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February 2005 Archive (I of II)

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The Laws of the Game state that a goal cannot be scored directly from an indirect free kick (Law 13), a throw-in (Law 15) or a dropped ball (Law 8), and that a goal can only be scored against the opposing team (NO OWN GOAL) on a direct free kick (Law 13), a goal kick (Law 16) and a corner kick (Law 17). My question: for the remaining two restarts, the penalty kick (Law 14) and the kick off (Law 8), would an own goal be allowed if the requirements for the restart as stated in the respective Law were satisfied (players in the correct positions, ball kicked in a forward direction, etc.)? Neither Law specifically bans an own goal being awarded. While the probability of either event ever occuring (especially from a penalty kick) is extremely slight, an "unusual" weather condition - e.g. a strong, sudden wind gust - could make it "possible". I believe that the goal would stand, but have heard conflicting opinions.

Answer (February 10, 2005):
The Spirit of the Game would cry out in anguish if an own goal were awarded directly from either a kick-off or a penalty kick. In addition, it would be nigh impossible for such a thing to occur.


I'm little concerned about player behavior, especially at the high level of competitions. Last week I watched the Ecuador vs. Panama game. One of the players, after he scored a goal, pulled a mask from his shorts and put it on his head. As a matter of fact, he did it on two occasions. I didn't see any display of yellow cards for his behavior. In my opinion that action was a disrespect for the other player's team and in general for the soccer game. I ask myself, when will FIFA or other authorities do something to stop that kind of behavior?

Answer (February 10, 2005):
There had to be some countermeasure from the players to the change in the Laws that forbids removing shirts after scoring a goal. If the referee believes that any action following a goal is disrespectful to the game or a form of taunting the opponents after the goal has been scored, the player should be cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior.


Large tournament, multi-state and country participants, approved by USYS. The tournament rules state, "all rules are governed by the FIFA laws of soccer" AND Home Team: "will select the side from which they wish to play".

There was understandable confusion because tournament officials gave instructions that "Home Team selects the side they wish to play from" meant, the side they wish to defend and the visiting teams always kick off. I contended that, although poorly worded, the rule was intended to give the Home Team, the choice of which sideline to occupy. There were no additional rules covering sideline occupancy.

(To be consistent with Law 8, the word "end" should have been used and not "side".) Question: Can the tournament rules committee dictate that a coin flip not be used to determine the end (side) to defend (play from) without violating FIFA and USYS laws?

Answer (February 9, 2005):
Law 8 is not among the Laws that may be modified, even slightly, without the permission of the International Football Association Board-the body that writes the Laws of the Game.


For any match, adult, pro, or youth, if a coach is abusively screaming and/or swearing at his players but not at anyone else, can he/she be dismissed?

Answer (February 7, 2005):
Law 5 tells us that the referee may take "action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds." Abusive screaming and/or swearing at anyone would not seem to be responsible behavior.


Reported as one of the toughest calls for a basketball official is the charge-block decision when a defensive player steps in front of an offensive player impeding his progress to the basket. If the defender gets there early enough to be stationary at the time of collision, there is a foul charged to the offensive player.

Perhaps because they watch basketball, I see American youth players, even at the high school level, imitating this sort of defensive strategy. In addition to officiating, I watch a lot of soccer, and I don't see the tactic employed outside the U.S.

My question is this -- if a soccer defender steps in front of an attacker, denying the attacker his/her intended path toward goal, is getting there the split second to become stationary sufficient to merit a foul call against the attacker? Can you comment on points the smart official should look for in this play to determine if a defender is guilty of the foul of holding or the attacker is guilty of the foul of charging?

Answer (January 31, 2005):
In general, each player on the field is entitled to the area he or she occupies at any particular moment. However, it is also a fact that a player may not occupy space needed by an opponent if the occupying player is not playing the ball but instead preventing the opponent from getting into that space. If there is contact by the opponent, but initiated by the player who has jumped into a space to impede the opponent's way or ability to play the ball, that is considered to be holding by the player. The opponent's team would receive a direct free kick from the point of the foul.


I was watching keepers get training from a MLS trainer at a camp. I was a bit surprised to see so many put their knee up when catch a ball (I was told they were not being taught this - they just did it). I told my daughter that I thought if she hit an opponent with her knee don't be surprised if a PK was awarded and if I saw a keeper flying through the air - knee first and an attacker ducking because of it I'd likely award an IFK for dangerous play.

Answer (January 31, 2005):
May a goalkeeper be called for playing dangerously or fouling an opponent? Surely, but it is a matter for the referee to decide on a case-by-case basis. There is no clear, black-and-white answer. The referee's decision would have to be based on the specific level of risk involved and that, in turn, is a function of the age, experience, and skill of the players.

That does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that goalkeepers are allowed to use their protection under the Spirit of the Laws to harm other players. When leaping for the ball, all players, including goalkeepers, should aim to play the ball at the highest point possible. The striker jumps as high as he can to get his head on the ball, but the goalkeeper has the advantage of needing only to have his hands high enough to play the ball.

If the goalkeeper's jump appears to be natural, with the knee lifted as part of achieving balance or additional height, then there is probably no foul on the part of the goalkeeper. However, if the lifting of the knee appears to be unnatural or contrived, or if the goalkeeper raises the knee only when the attacker comes near to the ball-this is a common goalkeeper maneuver to intimidate opponents rather than "self protection" or the equally facile argument that it is used to achieve greater height -- the referee may reach the conclusion that the goalkeeper is no longer protecting himself or attempting to gain greater altitude, but is attempting to send a message to the opponent. That sort of play must be punished.


Would you allow the goal if, while taking the shot, the attacker's shoe came off, forcing the goalkeeper to dodge the flying shoe and also fail in his attempt to block the shot (the ball went totally over the goal line under the upright and between the goal posts).

Answer (January 27, 2005):
We answered a similar question over a year ago, on September 23, 2003:
As defined in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" (Advice) and clear from the perspective of the Spirit of the Game, a foul is an unfair or unsafe action committed by a player against an opponent or the opposing team, on the field of play, while the ball is in play. (Advice 12.1) Although the loss of the shoe was inadvertent and accidental, it was also careless. A careless act of striking toward an opponent is punishable by a direct free kick for the opponent's team, taken from the spot where the object (or fist) hit (or would have hit) its target (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

Although the shooter wanted to play the ball when he kicked it and did not hit the goalkeeper with his shoe deliberately, he has still committed a foul. Direct free kick for the goalkeeper's team from the place where the shoe struck the goalkeeper (bearing in mind the special circumstances described in Law 8).

The only difference would be that in your case the shoe did not hit the goalkeeper; however the effect and the decision are be the same. The goal is not scored; restart with a direct free kick for the goalkeeper's team from the place where the shoe would have hit the goalkeeper.


I was looking through the "Official Sports" catalogue and was wondering what the policy is on Referee attire during rain and snow storms.

What about when it is not storming but it is really cold?

Answer (January 27, 2005):
Referees should exercise good sense in choosing what to wear during foul weather. If the weather is exceptionally cold or wet, the referee and assistant referees should dress appropriately, in accordance with the level of the game they are refereeing. However, on a high-level game, whether professional or amateur, the refereeing crew should not wear any garb that is not appropriate to a professional appearance. For other, lower-level games, track suits that clearly identify the officials as referees are suitable, together with caps and gloves.

You should remember that the players might not take kindly to a referee whose garb is warmer and/or dryer than what they have to wear on the field (despite our good intentions) so this factor should be taken into account as well.


Well after half-time, the Red sweeper is cited for his third foul, raising cries of "All day, Ref!" and "How many times, Sir?" from his Blue opponents. The Referee, knowing the "count", has a brief, but pointed word with the offender, to the effect of "That's it, no more!" with the unspoken but understood pledge of a PI Caution for any more inappropriate play. While not overheard, the Referee's body language and demeanor let everyone know what was conveyed.

Ten minutes later, the player commits another foul, but this time, it is done with sufficient recklessness and force to deserve a Caution on its own.

The question is, therefore, can the Referee conjoin the facts of the anticipated Caution for PI, with a concurrent judgement of USB for the foul itself, and send of the sweeper for earning two Cautions? If so, what would be the correct mechanics for the display of cards?

(Personally, I used the principle of "a player, having earned a Caution, and before being issued the Caution, commits another act of misconduct, shall be sent off" to decide on a send off. My reasoning was that his fourth foul earned the first Caution (which he was aware was coming), and the presence of recklessness was itself the cause of the second caution.)

Answer (January 26, 2005):
Rather than having a hard and fast rule, the intelligent referee will base this decision on exactly what went on during the previous portion of the game and in this particular instance. If the card is warranted, the reasoning you suggested works fine. As for mechanics, display the yellow, display the yellow again, and then display the red card -all with consummate composure.


I have a question about encroachment at a free kick, and whether Advantage applies.

Red is awarded a Free Kick at the top of the penalty arc, near the goal defended by Blue. Blue #8 stands ten yards away from the ball, on the penalty mark, as part of a defensive wall. As Red #3 is starting to take the kick, Blue #8 runs a few yards forward toward the ball. When Red #3 actually kicks the ball, Blue #8 is still inside the Penalty Area, six or eight yards from the ball.

As the Referee moves the whistle to his mouth, the ball caroms off the head of Blue #8, then flies directly into the goal.

Blue #8 has failed to respect the distance at the free kick, a Law 12 violation, and his action was not trifling. Can the Referee apply advantage, and award the goal to Red? Or must the Referee consider that the restart was not properly taken, likely caution Blue #8, and order the kick retaken (ATR 13.5)?

I know that we have a decision matrix for resolving violations by attackers and/or defenders at a Penalty Kick, but I wasn't certain whether similar principles could be applied to Free Kicks.

Answer (January 25, 2005):
Of course the referee may apply the advantage clause in this situation. The referee may award the goal and then take any appropriate disciplinary action against the player who failed to remain the required distance from the ball.


Let me say that I've been enjoying the Extra Player (a rostered but virtual Outside Agent) situation because it is so confusingly intriguing. You've introduced me to a very slippery slope.

The referee whistles a stoppage and discovers an Extra Player. The Extra Player is normally cautioned, removed from field and game restarted with Drop Ball --
BUT what if the Extra Player is involved in the stoppage by:
1)Encroaching a Free Kick, Penalty Kick, Goal Kick, Corner Kick, Kickoff or impedes a Throw-in
= the restart will be a re-do Yes No

2)Is Encroached/Impeded while executing any of the above
= the restart will be a re-do Yes No

3)Dissents from referee's ruling
= Cautioned again Yes No

4)Persists in unsporting play
= Caution is suspended Yes No

5)Commits a reckless act
= Cautioned again Yes No

6)Commits Violence, Spits, Uses language (or body language) that is Offensive, Abusive, Insulting
= Red Card

I'm betting these are all YES answers. How'd I do?

Answer (January 20, 2005):
Your first statement: "The referee whistles a stoppage and discovers an Extra Player. The extra player is normally cautioned, removed from field and game restarted with Drop Ball," is incorrect. It would be correct only if the extra player was the reason for the stoppage. But, because the "extraness" of the player wasn't discovered until after play had been stopped, the stoppage must have occurred for some other reason. The general principle here is that the extra player, despite being extra, is always fully responsible for all his or her acts performed prior to being discovered (the only logical exception is scoring a goal unless the "extraness" is discovered before play is restarted). If the extra player is discovered only during a stoppage, play is restarted by whatever caused the stoppage (except kick-off for a goal) after the extra player is dealt with.

Provided that the "extra player" is either a named substitute or a player who had left the field with the referee's permission, the answers to your questions are:
1) Yes.
2) Yes.
3) Yes.
4) No; why would the caution be "suspended"?
5) Yes; and then sent off for having received a second caution in the game.
6) Yes.

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.

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