By now, most of us have been brought up knowing the rules to our beautiful game. Yet there have been some substantial changes of late, and some exceptions in the modern game, with much confusion surrounding handball, offside and VAR to name but a few. But I am not talking about the “official” written laws here, as designed by IFAB and the English FA; I am talking about the things that all players see and do that we simply accept as part of the game.
I am not even talking about the “Dark Arts” either, the pure shithousery that Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos has single handily fashioned into an art form (Ramos has managed to rack up a staggering twenty-six red cards in all competitions – a record only to be beaten by Gerardo Bedoya, the Colombian who had a haul of forty-six red cards across a twenty-year career). Villains aside, I am talking about the little things that go on at all levels – from the school playgrounds through to Sunday league, reaching as far as the professional stage of world football.
The way I see it, football is like a classic war movie where every top film must contain certain features within the story. For example, a soldier will get a bullet ping onto their helmet, they take it off their head, say “that was lucky”, before being taken out with a headshot. Or you have the soldier torching everyone with a flame thrower, only to get a bullet in the fuel tank and blown to pieces. You get the idea.
So, without further ado, here are my ten “Unwritten Rules of Football”…
Rule Number 1: You get a freekick and, when the Ref is not looking, you must throw the ball five yards forward – but you have to throw the ball underarm with lots of back spin (it looks and works best on wet grass, for sure).
Rule Number 2: You have just scored a goal and you have celebrated with a brilliant knee-slide – Didier Drogba-style. The first player to reach you must do a crap knee-slide, roll you over and start the player-stacking team bundle.
Rule Number 3: When you are awarded a corner, the ball must be placed inside, or touching, the quarter circle. We all know this, but still, we place the ball just outside of these confines, even under the nose of the linesman.
Rule Number 4: You have just committed the worst two-footed challenge ever and it is definitely a straight red. Faking injury, you stay on the ground, rolling around, hoping that the Ref will feel sorry for you and forget to issue the card.
Rule Number 5: The ball hits you and goes out for a throw in. You must immediately put your hand in the air and scream “my ball”, knowing full well that it cannot possibly be your throw.
Rule Number 6: The Ref is just about to give you a yellow card. You put your hands in the praying position, pleading to God in the hope that the almighty will tell the match official not to issue the card (never has this or will this ever happen, of course).
Rule Number 7: You pick the ball up as it has gone out for a throw in, only to be told that it is the opponent’s ball. Now you have the choice to either lob the ball high above the player’s head or throw it just behind you as they come to collect it (annoying).
Rule Number 8: You have just missed the deciding penalty in the shootout, and you want to cry so badly. You have no choice but to pull your shirt right up over your head, thinking that nobody can see you blubbing your eyes out.
Rule Number 9: You score a goal and head straight to the corner flag to celebrate. You quickly have to decide one of two things: a) Do I kick it Kung-Fu-style and hope it doesn’t spring back and whack me in the privates? Or b) Do I grab hold of it with both hands, pretend it’s a microphone, and do my best Elvis impression? Decisions…
Rule Number 10: The centre-half has just grabbed your shirt and pulled it from behind. So, for some strange reason, you must defy the laws of gravity and the logic of physics by propelling yourself forwards with your arms outstretched and wild involuntary cry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and I am sure that there are a lot more of these unwritten laws, ranging from shirt numbers to types of boots and the infamous calls for “ball-to-hand” and “kicks-it-gets-it”. At school or football training, we were never explicitly taught or shown these tricks and habits, yet it is strange just how ingrained and universal they have become – even as part of the modern game.
Okay, these antics may not be as exciting as a headshot in a war film but, next time you find yourself watching or playing football, just see how many you notice.