Death to the tackle

by James Bayley

 Tackling is a form of art in football which represents the passionate side of the game and in recent years in modern age of football it seems to be a “dying art” which is being driven out of, the “beautiful game” by the overprotective manner of certain referees, inconsistency and the occurrence of a “diving” culture in the game.

The debate of tackling has raged on for years and shows no sign of ending, and it’s not hard to see why. Images of Bobby Moore’s iconic challenge on Jairzinho in 1970 and Terry Butcher’s bandaged, blood-spattered forehead are clear depictions of English football’s true grit and determination that has allowed it demand a global fan base into the millions.

The globalisation of our game in England, has sanded down the rough edges of the “old fashioned” and physical English game of the past and change needs to happen before we see the complete extinction of a the art of tackling or one day in the near future tackling will become an archaic art!

It would be real shame to see tackling outlawed in the English game because football is built on the physical and competitive side. Some great players have made a name for themselves by perfecting this skill; Roy Keane, Peter Reid, Bobby Moore, Robbie Savage and Tony Adams a few examples.

Lee Dixon claims himself, he would be sent off every week under the current rules.

“I think the art of defending is something that is being slowly eroded. It’s almost become a non-contact sport in as much as you’re not allowed to tackle from the side or from behind,” said Dixon. “Players have contributed to the downfall of the tackle with all the play-acting and diving. Football is now less of a defensive spectacle and that’s not good for the game. I wouldn’t like to be playing now.” Fair points, though surely eradicating tackling from behind is reasonable enough?

Defending is an art as much as goal scoring is in the game, a clean and fair slide tackle should be praised as tackling is a skill within football which needs to be encouraged and not punished as being dangerous unless there is clear intent to injure the player. But in recent seasons, players often try to deceive the referee by

Part of the problem appears to be the lack of cohesion and consistency between referees and their understanding of the new rules, particularly on two-footed tackle which is creating inconsistency in referring. This inconsistency is the heart of the issue of tackling as dying form of art in the beautiful game. One player in one game will make what seems on several replays a clean tackle and the split second decision by the referee will see him brand a red card. We will than see a similar slide tackle in another Premier League game and a different referee will make the right decision and not penalise the player. This inconsistency is at the heart of the issue. The blame does not necessarily fall all on the shoulders of the referee who has to make a split second decision to reward a free kick or send the player of for what on several replays is fair tackle. This inconsistency is killing the art of tackling in the top level of the game. Technology can play its role and allow the art of tackling to be celebrated and not killed off.

If we compare our English league to the Spanish league, their football is optimised by stylish and quick interchangeable passing relying on clever movement but now the art of tackling is a dying breed over in Spain, because players are encouraged to win tackles and diving is a form of art more than a tackling. Italian football is very technical and astute with some of the fittest professionals around but English football has since lost its robust identity.

One of the biggest dilemmas facing the art of tackling, is the accelerating growth of play-acting in the modern game, when players such as; Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Ashley Young, deceive the referee by diving which in turn prevents players from making fair and clean tackles without having the fear of being sent off or a penalty being awarded against them. The diving, the media led us to believe is a “foreign disease” which has been encouraged into our English game from Spain.

It’s the grit and determination that has made the sport such a draw across the world and why English clubs, even more so than their Spanish and Italian counterparts, can demand a global fan base of millions. Let’s not take the art of tackling out of the beautiful game.

Author Info

James Bayley

James Bayley

I'm a passionate football fan who writes philosophically about the beautiful game.

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3 Responses

  1. Richard Allen says:

    Great article, which povokes thought. Tackling is a dying art in the Premier League sadly.

  2. Chris Anor says:

    I think yes the game is becoming too passive because the nature of the rules. but I believe also that without them we would be counting some real devouring tackles which would have retired players quickly . what is left is how to get it right about what and what’s not.

  3. Cuttsy of Lahnden says:

    Tackle hard but get the ball .. That is all.

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