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Five Thoughts: Man City 2-2 Ajax

"This is a Sport for Euros."

Alex Livesey

The above quote is not mine. The above quote is from a friend who was watching his first soccer match. He is the absolute stereotype of the American sports fan--likes hitting, likes action, likes scoring, likes direct intent rather than subtlety. I thought I was in for a long evening but he was enthralled up to the very last moment. He saw what I saw:

  1. City came out with loads of energy, were clearly the better side up to and including YaYa getting fouled in the penalty box and it not getting called. More on that later.
  2. Tevez was a beast all game; he might be our early season MVP.
  3. The first Ajax goal, what are you gonna do? Weird bounce, great finish. The second goal, by the same guy--De Jong, Ajax's primary scorer--should have been more difficult. He came up with a great header, sure, but where was the coverage? Two of our better defenders, YaYa and Barry, were statues on the play. Zonal marking can work if players talk to each other. If not, it's open season on the net.
  4. I don't know if Aguero was off on timing or he put on the wrong cleats but the only time he kept his footing was when he scored to tie the game 2-2. He's still getting fouled too much, it's still not getting called but it was great to see him put one in the net.

So my friend and I were really enjoying the game up until the final play. I swear this was the exchange.

"Dude, wasn't that a foul?"

"Yeah, he was pulling on the guy's shirt, that's illegal and that should be a foul."

"Ref's a little far back, dude. Still should have seen it. How come they don't have replay?"

( Yours truly patiently explained to him all the reasons I could gather, most from the last Five Thoughts. He paused thoughtfully, or as thoughtfully as one could pause after four beers and enough fried food to clog a pipeline, before shaking his head and saying...)

"This is a sport for Euros."

You know why he said that? Because a call was made that cost City the game; an easily correctable call. I'm relatively new to the game but I have to believe that City being robbed of a Balotelli PK--the conversion of which is as certain as a sunrise--is an outrage worth expressing. I was dumb enough to think the watchdog would be all over this but, no, there was the otherwise admirable James Martin of ESPN expressing the idea that, well, yeah, Balotelli got dragged down but City put themselves in that position... gratuitous shot at Mancini... wash, rinse, repeat. And it's not just Martin, of course. Most writers will shrug, say the call was missed, and then just... move on. I don't get it. My friend didn't get it. He called the next day and was his usual loquacious self, saying, "Dude, how come the Euros don't get the replay?"

To which I say to one and all: You. Tell. Me.

The Five Thoughts Motto: Calls of enormous import are getting missed. These calls can be corrected by replay. Therefore, we need replay.

A modest proposal. Rule Number XXCII or thereabouts, "The Replay Rule."

  1. Calls that are reviewable by manager's challenge are all goals, fouls that lead to red cards or second yellows, offside calls that discount an immediate goal (referee's discretion) and possession out of bounds.
  2. Each manager will be allowed three replay challenges per game.
  3. The manager can only call for a replay during a stoppage of play. He does so by tossing a red flag on the field.
  4. The challenge will be decided by the sideline official--the guy whose only job it is to deal with ticked off managers and raise the sign that indicates a sub or how much injury time is left. He will be informed by the manager which call is being challenged and the referee will review the call (we could also have a referee in a booth off the field of play).
  5. If the referee decides in favor of the challenging team, the call is reversed and play resumes. The clock is rolled back to the time of the challenged call.
  6. If the call is overturned, the manager loses one substitution. If all substitutions are used, a player is removed from the field. Additionally, the opposing manager decides if the time taken to review shall be added or subtracted from the clock, whichever he finds more advantageous.

Americans would embrace this or some other version wholeheartedly, so important is sports justice. My lovely wife once again states that as an American, I just don't get it. You know what? She's right. Calls of enormous import are getting missed. These calls can be corrected by replay. I don't understand how fans of the most popular game in the world don't take to the streets after reading that last sentence.