Mourinho Brainwave: Forget About It

By Paul Gardner

Here comes Jose Mourinho again. He’s had an idea that he says will "make the game much better."

Oh yeah? Before even going into details of Mourinho’s brainwave, you can ask yourself this question: When was the last time a coach came up with an idea that improved the game, made it more exciting or more worth watching?

With that thought in mind, here is what Mourinho wants: coaching timeouts. A coach should be allowed to call timeouts -- one each half -- so that he can have words with his players and re-arrange things tactically, or whatever it is that coaches do.

As supporting evidence, Mourinho notes that, during the recent World Cup game between the Netherlands and Mexico, the referee called a second-half water-break. This break, says Mourinho, enabled Louis van Gaal to “change the system” of his Dutch team and go on to win the game on two late goals.

Well, maybe it did. So the Dutch rather than the Mexicans advanced. That was an improvement? We got better soccer as a result of this fortuitous timeout? We did not. So Mourinho’s scheme is immediately exposed for what it is: Simply a plea to allow the coach more interference on the game, to give him yet more time to wield his influence.

I mean, how much time has the coach already spent with his team anyway? And are all his players so dumb that it has to be the coach who is the only one capable of changing things during the game?

So we’re talking about allowing the coach even more influence during the 90-minute playing time. Which is a questionable move, given that there is absolutely no evidence that the game has got any better since the rule-change (in 1993) that struck down the ban on coaching from the sideline. The most noticeable effect of that change has been the arrival of the technical area as an arena for wildly, insanely, gesticulating coaches.

A further huge criticism of Mourinho’s suggestion is that it is not new. It has been tried, comparatively recently. In 1995 FIFA announced that “For some time now coaches have been clammering (sic) for the chance to be able to exert more immediate influence on the course of the game.”

I liked the new word “clammer” and remarked at the time that it would serve splendidly as the collective noun for an assembly of coaches. The clammer got their way, and later that year, during the under-17 World Cup in Ecuador, the great timeout experiment took place. Two timeouts of 90-seconds allowed for each coach, who could use one per half.

The tryout was taken no further. It was a flop, bordering on a fiasco. In the 24 games of the first round, 96 timeouts were available. Only 33 were used. Coaches were more or less evenly divided between those who liked the idea, those who hated it, and others who sat on the fence.

I was at that tournament. The very first timeout, called by Ecuador, was greeted with a screeching wall of loud and prolonged whistling from the Ecuador fans. They did not appreciate the interruption of the game. My favorite timeout came in the USA-Japan game. Japan was leading 1-0 when their coach called a timeout -- maybe to tell the boys to go all out for a second goal (just kidding), or more likely to tell them how to stonewall and protect the 1-0 lead.

The game resumed and within one minute, the USA had scored the tying goal. Sure, the timeout was called by Japan, but the rulemakers had evidently not foreseen that the 90 seconds could also be used by opponents. The USA coach had a chance for a chat with his players that -- maybe -- produced the tying goal.

More seriously, there were obvious signs in several games that coaches were using the timeouts for time-wasting, or as a means of interrupting a period of dominance by their opponents.

And this was a youth tournament. One could surely expect that, at the pro level, timeouts would be more cynically used.

Let’s be clear: Whatever they say, coaches’ suggestions are rarely, if ever, about “making the game better.” They are about winning, or not losing, games. That’s all. Aims that do not recognize abstract notions like “better” soccer.

In fact, far from changes that allow more coaching influence, the rules should be used as much as possible to cut back the coaches’ influence during the game. A way of giving the game back to the players -- and there may well be the promise of better soccer in that thought.

12 comments about "Mourinho Brainwave: Forget About It ".
  1. steve chamberland, August 27, 2014 at 3:41 p.m.

    the thing I love about soccer is it doesn't stop its a flowing game tatics change on the fly no timeouts no commercials

  2. Kent James, August 27, 2014 at 4:47 p.m.

    We all know Paul Gardner hates coaches, so his feelings on this subject are preordained, but he's dead right on this one. No good comes from a timeout. As Steve pointed out, the lack of interruptions is one of the things that allows the game to flow. But Gardner is wrong about the touchline ban on coaching; it's too hard to enforce (is encouragement coaching? Applauding? Asking if a player needs a sub?). If coaches want to make fools of themselves gesticulating to their players, they should not be punished by the referee (though I do with TV producers would show fewer shots of the coach (or the bench, for that matter) when the game is going on...). Besides, referees inconsistency in enforcing such a ban would just give PG more fodder for complaining about referees!

  3. John Soares, August 27, 2014 at 6 p.m.

    I like both MR. Gardner and MR. Mourinho.
    Perhaps because they are so much alike. Both are very good at their job. Both like to be the center of attention, usually by being very controversial. May they both "Live long and prosper".

    Makes it a lot more fun for us fans:)!!!

  4. beautiful game, August 27, 2014 at 6:41 p.m.

    Paul and fellow bloggers. Hear me now, believe me later. Time to talk about the important things. Global soccer is experiencing a death toll under FIFA's current oligarchs of persuasion by the purse. The game, especially the laws of the game, needs a bit of reinvention into the 21st century. The current laws are too rigid and need flexibility; the game must be more offensive minded. The TV programming is becoming a hodge-podge of too many cameramen on the pitch with poor direction. The commentators bye and large are stifling the game either with small talk or just plain ignorance. Every word and every picture needs to have some substance. 40% of the video today is meaningless, close-ups of one or two players while the wide angle of multiple players gives which the viewer a perception of what is truly happening on the pitch is suffering. I could care less about most everything else. It's the game that speaks for itself and it takes so-called experts to ruin it through.

  5. Alan Rubin, August 27, 2014 at 7:28 p.m.

    I agree that the continuous flow of the game should maintained, no coach's time outs.

    However, there are some traditions that can be modified to improve the game.
    Why only three substitutions? The number should be increased, even made unlimited. Coaches can influence the game by player changes.
    Players would not have to continue past exhaustion. There would be less injuries and more players would get game experience and develop.

  6. beautiful game, August 27, 2014 at 8:02 p.m.

    Alan R. IMHO, you're second guessing yourself; the game needs technical skills, athleticism, mental focus, and the ability to make things happen with efficacy. How unlimited subs fit into the scheme of the game becomes unthinkable. Unless of course you're talking about youth ball.

  7. ROBERT BOND, August 28, 2014 at 8:45 a.m.

    captains are supposed to do more than wear armbands...

  8. Alan Rubin, August 28, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.


    Maybe unlimited substitutions are a bit extreme, but a more flexible system is called for. There are some situations that presently are unfair.

    If a player is injured after the third substituting has been made, the team plays a man down. This is a penalty with any infraction.

    Too many injured player try to continue, often putting themselves at risk. Playing when exhausted can also lead to injuries.

    Owners should be concerned about protecting their investment in their players. The NFL is a prime example of expensive talent almost being considered expendable.
    You are absolutely correct on the beauty and appeal of soccer. I would like to see some minor adjustments to the substitution rules that would enhance the game.

    A brief, but limited review, of the older substitution rule indicated that before the early 1990’s, none were allowed. Later three were allowed, but only two field player, the third being reserved for goalkeepers. Soon after, the goalkeeper requirement was dropped.
    So, todays rules are fairly liberal compared to the not to distant no sub rules.

  9. Winston Reyes, August 28, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.

    leave the "times" out,please

  10. Kevin Leahy, August 28, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    Coaches will always use every advantage they can to leverage a win. Soccer is not like any other game and it is part of the beauty. Part of my love for the game came from playing from start to finish. If you were good enough and fit enough, your coach would never sub you out. The freedom to make adjustments as you play according to what, you are up against is the best. At the professional level, timeouts should never be available to coaches. For me personally, it will take away one of the parts that makes our game different.

  11. Kent James, August 29, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.

    Kevin, you are right about the beauty of the game being that once it starts, it's a players' game, not a coaches' game. That should be preserved. While Iw is right that allowing unlimited subs would change the flow of the game (and the way it's played, probably for the worse), at the very least, additional subs should be allowed for games that go into extra time (at least 1 per 30 minutes, to correspond with the number of subs during regulation). I'd also suggest that goal keepers be allowed to be subbed at any time, so that the 3 subs could be used for just field players (and you never get a situation where a field player must go in goal after the keeper gets hurt when the team has used up all its subs, which is just embarrassing).

  12. David V, August 29, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

    Mou is a thug...bizarre individual who tried to get Casillas and company to lose the 2nd half of a champions league tie to save his face after a 30min rant he had... he made a team of perennial fair play award winners in a broken down, factioned lot... glad the Spaniards ran him out of town... England wants him, they can have him!

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