Its All in the Assists

Like all sports football craves more goals and bigger scores in its games. At the recent 2007 Womens World Cup, FIFA made a big show of awarding the Golden shoe to Brazil’s Marta for 14 goals in the Final Game ceremonies. But I think FIFA has it all wrong, they should be awarding the Golden Shoe to the player with the most total goals and assists. Assists ? Assists in Football – who counts them?

Exactly – and that is is the problem in FIFA Football. All credit is given to the goal scorer and not to the players who have carefully planned and set-up the play, served in the perfect cross or delivered the cunning corner kick. In a sport like football, where the better teams are served by midfielders who can drop passes deftly and free up a striker for a shot on goal – this skill of play should not go uncounted, unnoticed and unrewarded.

In American Football, its is the blocking back and pulling linemen who clear the way for the running backs that earn very nifty salaries. In Hockey, all the papers report the statistics for goals and assists and Scoring title goes to the player with the most goals and assists. So it should not be a surprise, that Wayne Gretzky, considered the finest hockey player ever, would be remembered as much for his wonderfully threaded passes as for his spectacular goals.

Yes football commemorates some of its finest playmakers as in Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer or France’s Zinedine Zidane. But these are the exceptions. Instead the goal scorers are commemorated and adulated. True Argentina’s Maradona and his Miracle goal against England was a singular marvel. But that is exactly the case in point – it was a single exception. My favorite goal of the past 5 years was a sublime, no-look backpass from Argentina’s Riquelme right to the foot of Messi such that with a deft step he had a clear shot on goal which he did not fail to convert. But without the pass there is no goal.

At a time when team play, clever passing and intricate set pieces are starting to dominate the game why shouldn’t FIFA a)track and publicize assists and b) celebrate that with a Total Points Trophy in major FIFA competitions. Do that and watch the goals increase too.

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