Stories From the Vault

The Double Dummy

By Posted in - Analysis & Football Philosophy & Tactics on April 3rd, 2015 0 Comments

Watch the first 20 seconds of this clip:

Really it is about 7 seconds that matter: 8-15.

The dummy is a neglected skill, especially at the recreational level, but here we get a double dummy. The ball is played to Bonhof on the left, he motions Heynckes towards him from the left flank drawing a defender potentially opening space. Bonhof leaves the ball for Heynckes coming in the opposite direction with a defender in pursuit leaving space open behind him. Heynckes in turn leaves the ball for Bonhof who advances into the open space before the play peters out. That’s it: less than 7 seconds of genius that did nothing to influence the result.

Playing in a recreational league game a few years ago we had a goal called back when a player was in an offside position. Our player argued that because he hadn’t played the ball, he had opened his legs to let it go through, he wasn’t influencing the play. It took sometime after the game to convince him the call was correct because he couldn’t get it though his head that not playing the ball was influencing the game. It is a similar concept to John Cage’s composition 4’33” in that it poses an intellectual hurdle that some cannot overcome. How can I compare football to art? Because both are battles between individual conceptions of beauty vs mass cultural brutalism.

The interplay between Bonhof & Heynckes was a moment of pure beauty on the pitch. Mönchengladbach are my favourite club in Germany and Bonhof was my favourite player growing up but until this clip was posted I hadn’t seen that gem. This clip is over forty years old and no doubt players did and have done the same thing before or since but this moment sums up why I chose to support Mönchengladbach. Their staring 11 for this match had five players who went on to win the World Cup less than four months later, including Heynckes & Bonhof.

It is difficult to find people who will dummy the ball and as a result when it does happen players aren’t expecting the ball when it arrives. Bonhof’s decision to leave the ball to Heynckes gave him the the option of playing or dummying himself depending on how the defender reacted. When in possession the focus of teams that want to control the ball is the creation and exploitation of space. Passing & movement create space and within that realm the dummy is an often overlooked means of creating gaps in coverage.

Some people believe a pianist performing 4’33” isn’t actually doing anything musical because their worldview doesn’t allow for (dis)organized silence as music. Similarly there are people who play soccer who can’t conceive of contributing by intentionally not playing the ball whilst appearing to have every intention of doing so. The pianist performing 4’33” doesn’t just sit still and there is never complete silence and that is the composition. Bonhof & Heynckes showed that the choice to not touch the ball can do as much as the choice to touch the ball.

PS: for more fun, watch Nicholas Cage take the 4’33” even further.


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