Why Hockey is better than Football
PUBLISHED: 13:07 05 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 10 September 2010
As well as being from a Norwich family, I also consider that I come from a hockey family. My Dad was a decent player in his youth, and after a nasty knee injury sustained playing for Harrow, he took up umpiring and became more than quite good at it.
As well as being from a Norwich family, I also consider that I come from a hockey family. My Dad was a decent player in his youth, and after a nasty knee injury sustained playing for Harrow, he took up umpiring and became more than quite good at it. Not good enough to be an international umpire, but more than competent enough to be a South League umpire.
As with most boys they get into sports that their Dads like, so I became a Norwich City fan and a hockey player. I had a decent career, playing for my county, Middlesex and progressed through the junior ranks to the giddy heights of England U21's Indoor squad. I even scored with my first touch in an England shirt following in a rebound from a shot from Martyn Grimley. Whilst I was happy to be in the squad and was already being distracted by girls and partying, Martyn was more focused and went on to win a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. And yes, it was a long time ago; the day I scored that goal was the day that Michael Jackson's “Thriller” video was broadcast for the first time on UK TV.
And why the long spiel about hockey? We are in the midst of the Hockey World Cup and at the time of writing England have won three games out of three and are looking good for a semi-final place as one of the top two teams in their group of six.
Of course it's also Football World Cup year and seeing how hockey is played by amateurs, albeit well sponsored ones, compared to our over-paid, over-hyped and over-pampered footballers, it has made me realise that although I am long time retired from hockey, and now a season ticket holder at Carrow Road, hockey is a much better game than football.
And here's why:
t Hockey 1, Football 0 - Respect for Officials
Abused, snarled at and hated by players, football referees get no end of stick from all and sundry within the game. The question that is always posed to the man in black is “What on earth possessed you to become a referee?” Hockey umpires have their decisions respected, will discipline players for dissent and at the end of the game will go back to the clubhouse and have a beer with the players and talk about the match. In football, players bad mouth the referee, commit cynical fouls and mostly do so without fear of retribution from the officials. In hockey it's a ten minute suspension for starters. And what about those niggly fouls in the middle of the pitch when an overpaid prima-donna stops a promising attack via a body-check? I despair at the number of times we see a wagging finger and a shake of the head as the player tries to convince the ref of his innocence or says that it's my first offence? Bad fouls near the goal can be given a more severe penalty so are rarely committed as the punishment is greater. The result is less of these fouls and a better game.
t Hockey 2, Football 0 - Flow of the game
Top class hockey is played on watered astroturf and is a lightning fast game. Free hits can now be hit to yourself to re-start play. Players who delay the game by holding the ball or standing in the way of a free hit are dealt with. Multi-ball is encouraged, a ball rolls off and another one comes on. Compare this to the Premier League where there is no multi-ball system, players don't move away from the ball or hold it to delay the free kick. In Arsenal's recent European game where they conceded a free kick from a back-pass one commentator castigated an Arsenal defender for not trying to stand in the way (e.g. cheat) by slowing the free kick down. It doesn't happen in hockey. If footballers played hockey it would be seven a side midway through the first half.
t Hockey 3, Football 0 - Video replays
In the Hockey World Cup a team has a number of video appeals which are forfeit if an appeal is made against an incorrect decision. Simple - no frivolous requests to review, and keep them for when they matter. Is there any possibility that this will be implemented in football where there are 20+ cameras around the ground at big matches. Not a chance as UEFA have decided to trial additional officials behind the goal in an age where there is already a shortage of referees. Hooray for no common sense. Of course the real reason is that the big teams don't want video replays as it will even out the number of decisions they get against the smaller teams. Will this ever be admitted? No.
t Hockey 4, Football 0 - Full time and mines a Pint
In my time I've played against international players, had a beer with them, and even played and won drinking games with them. In hockey it doesn't matter how far you go up the greasy pole of sporting achievement, it's a club game and having a beer with the National League squad or your team mates from the Fifth Team is important and needs to be done. In hockey all are equal at the bar. Could we say the same for footballers? Er, No. Some of them have a weekly salary which could buy and install a hockey astroturf pitch. The second week's wages would pay for the floodlights and the travel budget of a Hockey Premier League Squad for a season. After the match on Saturday evening they are whisked off to their VIP bar somewhere well away from the prying masses. Hockey players have a beer at their home club as it's the place to be on a Saturday night.
The game of football could learn a great deal from the way in which hockey is played, but I doubt it ever will.