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December 2008 Archive (II of III)


[A friend and I] were discussing testing questions and the famous 'opponent entangled in the net' scenario came up.

" opponent enters the goal during dynamic play and becomes entangled in the net .... keeper then steps into the goal and punches opponent " ....

The question is whether, after the well-deserved Send-Off, the correct restart is a Dropped Ball due to action off the field .... or an Indirect Free Kick due to the fact that the player [ GK ] left the field to commit the misconduct -> as indicated by note 5 under 12.35 in current versions of ATR.

At some point in time, we were taught that the restart was a dropped ball. We are guessing that under the current interpretation, the correct restart is now IFK .... this would make sense to keep things consistent.

If there are any exceptions, please explain.

Answer (December 11, 2008):
In cases like this, the restart is governed by what occurred first. As we all know, players are permitted to leave the field during the course of play to avoid obstacles or to show that they are not involved in a possible offside situation, so the player who left the field has done nothing wrong -- unless there is some evidence that he or she was taunting or using inappropriate language against the goalkeeper. The new supplemental memorandum (commenting on this year's Interpretations section of the Lawbook) makes it clear that leaving the field for the purpose of committing misconduct is by definition NOT "leaving the field in the normal course of play" and therefore the goalkeeper's act of leaving the field without permission to attack the player in the net governs the restart, an indirect free kick from the place where the ball was when that occurred (keeping in mind the requirements of Law 13). The restart cannot take place until the goalkeeper has been shown the red card and dismissed for violent conduct (and the other player has been punished, if that is warranted by what went on).


This was forwarded to me, and if i understand the new interpretation, it might be legal - can't say i like it, however.  

Please evaluate and comment.

Answer (December 11, 2008):
"An excerpt from Advice to Referees 14.9 is useful here: Infringements after the referee's signal but before the ball is in play may be committed by the kicker, the goalkeeper, or by any of their teammates. Violations of Law 14 by the kicker in particular include back heeling the ball (14.12), running past the ball and then backing up to take the kick, excessively changing directions in the run to the ball or taking an excessively long run to the ball (which, in the opinion of the referee, results in an unnecessary delay in taking the kick), or making any motion of the hand or arm which (in the opinion of the referee) is clearly intended to confuse or misdirect the attention of the 'keeper. In almost all such cases, the referee should let the kick proceed and deal with the violation in accordance with the chart below [not included here], which outlines the proper restarts for clear infringements of Law 14. However, in the case of a kicker creating an unnecessary delay in taking the kick, the referee should intervene, if possible, warn the kicker to proceed properly, and signal again for the restart."

In response to a question similar to yours, we provided this answer in 2001; it is fully in line with the latest guidance from the IFAB and FIFA:
USSF answer (April 25, 2001):
Feinting at a penalty kick, provided it is done without lapsing into unsporting behavior, is allowed. The judgment of unsporting behavior is at the discretion of the referee, who should remember that players are permitted to deceive their opponents at the taking of free kicks outside the penalty area using well rehearsed drills. The penalty kick should be treated in the same way. Remember that the penalty is awarded because of an offense by the defending team. One example of unsporting behavior would be to step over the ball, hesitate, and then bring the foot back again to kick the ball.

We might add to the earlier response that the kicker's behavior must not, in the opinion of the referee, unduly delay the taking of the kick.

Any instance of unsporting behavior must be in the opinion of the referee, based on that particular act in that particular game at that particular moment of the game. Although there are certain actions that will always be unsporting behavior, we cannot arbitrarily set a list of actions that must be called as unsporting behavior in the case of feinting at a penalty kick. The referee has to take responsibility for some of his own decisions.

The officials on the game clearly believed the decision to be correct. In our opinion, the action of the kicker rides close to the edge but is legal. Apart from the fact that he did not do any of the things we list in the Advice as being examples of a kicker violation of Law 14 (see above) -- there is no requirement that the kicker RUN to the ball at all. He could walk, trot, sprint, or even just stand behind the ball. So he ran to the ball and stopped. Suppose he had started walking toward the ball and then, from about 1-2 yards away, broke into a sprint before taking the kick. Would this have been illegal?

We invite our readers to go to the URL in question and decide for themselves the correct answer:

NOTE: The clip's German title translates to "May someone shoot a penalty kick this way?"


Below is the signal for a 4 second count violation. What is the correct mechanic to use when counting the actual four seconds time interval? Does the official hold the (right? or left?) arm
(a) straight up
(b) straight down or
(c) at a 45 degree angle and extend one finger for each second?

[picture removed]

Answer (December 10, 2008):
This answer is easy. The jury is still out.

At the recent Futsal World Cup, game officials were counting the 4 seconds all different ways. There is as yet no definite decision. When we know, you'll know.


I understand that law 8 states that starts/restarts at beginnings of periods and after goals should be from forward movement of a ball touched once by the kicking team. My question is about clarification of some technicalities.

If a ball is played directly backwards then it would not be in play and should be retaken unless double touched. 1.) if the receiver stops the ball and then kicks it forward putting it in play, why wouldn't it be a an IFK from there. Unless because it was not put into play from the center mark. 2.) same scenario except second player kicks directly without stopping.

Similar to an IFK where the ball could be initially kicked, but if not put into play, and a subsequent result (such as goal) would be discounted because the ball wasn't in play.

Answer (December 10, 2008):
The kick-off, like the throw-in, is simply a way to get the game restarted when the ball has left the field. It is, and should be, regarded as a relaxed and less tense way of doing so. We allow trifling infringements of Law 15 in this regard, and we should do the same in the case of the kick-off.

While the procedure you describe, playing the ball backwards, etc., is not what we would allow on a free kick and certainly not what is required by Law 8, it is commonly accepted practice for kick-offs at all levels of soccer. We have seen it allowed even in high-level competitions throughout the world.

What you describe does not meet the requirements of Law 8 for a kick-off. As always, however, the issue is indeed whether the action is a violation (it is), but we must consider whether the violation should/must/needs to be handled by a stoppage and a retake of the restart. Unless the player performing the kick-off incorrectly gains some unfair benefit, we are inclined to consider the violation trifling (on par with a teammate illegally standing just over the midfield line on a kick-off to "receive" the ball). As it occurs at the very highest levels on a routine basis, you might, at most, warn the kicker that what just happened was a technical violation of the Law. However, we would recommend that you consider it trifling and punish it only if the players begin to take even greater advantage of the referee's kindness.


This event occurs often especially in HS boys games due to the size of the GK, slick pitch and the Goal Area size.

Event description: GK in his/her own Goal Area, runs toward the attacker and initiates a slide tackle from inside the Goal Area. However, GK's momentum carries his/her legs across the Goal Area Line and the resulting contact between the GK's legs and the ball occurs outside the Goal Area. Endangering the safety of the opponent is not observed in the event described above.

Because contact with the ball occurs outside the Goal Area but the slide began inside the Goal Area, what "options" are suggested?

2008 Amendments to the Futsal Laws
Direct free kick
New Text
A direct free kick shall be awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven infringements in a manner considered by the referees to be careless, reckless or using excessively forceful:
* kicking or attempting to kick an opponent;
* tripping or attempting to trip an opponent, either by sliding or by bending down in front of or behind an opponent;
* jumping at an opponent;
* charging an opponent,
* striking or attempting to strike an opponent;
* tackling an opponent;
* pushing an opponent.
A direct free kick shall also be awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four infringements.
* holding an opponent;
* spitting at an opponent;
* sliding in an attempt to play the ball while an opponent is playing it or is about to play it (sliding tackle), except for the goalkeeper in his/her own penalty area, provided he/she does not endanger the safety of an opponent;
* carrying, striking or throwing the ball with one's hands or arms, except for the goalkeeper in his/her own penalty area.

Answer (December 10, 2008):
In Futsal, goalkeepers are allowed to slide as long as it's for the ball, the slide is inside the penalty area, and their actions don't endanger an opponent. Otherwise, a slide tackle for the ball by the goalkeeper outside the penalty area should be treated no differently than another player slide tackling for a ball. If, in the opinion of the referee, an opponent is within playing distance then it's a direct free kick offense. From the way you describe this event, even though there was no contact made with the opponent, since the goalkeeper made initial contact with the ball outside the penalty area, this sounds like a direct free kick just outside the penalty area for a sliding tackle.


I saw an interesting situation recently in an international Friendly (Germany-England). The ball had been pushed forward by a German midfielder, and was being shepherded by an English defender to the goalkeeper. A German attacker, who had been in an offside position when the ball was pushed forward, "interfered with play" - he reached between the defender's legs and played the ball, eventually eluding the goalkeeper and scoring. I originally assumed the AR made a mistake (it was an off&on offside situation). I later considered, however, that "possession and control" by an opponent will "reset" the offside condition, which leads me to ask whether shielding/shepherding the ball counts as "possession and control" in terms of resetting offside.

Answer (December 9, 2008):
As you note, the attacking forward's offside position could still come into play here. If, as pointed out in Advice to Referees 11.14 (Becoming "Onside"), the ball is played (possessed and controlled, not simply deflected) by an opponent, including the opposing goalkeeper, then the offside position must be reevaluated. If, in the opinion of the referee, the defending player had established possession, then the forward is relieved of the burden of the former offside position and may play the ball. However, if the defender is not in possession -- in the opinion of the referee -- the forward must be called for the offside.

In this case, for purposes of deciding if the defender's actions constitute "possession and control" and thus reset the offside position decision, we believe the defender cannot be "in possession" if he is merely shielding the ball, assuming that by "shielding the ball" you mean nothing more than interposing the body without making any contact with the ball. In short, shielding the ball does not mean "in possession" in this specific context and thus the terms of Advice 11.14 have not been fulfilled. Decision: Offside.


In the opinion of the Referee?

Look up a definition of "throw." Now consider the following which has been observed several times in the last few weeks Futsal games.

Keeper runs towards the edge of the Goal Area Line and begins what would normally be a distribution of the ball by "throwing" but then "fumbles" (loses his/her grip on the ball) and the ball ends up an inch or two outside the Goal Area Line. The GK, seeing an attacker running towards the ball, is uncertain what to do. Consequently, the GK decides to "kick" the ball in a desperate attempt to keep the attacker from making a play on the ball.

Was the Goal Clearance properly executed (based on the definition of "throw" and the action of the GK?)
If not, the GK would be entitled to a "redo" as the ball was not properly put into play under the definition of "throw."
If the referee deems the act of the GK to be an attempt to properly execute a Goal Clearance by distribution of the ball by "throw" then by virtue of the "Second Touch" by the GK, the attacking team would be awarded an Indirect Free Kick restart.

In previous years, the issue of "kick" and the definition of "kick" has been brought up time and again. In your responses, you have articulated in Ask A Referee that "stepping on the ball" (for instance) is not considered "kicking" and therefore does not meet the requirements in the Law of a proper restart (Indirect Free Kick although we continue to see that act tried and in some cases, given acceptance by the official.) Given the great lengths taken to articulate what "kick" means, we now have a similar situation regarding what "throw" means.

In conclusion, if you were a Futsal official and witnessed the specific act by the GK described above, what would your decision be?

A goal clearance is a method of restarting play.
A goal may not be scored directly from a goal clearance.
The goal clearance is awarded when:
· the whole of the ball, having last touched a player of the attacking team, passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air, and a goal is not scored in accordance with Law 11.
· the ball is thrown from any point within the penalty area by the goalkeeper of the defending team.
· opponents remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play.
· the goalkeeper does not play the ball a second time until it has touched another player or crossed the halfway line.
· the ball is in play when it is thrown directly beyond the penalty area.
If the ball is not thrown directly beyond the penalty area:
· the goal clearance is retaken.
If, after the ball is in play, the goalkeeper touches the ball a second time before it has touched an opponent or crossed the halfway line:

Answer (December 8, 2008):
In the dynamic play situation you describe, irrespective of the intent of the goalkeeper, when the ball leaves his or her possess by hand AND leaves the penalty area it is then in play. Should the goalkeeper again play the ball with his or her foot before it touches an opposing player or crosses the halfway line, the referee should award an indirect free kick to the opposing team from the place where the goalkeeper plays the ball a second time.

In specific response to your questions:
1. Yes the goal clearance was properly executed BECAUSE the ball left the penalty area. (There is no goal area in Futsal.)

2. Here are some other possibilities in your scenario; a. If the ball had not left the penalty area yet, then the 'keeper could have picked it up again and then thrown it into play PROVIDED he or she had not yet violated the 4-second distribution requirement. Please remember that proper distribution requires both the ball being released by the 'keeper AND it leaving the penalty area directly. Rather than stop play and retake the goal clearance, the spirit of the law is that the goalkeeper distribute it directly into play. Provided he or she does so without violating the 4 seconds, there is no problem if s/he bobbles it or bounces it or whatever, as long as s/he gets it back into play.
b. Had the goalkeeper touched the ball with the hands after it had left the penalty area, then it should be a direct free kick to the opposing team because the 'keeper handled the ball outside the penalty area.


Please give me some guidance about when and where it is fitting to wear/not wear "US Soccer Referee" logo'd apparel. Referee gear is available to anyone, but I'd rather not mar or mock the good reputation of the referee community with any inappropriate appearances.

Answer (December 2, 2008):
Most of the apparel with USSF logos sold by Official Sports International, our sponsor, can be worn almost anywhere, depending on the nature of the event you are attending. Many of those items are meant for leisure wear.

It is, of course, inappropriate to wear the uniform when you are attending a game solely as a spectator, because it invites questions that you are not qualified to answer -- because you are not part of this particular game.


Can you help me find a official reference to a requirement that players must have jersey numbers and a specific reference that they must be different numbers?

I was at a college showcase over the weekend and the "tournament" allowed for up to 6 guest players. It was obvious that teams took liberty with this, allowing younger "club mates" and less skilled "club mates" from other teams in the club replace members that could not make it. Trouble with this was many had same numbers as team mates, or no numbers at all. Also some jerseys were markedly different (same colors as team, but reversed as though they only had away jerseys) but did not conflict with the other team at all.

Coaches didn't complain because of the friendly nature of the showcase, and while there normally isn't the number of occurrences that happened in this case, there's certainly more objection in league play.

League or competition rules may specify, but according to USSF I could not find a passage in the laws or in the advice to point to these rules. I would love to have in my bag the highlighted passage from an official document from USSF (if there is one)

- Must a player have a jersey number on the jersey?
- Must it be different from all other numbers teams present?
- Any special rules for goalkeeper clothing?
- Must all jerseys be the exact same color scheme? (I am assuming in this question that the variances satisfy the requirement stated in the "advice" book in distinguishing themselves from the keepers, the other team, and the referee)

Answer (December 2, 2008):
A reminder that we don't do college or high school rules here, and we certainly do not do "showcases," which are nothing but what their name suggests, a game where players are paraded before coaches like pigs, sheep, or cattle at a country fair.

You will find nothing in the Laws of the Game or in the Advice to Referees for a good reason: Numbers and uniform details are governed by the rules of whatever competition they are being used in, not in the Laws. You will find such details in the rules of the various cup competitions played under the aegis of the USSF and USYS, and in the rules of college and high school soccer; however, In the case of "showcase" games, there will likely be no rules at all.

The Laws cover uniforms only in so far as teams must wear uniforms that are different in color from those of the opponents and of the officials (who do not need to change at all; the teams must change).


In a tournament this weekend I was told by the assessor that as AR I should be running all the way to the corner flag before signalling the goal kick. Stopping at the six and pointing toward the goal area was not enough. He called it just being lazy. On shots taken outside the eighteen, from midfield, even if 2LD was at midfield, he still wanted us to run to the corner flag before signalling. I understood this to be proper procedure for a corner kick but had never heard of it for goal kicks.
The games I centered were confusing. The AR delaying signal until he got to the corner flag made me question whether he was calling goal kick or corner kick. Is this a new procedure or just more creative refereeing?
All I could find in Guide to Procedures was to point toward goal area and nothing about running to corner flag. I want to use the correct procedure. Please advise.

Answer (December 2, 2008):
Lazy is as lazy does. The assessor's advice is well intentioned but not entirely accurate or necessary. Of course the assistant referee should run all questionable balls the entire distance to the goal line. "Questionable balls" are those that are contested by players from both teams and could result in either a goal kick or a corner kick. However, when there is no question as to what the restart will be, and for whom, there is no need to continue all the way to the goal line. The top of the goal area is fine in most cases.

U.S. Soccer thanks Jim Allen (National Instructor Staff/National Assessor), assisted by Dan Heldman (National Instructor Staff), for their assistance in providing this service. Direction is provided by Alfred Kleinaitis, Manager of Referee Development and Education, with further assistance from Paul Tamberino, Director of Referee Development; David McKee, National Director of Assessment (assessment matters); and Ulrich Strom, National Instructor and National Assessor (matters in general).

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