timekeeper would have positive repercussions for the spectacle on the pitch. However, why doesn’t FIFA think about it or experiment with it?
What would be the duration of a game?
Maybe it’s a matter of romance. The ninety minutes, real or not, have been part of the collective imagination of football for over 160 years now, and it is not something that can be easily gotten rid of.
In addition, it’s certainly not feasible to transform them into 90 minutes of effective play because the players wouldn’t make it. In case of a transition to effective time, the length of the two halves should be reduced, probably to half an hour each, given that almost everywhere the averages of the games show an hour of effective play compared to the 90 minutes plus added time actually played.
An idea that appears almost sacrilegious to fans of “past football.”
However, the impression is that eventually this innovation will arrive on the desk of the IFAB and that we will try to implement it. If one of FIFA’s goals is to improve the show by making sure that the game will last 60 (or 70) minutes and that injuries, substitutions, and fights between players won’t cut into that time, the step toward an effective time seems almost necessary.
Criteria for effective time in football
Even the players often agree, with positions that are clear (but, to be honest, usually come after their team has lost time because the other team took too long).
Nevertheless, how would actual time affect the game? Would it avoid controversy? In addition, what effect would it have on the heads of those on the pitch? On the first of the two questions, the answer is bound to be “no,” because the timekeeper is a human being and, as such, he is bound to make mistakes.
In addition, in a game with “effective time,” even a second lost can make a big difference. This is shown by the fact that many basketball games are reviewed by the bookmakers to make sure that the clock really stopped when the ball wasn’t in play.
As for the second argument, the sensation is that the stopwatch is running backwards, which can be psychologically complicated to manage for a sport that has seen time flow forward for over a century and a half.
The fact that the countdown won’t stop gives those who are lower in the partial a reason to try the impossible, but the pressure and hurry could cause the players to make mistakes.
Like it or not, however, the fate of playing time in football seems sealed. In addition, it flows more and more inexorably towards the introduction of effective timing…