Why do they allow shirt-pulling in soccer?

One of the joys of traveling in Europe is being forced to watch what they call “football” (i.e., soccer). Tonight is the UEFA Champions League final. From a high level, it looks to me like a group of adults acting out a scene more familiar from preschool: running around a field grabbing each other’s shirts.

Why is shirt-grabbing allowed in this game? Doesn’t it degrade the quality of the experience for all involved? The skills of a soccer player are supposed to be kicking, passing, seeing openings, etc., not grabbing someone else’s shirt, no?

19 thoughts on “Why do they allow shirt-pulling in soccer?

  1. Doing it is a foul. However, in the larger scheme of things, since there’s just one referee, I think it’s accepted that football is a bit rough. You can often see a lot worse going on. Keep watching!

  2. Now the players are getting the same medals as the refs. Some of them are wearing “#EqualGame RESPECT“ vests. What is that about? Can I join one of these teams now that they are dedicated to equality?

    • The UEFA football and social responsibility programme is aimed at strengthening the health and integrity of both football and society as a whole, and the core pillar of Respect is integral to this.

      This umbrella theme underpins all the elements of UEFA’s social responsibility strategy, including the promotion of diversity, peace and reconciliation, football for all, health, respect for the environment and the campaign against discrimination, racism and violence.

      To mark the start of the 2017/18 season, UEFA launched a new Respect campaign: #EqualGame.


      Presumably this was a quite costly initiative, but so worth it.

      The happy amateur football players I know are not infrequently injured on the field, sometimes requiring medical attention or even surgery (e.g., meniscus). Football for all and health!

    • Wouldn’t people get a lot more RESPECT if they stopped following/watching football and instead put the time into learning Mandarin, earning a pilot certificate, or exercising? I didn’t feel that I had earned any additional RESPECT after sitting on the sofa for 2 hours.

    • ” I didn’t feel that I had earned any additional RESPECT after sitting on the sofa for 2 hours.”

      What was the input of senior management?

  3. Would it be a better game if they changed the rules to make it easier to score goals? Widen the goal, for example? This game had just one ordinary goal (plus a penalty kick goal).

    • This is why American’s don’t like “soccer”. Broadcasters don’t like it either because they cannot sell adds.

      I been to one footfall (American) game, a pre-session game. I was shocked at what I saw compared to what I see on TV. When the game is stopped for a foul, turn-over, off-side, etc. the broadcaster takes over and will run commercials. Everyone is ideal on the field waiting to hear back from the referee when to start. The referee is waiting on the broadcaster to start the game. No wonder a 75 min game (15 min for 4 quarters and 15 min for halftime) takes almost 3 hours.

      I never knew the broadcaster had that much control over the game.

    • @George A

      What are you saying is blatantly untrue. Yes there are commercials in the middle of the game, but they are taken at predetermined times using set criteria, not for every “foul, turn-over, off-side, etc.”.

  4. I was never much of a “football” fan till the kid starting playing it and i was forced to pay attention and learn the rules. One of the positives about the lower scoring is that because the game can be won or lost in a few seconds because of serendipity you need to be paying attention all the time — no wandering off to the fridge to fix yourself a big manwich with pickles and meat and lots of other stuff or playing with your I phone — because of the serendipity of scoring, a game can be won or lost in a few seconds. Unlike say US basketball, football or baseball where most of the game has zero to do with who will win or lose. Also it is not a freak show exhibiting disproportionately large human beings — if anything the opposite. Japanese professional baseball is a plus in this regard too, normal sized people who are just good athletes.

  5. Sure, they could change the rules to generate more goals, but as Jack explained, this is not wanted. I have watched nerve-wrecking games, where not a single goal was achieved. Pure suspense, nevertheless. Of course it helps if one of the teams is “yours”.

    As with any sports match, you can’t really enjoy what happens, if you don’t understand the basic rules. One who doesn’t knew the offside rule of soccer, will never get why they don’t simply pass the ball in the general direction and let a teammate hammer that stupid little ball into the big and wide goal.

    It looks so simple. But isn’t.

  6. I played, coached and worked as a referee when I was young. I think if I were the referee in the World Cup they would end up playing four on five, the rest would have red cards. My first soccer coach designed an enhanced scoring system to increase engagement for typical American fans. For instance, in the event of a tie, the team with the most corner kicks wins.

  7. One issue is that the severity of some penalties is so high that referees are reluctant to call all “fouls”. Behavior is allowed in the 18 yard box that would not be allowed anywhere else – because it would result in a penalty kick. Similarly, a red card ejection is so severe that the 2nd yellow (2 yellows = red = ejection and team plays a person down) is usually a more fragrant foul than the first.

    • You are correct, but wouldn’t it be a more beautiful game if they fouled each other less and showed off their considerable talents more?

    • If you aren’t cheating, then you aren’t trying

      Unfortunately, the winning strategy usually involves taking things up to the line that the referee is going to enforce and then staying right up against it.

      Man City is certainly capable of playing the beautiful game, but pay attention to how cynically they foul when they lose possession and their early press doesn’t win the ball back immediately.

  8. I agree that trying to pull the shirt off your opponent and expose them can be qualified as sexual harassment, which should be treated as a serious criminal offense. Those sexist and sex-obsessed Europeans!

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