When non-playing substitutes made their presence felt by saving goals
Football is the most followed sport in the world, with almost all countries possessing a national team and leagues that happen year round. From marvelling over the talent of Pele and Maradona to arguing over the achievements of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, fans have experienced a lot and are an expectant bunch. That they anticipate a lot happening shows in how they embrace footballing moments immediately.
With 11 players on the field and 7 substitutes on the bench, teams have a wide range of players to choose from in terms of deciding the best lineup for a match.
Now that we have the basic rules understood cleared – let's take a deeper look at how important substitutes are to a match. When someone is injured, we see them either getting treatment for the injury immediately or getting substituted by another player from their team. However, if not introduced onto the field, substitutes have no role to play except sit on the bench and support their teammates.
In some extreme cases, we've seen substitutes get sent off for hurling abuse at the referee or for indulging in any argument or altercation with members of the opposition. However, here we talk about a couple of instances where non-playing substitutes actually interfered in a match, as they helped their team not concede a goal.
The first incident happened in a match in Argentina in November 2012, when the attacking team's striker chipped the ball over the opposition's onrushing goalkeeper. The ball was clearly going into the net and would have been a lovely goal, but for the intervention of the reserve goalkeeper, who was standing by the touchline. The substitute keeper ran from off the pitch to block the shot, thus helping his team.
Another very similar incident happened last year in Iran in an Azadegan League match between Nassaji Mazandaran and Shahrdari Yasuj. One of the Mazandaran players robbed the last Yasuj defender, ran past the goalkeeper and shot the ball into what he thought was an empty net. However, to everyone's amazement, a Yasuj substitute ran onto the field right in front of the shot and headed the ball over the bar to prevent a sureshot goal.
Needless to say, he was then sent off and an indirect free-kick awarded to Mazandaran. All that hard work from the non-playing substitute though didn't help his team, as Mazandaran went on to win the match 2-0.
Of course, those acts don't come under the purview of the game's laws and the teams found guilty of the offense were penalised with an indirect free-kick awarded to the opposition.
The new rules now ensure that if a non-playing substitute, or in the most extreme of cases, the team doctor interfere and prevent a goal from being scored, the opposition will be awarded a direct free-kick or penalty kick, as per the situation.
The change in rules are aimed at eliminating any such situations in the future and will also ensue that teams who resort to such tactics to prevent goals will then be penalised for breaking the law of the game.