How about this for ingenuity, Marco?
THERE was a certain irony when Nikkin Thimmaiah struck a last-gasp goal for Dabang Mumbai against Ranchi Rays on the opening evening of the Hockey India League at the weekend.
Following HIL’s introductory ruling last year, which allows field goals to be given more value than penalty corners, the last strike of the game by the Indian, who was lurking well outside the D at a penalty corner, saw Mumbai claw back a 3-1 deficit for a rare draw with one sweet strike.
The two-goal experiment for field goals has been seen as an unrivalled success since being introduced last year, with the general feeling that it would not only encourage more skilful and tactical hockey, but also that it might change teams’ way of thinking in the closing minutes of matches.
That it did in dramatic style on Saturday night. The 3-3 result proved to be only the second match to finish all square in over 30 HIL group stage matches, following one solitary draw last year.
German Olympian and HIL regular Moritz Fürste has said of the two-goal rule: “In other sports, those “goals” that are more difficult to score are worth more points. In hockey, it is harder to score a field goal and should be worth more.”
He certainly has a point...or two. With these new rules, there was a sense at last year’s HIL auction that franchises would rely less on corner specialists like Ashley Jackson – the top five scorers in the 2015 edition had all been corner flickers – and more on goal poachers.
So it was interesting that Ranchis’ Jackson was a vociferous voice to the umpire in seeking a video replay after Mumbai’s soonto-be legitimate goal.
Thimmaiah’s headline act came only days after Dutch great Marco van Basten’s “pioneering” eightpoint plans to revolutionise soccer went global.
Van Basten, Fifa’s technical chief, wants penalty shootouts to be replaced by time-limited runs from the halfway line, four quarters instead of two, only captains should be allowed to talk to refs … you get the hockey-themed drift.
His views – which never credited hockey in the original reports – have for the most part been given short shrift by the soccer community.
“Hallucinogenic” and “football is football” are two of the more print-worthy comments.
But as soccer continues to shun potential ways to keep audiences watching, hockey continues to experiment. For that, it must be applauded.