“If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there,” said the late Brian Clough, making a point about the importance of passing the ball to feet. Given he turned a provincial English football club, Nottingham Forest, into European champions two years running, it’s fair to say he knew a thing or two about the beautiful game.
So the Scottish Football Association’s plan to ban under-12s from heading the ball may eventually benefit clubs and the national team – which has now failed to qualify for a major tournament for more than two decades – as kids are essentially forced to focus on ball skills and pass-and-move and stop hoofing the ball up the park for extended games of ‘head tennis’.
Of course, the main reason behind the impending decision is growing concern that repeated heading of the ball can cause lasting damage to the brain, leading to dementia in later life. While there is some scientific evidence of a link, it’s not entirely conclusive. However, it is surely not controversial to abide by the precautionary principle and act to protect the still-developing brains of young children.