Staying Down and On-the-Fly Line Changes

Yesterday I watched the FA Trophy Final at a snooker club/opera house named Teatru ta’ l-Opra Aurora in Rabat. It was English football at its finest–a lot of hoofing the ball forward, long stretches of boring play, and a late (admittedly skillful) goal to spare us the horror of penalty kicks. John knows a lot more about football than me, so you can read his summary.

I’m a casual football watcher (and by football I mean soccer), partially out of frustration. At least half a dozen times a game I scoff when a player takes a ridiculous dive. When a player does stay down, he’s often feigning injury, because minutes (sometimes seconds) later he’s back up and ready to play.

As a dedicated ice hockey fan, I often scornfully mutter things like “when a hockey player goes down, it’s because he’s unconcious or lost a limb”. This is more or less true. A player will hobble, glide and even crawl to get himself off the ice under his own power if he’s capable. This is because hockey permits on-the-fly line changes, something that football doesn’t.

In essence, the football player has two options:

  • Stay down and force a stoppage in play.
  • Shrug it off, get up and keep playing.

If only it were that simple. The officials never penalize a player for feigning injury, so the system begets a fair amount of chicanery. Players abuse this practice to stop play for a variety of reasons (get a breather, kill some momentum and so forth).

It’s unfair to alledge that hockey players (or rugby players or whoever) are tougher than footballers. They’re just stuck with a system of rules that encourages them to dramatize minor injury.

I’ve got no idea how to fix this. I wonder what other sports do. What about rugby? I only watch one rugby game a decade, so I’ve no idea.


  1. Feigning injury is a very frustrating part of soccer (it feels weird to write that) alright. One way to eliminate it is that if a player must leave the field of play for treatment he should be replaced by a temporary substitute for 5 minutes. You’d see a lot of them jumping back to their feet quickly then.

    In rugby the game is only stopped for injuries to forwards or head injuries. The reason it’s stopped for forwards is that they are needed for scrums and lineouts. Otherwise what happens is the injury is treated on the pitch and play continues. I think this should happen in soccer as well.

    Of course near the end of a rugby match now, loads of fowards get injured purely by coincidence.

    Bonus point to you for writing ‘hoofing’.

  2. Oops – time to fill the culture gap.

    What definitely LOOKS like a snooker club/opera house is actually the Band Club. And don’t let that name minimise it’s importance. The BAND CLUB is central to most village life in Malta. Every town/village has at least one – normally directly linked to a church and -more importantly – a saint. The Band Club is in charge of the (let’s say) pagan side of the village feast – from the music to the fireworks – generally termed outside festivities.

    When there is more than one band club in a village it normally spells trouble. By trouble I mean intense rivalry. You may have noticed that further up the road from Aurora (beyond the crossroads and on the other side of Racecourse Street as it used to be known is the other club – Astra. the stellar names of the clubs is only one type of monicker they carry.

    The Astra club is also known as ‘tal-iStilla’ (of the Star), patron Saint is Saint George and they are linked to the Basilica of St George aptly found in St. George’s Square.

    The Aurora Club is also known as ‘tal-iljun’ (of the lion), patron Saint is Our Lady and they are linked to the Cathedral.

    Snooker, opera, cinema and theatre are just some of the myriad activities such clubs organise for the villagers/townsfolk. Allegiance to one or the other is normally well known. My family for example was tal-iStilla from my Father’s side and tal-Iljun on my mums side.

    Look out for their respective feasts in July and August (both occur somewhere in the middle of the month).

    In both cases make sure that you get you see the final procession when the statue of the Saint is returned to the church. Rarely will you experience such moments of collective ecstasy and passion.

    Cultural break brought to you by the blogger at j’accuse— currently on relative blogging pause!

  3. Jacques: Wow, thanks for that. I did know there was a lot going on there, but didn’t necessarily know how to describe it in clearer terms. That sorts things right out.

    To my Canadian eye, it seemed to be so many things: bar, snooker club, opera house, youth centre, internet cafe. It seems to fulfill a lot of roles that a ‘recreation centre’ or ‘community centre’ fills in Canada.

  4. In flat track roller derby, I believe that current WFTDA rules ( are that any skater for whom play is stopped due to injury must sit out the next three jams. (A jam is the two-minute period of play by which 20-minute periods are broken up.) Teams change line-ups during 20-second breaks between each jam, and having a top skater be unable to come back in for the next six minutes can throw everything for a loop, so it definitely discourages any exaggerated injuries.

    It also means that it’s a fine line for the ref who is making that stop-play call, because if they stop play for a skater who feels that she was just taking a second to shake off a hard fall, she may feel unfairly penalized by having to sit out.

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