Was Jose Mourinho right to complain about time wasting?
Jose Mourinho said after the defeat to Newcastle United in December, “Things were happening that the referee cannot control,”.
“He cannot punish the ball boy that disappears, the people in the crowd that keep the ball or somebody that throws a second ball on to the pitch.”
His side was losing and as a neutral, it was great game to watch. There were attacks being launched every minute of the game. Clearly end-to-end stuff is not Mourinho’s forte. He prefers slow build-ups. He also prefers a player to writhe in pain or take his own sweet time while taking a throw-in.
Time wasting a rampant practice
Time wasting has been amply evident in games where the ball boys suddenly disappear and when the balls go out there was no one there to return it. What about instances where the ball has not returned by the crowd? But how can the non-playing crowd be blamed, when the players and coaches themselves are even more eager to deploy such tactics than risk playing an open game?
So was Jose Mourinho right in complaining about time wasting? Should we have say a big stopwatch that records time lost when an injury is being taken care of or when a ball boy is fumbling with it outside the pitch?
An interesting stat here will give more credence to the fact that ball boys and crowds are only learning the tricks of this dull and time-killing football tactics from players.
According to Wall Street research, in the 2014 World Cup, there were 293 cases of potential embellishment that collectively took up 118 minutes. Most players engaged in such time-wasting incidents were on winning teams.
As per WSJ, players on teams that were losing their games accounted for 40 "injuries" and nearly 12.5 minutes of writhing time. But players on teams that were winning, the ones with the most incentive to run out the clock, accounted for 103 "injuries" and almost four times as much writhing.
The ways to run out the clock are many – goalkeepers taking their time for goalkicks, players walking slowly for throw-ins, free kicks taken from wrong positions and then having to be retaken, and so on. With tight scoreline that are susceptible to huge changes withing the space of a moment, these moments of wasted time unnecessarily add some tension into the match.
Solutions to the time-wasting conundrum
All federations, be it UEFA or AFC, want the average game time to be increased. In fact, the average game time in Asia is a meager 36 minutes – which means that there are only 36 minutes of total actual football being played per game.
Blatant instances of time wasting need to be stopped, and clubs and players need to be directed to do so. A player unfairly going down and feigning injury, fans not returning the ball – these are just not football.
Jose Mourinho also said, “If the six minutes were to be played normally it would be fine, but again in the six minutes more of the same would happen.
“One thing is to waste time on the pitch in a proper way – you keep the ball, you go to the corner, you hold the ball, you wait for the free-kick and the goalkeeper is not running to get the ball.
“But another thing is what happens outside the four lines which is the responsibility not of the referee. I thought at high level football these sort of situations would not happen.”
The responsibility for time-wasting lies with all stakeholders of the game. What happens within the boundary as well as out of it is the responsibility of the club, players and support staff. Jose Mourinho cannot just put the blame on spectators and ball boys. The larger picture has to be seen. It is tough to stamp out time wasting when it is such a prevalent tactics used by teams.
FIFA is also considering a ‘sin bin’, where players would be made to sit outside for a certain period for time wasting. It definitely might help but then a referee might do it in one game and not do it in another. Then it becomes a matter of opinion. It is a hard pill to swallow at times but one has to accept such tactics at least in the scheme of things, at least for the near future.