FIFA laws of the game changes

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The FIFA soccer laws, known as the Laws of the Game, are a set of 17 rules that every soccer club and organization follows. The rules are regulated (not by FIFA if you thought so) but by the Internation Football Association Board (IFAB). IFAB, which became an independent association in 2014, is the true guardian of the Laws of the Game.

FIFA is one of the voting members but not the only one. The four British associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are also voting members. During voting, FIFA has four votes and each British association one vote. To pass a motion three-quarters majority is required.

Every year, during the spring Anual General Meeting of IFAB the changes of the Laws of the Game which will take effect in the following season (starting June 1) are announced. Most often the changes are improvement of language or refinement of terms to remove ambiguities. However, sometimes the changes introduced are really serious game changers.

It appears that some of the changes that were introduced this year will probably have a serious effect on the game. Let’s review them.

Handballs: In the current form of the laws, an accidental (unintentional) handball by an attacking player that results in a goal or creates a goal-scoring opportunity allows the goal to count or the game to continue. In the new version of the laws, the referee must award a free kick to the defending team.

Penalties: The current rules allow goalkeepers during a penalty to stand behind the goal line. This helps them to start a forward motion before the kick is taken, enabling them to move forward a bigger distance as the ball approaches the goalpost and hence close down a bigger fraction of the exposed area. Also the current rules, do not forbid a goalkeeper to shake the goalpost as a way to intimidate the kicker. The new rules require that the goalkeeper has part of one foot on the goal line and that the posts, crossbar, and nets are not moving during the kick.

Substitutions: The current laws have no requirement at which place a substituted player must exit the pitch. As a result, this is used as a delay mechanism with many players exiting at the halfway line as slowly as possible. The new rules require that the player exits the field at the nearest point of the touchline or goal line.

Walls: The current laws allow offensive players to interfere with the wall of the defensive team during a free kick. The new laws require that all offensive players are at least one meter away.

Goalkicks: The current form of the rules require that a defender cannot play the ball after a goalkick unless it has exited the penalty area. The new laws allow him/her to play it inside the penalty area. Offensive players must stay outside the area but once the ball is kicked they can challenge it.

There are some additional changes (such as allowing referees to show cards to team officials, introduce cooling breaks of 3 minutes versus drinks breaks of 1 minute, changing the rules of the dropped ball, etc) but we predict that it is the previous five changes will make a big impact. (Download the official IFAB document to read all changes.) Among all changes, we have mixed feelings for the penalty and wall changes since they interfere with tactical decisions. The coaches and players should have plans on how to act during these situations. It should not be IFAB who helps one of the teams; it should be their plans.

Water breaks to attenuate heat stress

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar. Leaving aside all scandals that have plagued it, it is the first World Cup not to be held in May, June, or July. Instead, it is scheduled from November 21 until December 18. The reason for the change of dates is the excessive heat the players will face. (The reduced timeframe is probably due to the fact that the new dates interfere with all national soccer leagues and the longer the duration, the more problems will be created.) Even with the change of dates, Qatar, in its bid, promised to improve and deliver cooling technology during the tournament.

Soccer is a highly demanding game and soccer players under extreme heat conditions are susceptible to heat illness. In professional soccer, extreme heat cannot be avoided since scheduling is based on commercial needs; in earlier levels it cannot be avoided since soccer fields are in continuous use and game scheduling has no flexibility. Hence, players of all levels are in danger of heat illness.

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In order to reduce the risk of the players playing in extreme heat conditions, FIFA has introduced heat breaks after 30 minutes of game play. The 30-minute mark was chosen based on research showing that player core temperature reaches its peak around that moment.

Studies investigating best strategies to reduce heat stress for soccer players continue with the latest one published this month. (See https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2019.04.009)

In this study, participants completed four simulated football matches at an ambient temperature of 35° C (95° F) , relative humidity of 55% and wet bulb globe temperature of 30° C (86° F). Each game had different cooling breaks: (a) Normal rules (i.e. no cooling breaks and a half time break of 15 minutes). (b) An extended half time break of 20 minutes total but no additional cooling breaks. (c) A 3-minute cooling break in each half where participants consumed chilled water. (d) A 3-minute cooling break in each half where they consumed chilled water and also applied an ice towel around the neck.

The study concluded that all three cooling strategies reduced the core temperature of the athletes and, hence, reduced the risk of heat illness. However, it was not able to establish that one of the three cooling strategies had a higher efficacy.

Unfortunately, the study has some serious limitations: The sample of the participants was too small (just twelve participants) and the games were simulated in a laboratory. Hence, overall, the study was able only to reinforce the known fact that cooling strategies help to keep players safe by reducing their core temperature.

What Sunscreen are you using?

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Soccer is an outdoor sport. Therefore, soccer players are subject to all environmental conditions. Most importantly, soccer players have to put up with the sun. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is very beneficial for kids and adults. However, excessive amounts of UV radiation can have harmful effects. For this reason protection from the UV radation is strongly recommended. For soccer players who cannot be under shade and cannot adjust their clothing (which is subject to strict requirements),  the protection comes from the application of sunscreens.

Sunscreens come in two kinds: physical (which are based on natural minerals) and chemical (which are based on the advances of nanoscience). The former works as a `mirror’ which reflects the UV radiation; the latter as an absorber converting it to non-harmful radiation (heat).

Infographic about sunscreens by the American Academy of Dermatology
Infographic about sunscreens by the American Academy of Dermatology.

During the past decades the use of sunscreens has skyrocketed. In particular, the vast majority of people are using chemical sunscreens since physical sunscreens create a white layer on the skin surface which many find unattractive. FDA classifies the physical sunscreens as safe.  However, it has expressed a concern for chemical sunscreens. Simply said, there is not enough research on the effects of the chemical ingredients on the human body.  Even more, current data point out that people should use chemical sunscreens with caution and suspicion. In the following, we report some of these data.

It is known that oxybenzone (which is in two-thirds of all chemical sunscreens) is the most common cause of contact allergies. A 10-year study (from 2001 to 2010) found that 70% of people had a positive patch test when exposed to it (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23857015).

In 2008, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed urine samples collected by a government study and found oxybenzone in 97% of the samples. Another analysis of breast milk samples found oxybenzone or other sunscreen chemicals in 85% of the samples (see https://doi.org/10.2533/chimia.2008.345).

Other studies have indicated:  a possible connection between oxybenzone and lower testosterone levels in adolescent boys (see https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp150); hormone changes in men (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15191542);  shorter pregnancies and disrupted birth weights in babies (see https://doi.org/10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.08.015); disruptions of endocrine systems (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997468/).

A recently released study (see https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2733085) on the most common chemical incredients of avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule found that it takes only a day of use for the ingredients to enter the bloondstream at levels which are high enough. It also found that their concentration increased as the use increased and, finally, the chemicals remained in the body one day after the sunscreen use had stopped.

In addition to possible human physiological effects, oxybenzone and octinoxate  cause coral bleaching and are dangerous to marine ecosystems.  Hawaii and Key West, FL  recently banned sunscreens containing them.

As a result of the elevated concern, in February, the FDA called manufacturers to do safety investigations of 12 commonly used sunscreen chemicals.

Episkyros, LLC  has a deep commitment to natural and organic practices as a way to protect the youth. Hence, given the current state of knowledge, we side with The Environment Working Group which recommends choosing a mineral sunscreen containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide when possible.

Free practice on Saturday, May 25

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Our next free practice has been scheduled for

SATURDAY,  MAY 25:  9.15-10.45 a.m.

at the

Arcadia Acres Park, 7768 Lady Frances Way, Orlando, FL 32807.

If you would like to participate and you have not registered,  please register using the registration for free practices form. It is quick. No obligation. No commitment.

 

 

Be a Follower, Win an Autographed Book

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Episkyros is a soccer education provider created out of passion to provide soccer education and help kids become student-athletes. Teaching kids about soccer is our goal. We believe that soccer is art and we want kids also to see it as art. But this perfectionism is not our only plan. We want to help them advance in their education too. Our logo encapsulates our dual target with the latin phrase Mens Sana in Corpore Sano. Hence, in many occasions, we will relate soccer to educational activities and, especially science and mathematics. We aim to make kids understand that seemingly unrelated areas of human activity are actually related for those who understand the ideas at a deeper level. We will always strive for this knowledge at a deeper level.

As a first and small token of our dedication to education, here is our first offer: Become a follower of our website episkyros.org on WordPress and get the opportunity to win one of the following books autographed by its author.

The Fabric of Cosmos by Brian Greene
The Fabric of Cosmos by Brian Greene

To demonstrate our commitment to science: The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. Learn by one of the world’s most famous popularizers of science the most recent developments about space and time of our universe.

Kate Mulgrew's memoir Born With Teeth
Kate Mulgrew’s memoir Born With Teeth

To demonstrate our commitment to support equal rights and voice between the two genders: Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew. Since the time she appeared as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, actress Kate Mulgrew has served as a role model for girls pursuing a career in science. You can read her story in her memoir the obstacles she faced with all her triumphs and her tragedies.

Visit episkyros.org and become a follower by June 10. If you do not see a link to follow, email us at EpiskyrosInfo@gmail.com and we will send you a personalized link. Current followers qualify automatically. Winners will be drawn on June 11. For transparency, if you win, you agree to allow Episkyros publish your first name and a photo of you with the book. It is your right to decline the publicity but if you do, we will offer the book to another follower.

Episkyros will announce more drawings in the future. Becoming and remaining a follower will qualify you for all additional drawings.

First free practices

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The schedule of our first two free practices has been announced:

  • SATURDAY, APRIL 27:  4.15-5.45 p.m.,  Econ Soccer Complex, 8035 Yates Road, Orlando, FL 32806.
  • SATURDAY, MAY 4:  4.15-5.45 p.m., Arcadia Acres Park, 7768 Lady Frances WY, Orlando, FL 32807.

If you would like to participate, please register using the registration for free practices form. It is quick. No obligation. No commitment.

 

 

This year’s Ajax

de-ligt-ajax-celebrationAFC Ajax is a Dutch professional club.  It used to be a dominant force in European soccer. However, in recent times, as trends changed and money become the primary means to success, clubs like Ajax stayed behind  in trophy acquisition as richer clubs were able to easily acquire the top players. Ajax was reduced to a club known for its  superior soccer academy which creates some of the world’s finest players. Some widely recognized names are: Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Wim Kieft, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert. Every year, a couple of  players join Ajax’s first team straight from its academy. Once these young players establish themselves and prove their value are sold to richer clubs. It is a process driven by economics. Ajax has a good income from this process but, unfortunately,  it is stripped off  its potential superiority.

If you are not watching Ajax’s games this year, then you missing a lot. While most of the soccer discussions are around the fight between Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title and Juventus’ performance with Ronaldo in its ranks, Ajax have been delivering one of the greatest season performance.  With an average squad age of 24, on April 16, 2019 they stunned Juventus 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 1997. And this feat just after Ajax had eliminated Real Madrid with a 4-1 away victory to overcome a 1-2 home defeat. Both Real Madrid and, especially, Juventus were amongst the favorites to win the Champions League.  Ajax were the underdog. No more.  Now, on Tuesday, April 30, Ajax will face Tottenham in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with the second leg in the Johan Cruyff Arena scheduled on Wednesday, May 8. With apologies to Tottenham fans, we can only root for Ajax. After the end of this season, Ajax will be reduced to nothing once more. With some transfers already confirmed, some in the making and some rumored, it is already given that Ajax’s income will surpass any previous records but the magnificent team that has been put in place and has become so enjoyable to watch will not exist much longer.

Do not miss the remaining games of this Ajax team.

Juan Mata’s interview to BBC

Juan Mata is a midfielder of Manchester United. As BBC explains, he is far from the average soccer player: He likes poetry, psychology and has helped to start Common Goal, a charity that asks soccer players to donate 1% of their profits to “generate social change and improve lives”.

He recently gave an interview for Football Daily podcast, hosted by Guillem Balague in BBC Radio 5 Live.  You can read parts of the interview in a post of the BBC Sports. You will immediately realize that Mata is well articulated and his ideas are meaningful and well thought.

You can download the full interview as a Football Daily podcast from BBC Radio 5 Live.