Why Penalty Shoot-Outs Must Stay in Football

They can be so glorious. They can be so painful. They make for great entertainment, if your side is not involved.

Yet less than a week after a Champions League Final where a penalty shoot-out decided the title, FIFA President Sepp Blatter wants to find an alternative to deciding games this way.

He even commented: “When it goes to penalty kicks football loses its essence.”

The Swiss couldn’t be more wrong though.

Football is about winning and losing. Whilst the pain when you lose is unbearable at the time, when you succeed, not much comes close to the elation you experience.

Perhaps Blatter should consider the feelings of the Chelsea fans who were in the Allianz Arena last Saturday evening. Many of them will have been present in the Luzhniki Stadium in 2008 when John Terry missed the penalty to win the Champions League.

That moment will have eaten away at them for many a night after the final. However, when Didier Drogba tucked away the last spot kick for Chelsea on Saturday, it would have been those memories which actually helped to heighten what they felt as they screamed in delight.

Penalty shoot-outs can bring those sorts of feelings. Yes, on the other side, there was a deflated Bayern Munich who had dominated the match – their devastation at the end was understandable.

Bayern will learn from that experience. History says they might too. After a scarcely believable loss in the Champions League final in 1999 to Manchester United, they came back and won the tournament in 2001, on penalties. Jupp Heynckes’s team only have look at what Chelsea did too.

The Blues character and team spirit grew stronger as a result of their defeat in Moscow. Sometimes, it’s the most painful defeats which can help to do this.

The cliché which sympathises with the losers says they’re a lottery. This is of course an exaggeration.

Penalties are a great test of character. Can you keep your cool in a high pressure environment? Arguably, it’s where we find out who the very best are.

Part is down to skill and part is down to courage. You could apply this to the whole of last week’s Champions League Final. Bayern had the skill to work it into the right areas but they didn’t have the courage to put them away and as a result, they paid the price.

It’s worth wondering too whether Blatter has come out with these comments just to curry favour with Franz Beckenbauer, a man who is devoted to Bayern Munich and the honorary president of FIFA. Most importantly in this case, he is “the head of the Football Task Force 2014, a group designed to recommend rule changes,” according to BBC Sport.

This would legitimise Blatter’s approach to him for trying to find an alternative suggestion to penalty shoot-outs. It’s hard not think that in a time though when the FIFA President’s standing is weak, he is trying to get a powerful ally and figurehead such as Beckenbauer to be on his side.

Judging by previous misdemeanours, it’s not inconceivable of Blatter either. Here is the man who less than two years ago wanted to end draws in World Cup group games with… penalty shoot-outs.

He is meant to be encouraging the evolution of football but Blatter must realise penalty shoot-outs are a fair way of deciding games. The pressure is the same for both sides. Plus, the drama which they can produce is fantastic.

The interests of football are pivotal to its continued success.

The joy and misery of penalty shoot-outs will only help to enhance the game further – and that cannot be underestimated either.

Article originally published on Gone With The Rhind

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