João Pedro de Magalhães


"Football is not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that" — Bill Shankly

Football (or soccer) is a sport where the aim is to put a ball in the goal without using your hands. Please do not confuse it with American football because that isn't played with the feet, it's played with the hands. I haven't figured out why Americans call that football.

As the typical boy growing up in Portugal, I started playing football at an early age. I played mostly with friends, both outdoors and indoors, and at the universities where I studied and worked. In fact, I only joined my first official club after leaving Portugal. Presently, I play mostly pick-up games as time is scarce for training and several injuries have taken its toll. The clubs I played for in the past were:

My right knee

My right knee: so far it has failed to end my football career, but it keeps trying.

A Brief Essay on Football Rules

Football has the most outdated, ineffective, and inept rules among professional sports. Firstly, football rules do not protect players well enough. Creative, technical players can be fouled constantly with little or no punishment for defenders. Free kicks and yellow cards, the most usual punishment, are little deterrent. In fact, most times defenders get away with it. On the other hand, red cards and penalties are extreme punishments. A penalty shot has over 50% chances of being converted in goal while a red card, depending on the time left to play, can put a team in a huge disadvantage. Therefore, the rules are designed to punish harshly or barely punish at all.

This would not be such a big problem if rules were strongly enforced. Unfortunately, that does not happen and football refereeing errors abound. The limited number of referees and the lack of professionalism by many referees implies that errors are common in football. Unfortunately, referee errors in football can be extremely costly because games are often decided by a single goal. In basketball, for instance, an error by a referee may cost one or two points. In football, an error may cost a goal or make a team play outnumbered for half a game.

Other professional sports such as basketball, rugby, futsal, and ice hockey have already evolved to deal with these situations. On one hand, some sports already feature video referees and benefit from new technologies. Moreover, most of these sports have balanced punishments such as blue cards, free throws, etc. Certainly, all of these sports lack the nearly "orgasmic" nature of football, which is part of football's passion. Nevertheless, the laws of football must evolve in the same way the rules in other sports have evolved in recent years.

Here are a few ideas for rules I would like to see changed or adopted in football. This is not an exhaustive list.

    • Allow for players sent off to be substituted after 10 minutes.
    • Severely punish players whose intentional actions endanger the physical integrity of the opponents. By "severely" I mean heavy fines, lengthy suspensions, and even bans from the game.
    • Introduce a video referee, not to be used for every throw-in but for evaluating dubious decisions that have the potential to alter the course of the game (like already used in rugby union games).
    • Award teams whose player is through on goal with a penalty kick even if the foul is committed outside the box.

A few useful links related to football and sports

Federação Portuguesa de Futebol

Federation Internationale de Football Association

Futsal Portugal


KNEEguru; I like basketball and follow the NBA.

Record On-Line

SL Benfica; official site.

The Virtual Sports Injury Clinic