In a major rule change last week,hockeys world body,FIH,have decided that theyre going to scrap the own goal rule by February 2014. The decision received a near unanimous backing as the own goal,a mandatory experiment which came into effect on January 1 this year,was hugely unpopular among players and fans alike.
Yessss we did it, tweeted Germanys midfielder Mortiz Fürste,the reigning world player of the year. No own goals anymore. You will have to score for your team. It was retweeted and favourited by,among others,Australian forward Jamie Dwyer who added: Thats awesome news. Less hitting into the circle and more skill needed to score now.
In a poll on the British newspaper Daily Telegraph,over 70 per cent of the 1528 readers who voted supported the move to do away with the own goal. Such relief makes one wonder why the rule came into being in the first place. The FIH often experiments in bid to keep hockey ahead of the Olympic curve. One of the reasons why wrestling and not hockey struggled to retain its place for the 2020 Olympics was because hockeys governing body has been far more willing to change.
However,in its readiness to adapt and stay relevant,the body has,on a few occasions,taken a hasty step or two that had to be backtracked. The own goal is one such rule.
This meddled with the basic character of the game,putting more emphasis on hitting hard and hoping harder than on creatively setting up a goal. Earlier,while players when hitting inside the oppositions D would look for their teammates,the own goal rule helped them take aim at the goal and blindly pull the trigger. The chances of finding the back of the net nearly doubled as it didnt matter from whose stick the deflection came – your teammates or the defenders.
It made defending doubly tough. If the ball hit their limbs,it was a penalty corner. If it hit their sticks,it couldve been a goal. Just ask Amit Rohidas,defender and India U-21 vice captain We didnt know what to do. It was a nightmare for us defenders. Im glad theyve scrapped it.
But not fast enough as Rohidas and other junior defenders from 12 countries will have to play with this rule at the Junior World Cup beginning this week. They will have their fingers crossed as an own goal influencing the outcome of the World Cup would be just that: an own goal for hockey.
Daksh Panwar is a special correspondent based in New Delhi.