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Soup of This Day #168: No Dark Sarcasm In The Classroom

April 18, 2012

Bodiam Castle
The walls of Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England. The great Lionel Messi would struggle to curl a shot around them, even without the water hazard – Photo: WyrdLight.com, 2008. WyrdLight.com is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72

1 of football’s great personal tests is standing in a wall.

To clarify: A wall in football is a defensive formation. It’s a compact line of players whose purpose is to provide a physical barrier to an attempt to score a goal. Because football is a fast-paced game with man-marking being the general tenet, you only ever see a wall during set piece plays, specifically a free kick which is within range of a direct shot on goal.

As the attacking team is lining up the free kick, the wall, composed of 2 or more players from the defending team, will interpose themselves, roughly 10 yards from the ball, between the location of the kick and the goal mouth. When the attacker kicks the ball they will either rush towards him in an attempt to charge down the kick, or they might jump to prevent the kick from going over them. Whichever they do they will surely be protectively covering their testicles.

Yep, this is where the big test of standing in a wall comes in – You need to protect your balls from the ball.

A football can hurt when it hits you. A good player can get some serious oomph behind a strike – Sometimes the force can be enough to knock an opposing player out. Cop that kind of blow on the old wedding tackle and you will go down like you’ve been felled by an axe.

Nobody wants that.

The good news is that being part of a wall is generally the province of strikers and attacking midfielders. This is because you want your specialist defenders doing just that – defending. They have a highly skilled task that involves marking attacking players and ensuring that those smart enough to try alternatives to bashing through the wall don’t go and get away with sneaky attacks. Such as a simple pass to 1 side, bypassing the whole wall thing. Defenders are awake to that @#$%.

Strikers are by-and-large dumb so aren’t really suitable for the more subtle nuances of stopping their opposite numbers. They are perfect at being cannon fodder in the wall though.

So defenders don’t often stand in a wall in a game. Sadly though they do stand in a wall a lot in training. This is because strikers need to practice and they tend to do this by leathering the ball at defenders. If there’s anything more pointless than taking 1 in the beans and frank during a game, it’s getting a solid knock in down there during a meaningless training session.

Regardless of who is in the wall there is 1 participant who is never going to be completely happy with it.

The keeper.

Keeper’s aren’t that fond of walls. You’d think they would be but mostly they’re not. See, walls are a bastard to manoeuvre, sort of like herding cats. Then, once you’ve got your angles down pat and the dumb buggers into the position you want them in, they’re liable to do something stupid, like jump when they should have stayed low, or stayed low when they should have jumped. The worst part though is that as a keeper, you can’t see through a wall. This part really bites – A key part of stopping a shot is being able to determine where it is going well before it gets there. If a ball happens to get through, around or over a wall then you’re just seeing it after it’s already gone 10 yards – That’s not a good thing.

Forewarned is forearmed. Or something.

For all that, I can tell you, as a keeper in a past life, that the hombre with the gloves on will get very pissed off if you don’t give him his wall or if you don’t take it seriously.

It’s not showing willing if you haven’t risked your willy. So to speak.

1 time I was playing for a team that featured a guy with an absolute pile-driver of a shot. At 1 point we earned a shot on goal from a fair distance out and the human howitzer shaped to have a crack. The opposition keeper screamed for a wall. To no avail. His team-mates weren’t interested, having worked out distances and angles and decided it wasn’t worth it. From where I stood in my own goal mouth I could see that they were clearly wrong and since I support the Brotherhood of Stoppers I felt compelled to throw in my advice:

‘FORM A WALL YOU DUMB BASTARDS!’ I yelled.

They mostly ignored me. 1 of them though turned his back to me and bent over in a way that suggested he didn’t think much of my opinion.

This was too much for some of us.

The human football cannon took roughly 4 steps before launching the ball through the air. It went so fast the very air shrieked as it screamed towards goal. By the time it had gone through where the wall should have been it looked for all the world like some sort of corona was surrounding the ball. When it reached the goal it was still accelerating, defying several laws of physics and substantially heating the surrounding atmosphere.

The keeper had no chance.

He just had to stand there and watch as what was once a football created a mushroom cloud somewhere towards the top right corner of the back of his net. It didn’t punch a hole but that’s mostly because some of the force of the strike was absorbed by the goal stanchion. This caused the whole goal frame to rock alarmingly as the ball rebounded back out into the field of play, having done the job of scoring a goal.

Almost everyone watched that rolling ball mesmerised. Not the man who launched that missile though. Turning to the guy who’d snubbed my, as it happens, bloody astute advice he very politely, but clearly explained:

‘I don’t like it when you don’t form a wall. It’s just not respectful.’

The moral of this story is simple. When it’s your turn, listen to your keeper, stand in the bloody wall and cover your love spuds. I think we can all take something away from that.

No Dark Sarcasm In The Classroom

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