July 6, 2010

It was a joy to watch Uruguay get their asses handed back to them today. Go Orange! I just want to say one more thing about the no-hands rule being constitutive of soccer.

I do think that the operative issue here is that no-hands is constitutive of soccer — meaning that it’s not a simple regulative rule against slide tackling, but instead specifies what soccer is — but I think a case can be made along non-constitutive lines as well.

There is no clear rule against bringing a jet engine onto the field, for instance. It is conceivable, though, that there might be one. Suppose that for odd historical reasons, there are restrictions on any non-codified arbitrary intervention by any player, not just hands — rogue tubas, naked old people, hordes of vampire bats, robots — and suppose also that the penalties for intervening in this way on the field are the same. Red card. Penalty kick.

So if a player brings an army of self-propelled robots on the field to disrupt play, this results in a red card and a penalty kick.

If Saurez had positioned the jet engine just right, and then flipped it on so as to blow the Ghana’s ball out of the goal, thus resulting in his expulsion from the game and also forcing Ghana to take a penalty kick, would this count as cheating?

I think it would.

Or what if Suarez had very quickly slid a giant sheet of plexiglass between the goal and the ball… would that be cheating? I think it also would; and I think a penalty kick would be the wrong penalty for an intervention of this sort.

Now consider something more plausible: what if he had caught the ball instead of batting it away? Seems to me that our intuitions might be stronger that the goal should be given to Uruguay.

It’s over now, of course. But it’s been a fun little discussion.


  1. Three words: Beach ball goal . . .

    I think that the difference is in our understanding of “what soccer is” 😉

    • Ah, but that was an external party, an act of god, if you will. If the coach or another player had thrown another ball onto the field and that had stood in the way, I think one rightly would say that that was a form of cheating.

      The difference, I think, lies not in our understanding of what soccer is, but in our understanding of what rules are.

  2. Well, here they are for FIFA:

    Click to access lawsofthegame%5f2010%5f11%5fe.pdf

    No mention of jet engines or plexiglass shields.

  3. Eli thinks you are missing the point. The issue is not whether Suarez cheated, but how the penalties of the game are assessed to stop players from cheating and what their motives to cheat are.

    BTW, here are some rouge tubas

  4. I’ve clearly missed all the fun of the debate. But since I had it elsewhere, I’d like to note for posterity that I was as pissed as Ben, and I like most arguments in favor of awarding Ghana a goal instead of a penalty kick.

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