Be honest, when coaching, when was the last time you taught and practised Tackling for the ball in a training session?
The art of winning the ball cleanly in a ‘solid’ tackle without a player ending up on his backside is mainly a vision of the past. From frontal, sides or behind, tackling for the ball has become a dangerous, badly-timed and sometimes unnecessary aspect of the game. We all want to see a competitive type of game not one that lacks passion and spirit, but Football Laws involved with Tackling are somewhat obscure in their definition of correctness. The poor old, much-maligned Referee is placed in very difficult circumstances with issues relating to tackling. More than any other aspect of his job, deciding on correct and incorrect types of tackle generally makes or breaks a Referee’s performance in a match. A Referee must quickly assess a ‘faulty’ tackle made by a player and decide whether he has been simply careless, reckless, or dangerous when making the challenge for the ball. In all types of tackle from all directions directed towards an opponent with the ball the intention to cause injury is highly unusual but, on occasions in tense situations, this can occur.
I am a passionate believer in the forgotten qualities of ‘street football, one of those qualities being -Tackling. Street matches taught players to ‘stay on their feet’ when tackling for the ball, for to ‘go to ground’ when making a tackle could be extremely painful. The lush, pristine surfaces on which games are played today encourages players to ‘dive in’ when tackling, for these ‘carpet-like pitches bare no resemblance to the concrete and asphalt surface of the street. Combined with these ‘solid’ street play areas, many competitive games in the past were played on red ochre gravel which could cause severe grazes if fallen on.
The ‘lay-down tackle’, better known as the ‘sliding tackle’ was usually seen on grounds where there was a good cover of grass or soft mud. It is this type of tackle that is now so prevalent in the game that causes so many of the problems that Referees have to deal with. Players now ‘slide’ into tackles from all angles that were once made on their feet. The art of ‘jockeying, guiding and timing of tackles is too often forsaken in preference of a ‘diving in’ challenge that takes ball and opponent together. Tackles of this type are used to ‘camouflage’ poor defensive ability whilst ‘destroying’ skilful play. The ultimate ‘sliding tackle’ method was the use of a ‘block’ with the leg(s) and lower body by the tackler to the ball; the player in possession would go over the prostrate body of the tackler who would return to his feet and take the ball away. When was the last time you saw that! Defending players stretch for the ball with studs up today, the full power many of these miss-calculated challenges often impacting with the leg of an opponent causing severe injuries. Tackles of this type are used from all directions by defending players when going for the ball, all are dangerous, none more so than the tackle from behind.
The question has to be asked, should all tackles on a player who has his body between the ball and an opponent be banned? There are those situations when a pass is played up to a player who has a defender close-marking him from behind; there are situations in which an attacking player has evaded a defender, or uses his body to screen the ball from him. In each of these situations or similar ones a defender should be required to contain the player or, if beaten, he must desist from making any challenge from behind whilst chasing back after an attacker. By forcing a ‘no tackle from behind’ law on players, the need for them to defend far more competently would improve their overall defensive play, increase skilful play through the field and help reduce injuries.
But are we able to disengage ourselves from what we term the ‘manliness’ of the crunching tackle? I believe that poor decision-making by defenders followed by bad tackles to recover from their mistakes reduces the skilful game of football to a ‘fightball’ version of it. Solid stand-up tackles should be made by defenders when confronted by an opponent, patience, timing, judgement, interception and correct tackling ability are then properly tested along with all the other qualities generally associated with good defending.
I believe the game would be better served if there were serious discussions on tackling issues within the game. Do I believe this will ever occur? Not in my lifetime, we prefer the ‘up and at ‘em’ game and the blood that goes with it. Am I a fanciful dreamer or are there others out there who have their own ideas? Let’s hear what you have to say; – FOR OR AGAINST.