Water Break?! Seriously?

What You Need to Know about The World Cup’s First Ever Water Break

Brazil Soccer WCup US Portugal
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo pours water over his head during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Portugal Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

There’s plenty to talk about with yesterday’s US-Portugal game: Ronaldo’s figurative absence from the pitch, Jermaine Jones’ clutch goal, Clint Dempsey’s scrappy timing, Nani’s continuing decline, the continuing problem of the weak US defense.

But what about that water break?



For those less familiar with the rules for World Cup, set by world football’s governing body FIFA, the official clock does not stop during the match. Ever. With the exception of half-time, the referee’s watch keeps going, even when there are “stoppages” for free kicks, for corner kicks, for yellow and red cards. Even if a player is injured and needs to be stretchered off the pitch, time continues to run. In this last instance, you’ll often see a team’s medics and trainers run on carrying water, and players can grab a quick drink. Aside  from that, there are no official water breaks or time-outs or other stoppages of time that you might see in basketball or ice hockey (or even that other game that shares the name “football” even though “feet” have only a small role to play in the actual conduct of the game) Yet, on Sunday, at the 39th minute in the first half, the referee called for a water break.

According to The Associated Press, the referee was authorized to make the call after a Brazilian court, responding to a lawsuit, on Friday ruled that FIFA must introduce such breaks when temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit). Reuters has more:

The suit was brought on behalf of players at the World Cup by independent government labor-code prosecutors who had sought a ruling imposing water breaks on the Brazilian labor-regulation standard of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), the ruling said. FIFA dismissed the decision as largely irrelevant.

There were differing reports about what the temperature exactly was at the stadium, which is located in Manaus, deep in the Brazilian rainforest. But the consensus seems to have been that the humidity was problematic: in excess of 70 percent, possibly higher. Given that footballers often average around 7 miles of running during a 90 minute match– a good proportion of which is done at a FULL SPRINT — it’s understandable that there should be concern for their well-being. Still, world class footballers are in tip-top condition, at the highest level of stamina, strength, endurance and speed. Many teams, such as England’s for example, trained in specially heated conditions to prepare for the Amazonian rainforest.

Purists, no doubt, will scoff to no end about what they see as a “sissifying” of the game. (When “goal-line technology” was authorized for use after the 2010 World Cup, there was a similar outburst of indignation about the changes.

But given where the 2018 World Cup is scheduled to be held, as more than one person on Twitter noted, the water break rule may in fact be a life-saving feature:


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