Friday, 9 August 2013

My family’s idea was actually supported

A vivid memory from my childhood is when my late father would say with ridicule and laughter
“football in February?!”
whenver the old Foster’s Cup showed matches on television.

Both my parents believed, and my mother still does, that football in February is absurd since football was not designed to be played on 40˚C days which often occur in the summer almost throughout Australia. (It is true that before the man-made super-monsoons seen since the 1970s drove hot air to the far south, very hot days were much rarer though not unknown). My brother, being more used to football as a highly professional game played in centralised stadiums, says the football in February, if the problems of heat can be overcome, is OK. I myself have grave suspicions about playing football in February because I know from both football and cricket that improved fitness is an inadequate counterweight to less rough grounds in protecting players from injuries. (This was noted a few years ago in a comment I cannot find).

Today, however, as I browse Inside Football, I have found surprisingly that some football fans believed football in the summer made sense as far back as 1987! The argument was that football was not a good spectacle under the conditions that prevailed that weekend (round 13, 1987), and that because football players trained in the very hot weather they could play under such conditions.

I cannot accept either argument for this. For those who look carefully, football in the wet is a much more fascinating and skilled spectacle than in the dry. The slower pace in the wet allows highly skilled players to use skills they could not use on a fast and dry ground, and this is extremely interesting to see if you look at games like that between Collingwood and North Melbourne or especially St. Kilda against West Coast in Round 18 of 1992. This is actually much more fascinating to watch than the high-kicking style produced by Docklands.

Secondly, football players do not train as hard as they play for obvious reasons – they are not competing with an opponent they want to beat. Though injuries at training are common and would be made more so by training in very hot weather, players have to exert and push themselves much harder in a match. Thus, the risks would become greater if football were played under really hot conditions–more players would be injured for longer, careers would shorten and player costs rise.

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