Close

Football Should Steal This One Rule From Major League Baseball

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and football shouldn’t be above taking the best ideas from the rest of the sporting universe – especially since this one might bring back stars like Maradona

In addition to bribery, money laundering and papering over racism, FIFA — football’s very own basket of deplorables — occasionally rolls out a rule change or two. During the weekend’s World Club Cup final, for example, Alvaro Morata became football’s first ever “fourth substitute” as Real Madrid took advantage of a trial rule-change allowing an additional substitution during extra time.

Like the above, however, most of FIFA’s rule changes are mere tweaks, with little-to-no beneficial impact on the dynamics of the beautiful game. So, to help Zurich’s dimmest out, The18 has selflessly scoured the wider sporting universe to uncover rules that football should unashamedly steal for its own betterment. 

And we’ve found a doozy: the designated hitter.

Few games are as different as baseball and the beautiful game, but the designated hitter rule has the potential to revolutionize football as we know it. Instead of a batter hitting for the pitcher, we propose empowering managers to temporarily substitute their goalkeeper for a free-kick specialist every time play stops for a set piece. The catch? They can only sub the keeper back on when the ball next goes out of play.

Just think about it for a second. Allowing “designated hitters” would prolong the careers of some of the game’s biggest entertainers. There would instantly be a market for players too old or unfit to play 90 minutes, but still capable of smacking the living sh*t out of a pig’s bladder.

Teams would be clamoring for the services of a tubby Ronaldinho, a greying David Beckham or a now-seemingly narcoleptic Andrea Pirlo. No longer would such players have to suffer the ignominy of playing in MLS, and more importantly, we’d get to see more feats of footballing physics such as these:

Still not a believer? Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the scene: it’s all square in the Manchester Derby with two minutes to go; United have a free-kick 20 yards out from the City goal. Off runs David de Gea, and in his stead waddles a bloated, coke-addled, 50-something Diego Armando Maradona. He steps up to the ball and cracks an exocet with his left foot. It curls, it dips, then smacks  flush onto the crossbar, ricocheting straight to a sky blue shirt.

As his teammates scramble desperately to defend their empty net from a counterattack, Diego keels over in exhaustion before lighting a Marlboro Red.

Glorious.