Updated News Around the World

Does football still need the header?

It would be futile to predict when, precisely, it will come. It is not possible, from the vantage point of now, of here, to identify a specific point, or an exact date, or even a broad time frame. All that can be said is that it will come, sooner or later. The days of heading in football are numbered.

The ball, after all, is rolling. England’s Football Association has received permission from the IFAB, the arcane and faintly mysterious body that defines the Laws of the Game — capital L, capital G, always — to run a trial in which players under the age of 12 will not be allowed to head the ball in training.

If it is successful, the change could become permanent within the next two years. This is not an attempt to introduce an absolute prohibition of heading. It is simply an application to banish deliberate heading — presumably as opposed to accidental heading — from children’s football.

Once players hit their teens, heading would still be gradually introduced to their repertoire of skills, albeit in a limited way: Since 2020, the FA’s guidelines have recommended that all players, including professionals, should be exposed to a maximum of 10 highforce headers a week in training. Heading would not be abolished, not officially. And yet that would inevitably be the effect. Young players nurtured without any exposure to or expertise in heading would be unlikely to place much emphasis on it, overnight, once it was permitted.

They would have learned the game without it; there would be no real incentive to favour it. The skill would gradually fall into obsolescence and then drift inexorably toward extinction. From a health perspective, that would not be a bad thing. In public, the FA’s line is that it wants to impose the moratorium while further research is done into links between heading and both chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, and dementia. In private, it must surely recognize that it is not difficult to discern the general direction of travel. One study, in 2019, found that football players — with the exception of goalkeepers — are 3 1/2 times more likely to suffer from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.

Two years later, a similar piece of research found that defenders in particular have an even greater risk of developing dementia or a similar condition later in life. The more the subject is examined, the more likely it seems that minimizing how often players head the ball is in their long-term interests. In a sporting sense, too, it is easy to believe that heading’s demise would be no great loss.

The game appears, after all, to be moving beyond it organically. The percentage of headed goals is falling, thanks to the simultaneous rise in analytics — which, speaking extremely broadly, discourages (aerial) crossing as a lowprobability action — and the stylistic hegemony of the school o f Pep Guardiola.

Sophisticated teams, now, do their best not to cross the ball; they most certainly do not heave it forward at any given opportunity. They dominate possession or they launch precise, surgical counterattacks — and they prefer to do the vast majority of it on the ground.

The sport as a whole has followed in their wake, hewing ever more closely to Brian Clough’s rather gnarled maxim that if God had intended football to be played in the clouds, there would be substantially more grass up there. Certainly, it is more than possible to watch an elite game — in Spain in particular, but in the Champions League or the Premier League or the Women’s Super League or wherever — and believe that the spectacle wouldn’t be diminished, or even notably altered, if heading was not only strictly forbidden but had not been invented. But that is to ignore the fact that football is defined not only by what happens, but by what might have happened and by what did not happen. That is true of all sports but it is particularly true of football, the great game of scarcity.

For much the same reasons that crossing has fallen from favour, so too has the idea of shooting from distance. Progressive coaches — either for aesthetic or for algorithmic reasons — encourage their players to wait until they have a heightened chance of scoring before actually shooting; as with headed goals, the number scored from outside the box is falling starkly. That has had an unintended consequence. A team that knows its opponent really does not want to shoot from distance has no incentive to break its defensive line.

There is no pressing need to close down the midfielder with the ball at their feet 25 yards from goal. They are not going to shoot because the odds of scoring are low. And yet by not shooting, the odds of finding the high-percentage chance are reduced, too. The defensive line does not break, so the gap — the slight misstep, the channel that briefly opens in the moment of transition from one state to another — does not come. Instead, the defense can dig into its trench, challenging the attack to score the perfect goal. It is not just the act of scoring from range that has diminished, it is the threat of it too. The same would be true of a football devoid of heading.

It is not just that the way corners and free kicks are defended would be changed beyond recognition — no more crowding as many bodies as possible in or near the box — but the way that fullbacks deal with wide players, the positions that defensive lines take on the field, the whole structure of the game. Those changes, in the sense of football as a sporting spectacle, are unlikely to be positive. Players may not head the ball as much as they used to, but they know they might have to head the ball just as much as their predecessors from a less civilized era.

They cannot discount it, so they have to behave in such a way as to counteract it. The threat itself has value. Removing that — either by edict or by lost habit — would have the effect of removing possibility from the game. It would reduce the theoretical options available to an attacking team, and in doing so it would make the sport more predictable, more onedimensional. It would tilt the balance in favor of those who seek to destroy, rather than those who try to create. Clough did not quite have it right. Football has always been a sport of air, just as much as earth. If heading is found to endanger the long-term health of the players, of course, then that will have to change, and it would only be right to do so. No spectacle is worth such a terrible cost to those who provide it. The gains would outweigh the losses, a millionfold. But that’s not the same as saying that nothing would be lost.

For all the latest Sports News Click Here 

 For the latest news and updates, follow us on Google News

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! NewsUpdate is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.