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February 2005 Archive (II of II)

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A free kick has been given. The kicking player (A) kicks the ball only a couple of feet by mistake. He then goes to the ball and, while facing the ball, he shields an incoming opponent (B) from gaining possession. If the ball is at the feet of this player A, can he use his body to shield/impede his opponent from getting the ball? Player A cannot play the ball a 2nd time till it is touched by someone else. So can he really claim "possession" with the ball at his feet when he isn't able to touch it? Or does the rule only require that the ball merely has to be within playing distance of player A while he is shielding - even though he cannot play it?

Answer (February 16, 2005):
Despite the fact that A cannot play the ball legally without playing it a second time before someone else has somehow played the ball, as long as A is within playing distance of the ball (i. e., meaning capable of playing the ball according to the Law), then A cannot be impeding. Playing distance is exactly that, a distance, which is determined in practice only by the playability of the ball.

The fact that in this particular case A could not LEGALLY play the ball without infringing the Law does not change the fact that, distance-wise, the ball is still within a physically playable distance. The ball is legally playable-in every way open to any field player-by anyone other than the player who kicked the ball. If A's movement includes holding the arms out and making contact with the opponent as a means of keeping the opponent away, then the player is guilty of holding.
[Note: This answer repeats information given in November 2002.]


Can you provide the definition for double possession?
If the keeper has the ball in their hands, plays it to the ground, then decides to pick the ball up again, do we have a double touch issue?
How about the keeper tosses the ball to the ground and kicks it?

Answer (February 16, 2005):
For a goalkeeper to be "convicted" of double possession, the referee must recognize that the goalkeeper has clearly released the ball for others to play and then picked it up again. However, if the 'keeper inadvertently drops the ball and then picks it up again, that does not count as double possession. Dropping the ball to the ground and kicking it is a legal play.


I have heard throughout my soccer career that a keeper cannot score a goal directly off a punt. In order for the goal to be valid he must drop-kick the ball. In a recent intramural match, a referee told a goalkeeper that if he could throw the ball from one end to the other, he could score directly on a thrown ball. While I realize that in a normal game this kind of scenario is next to impossible, I would like to know if there are any official rulings on the matter as it could potentially come up in a youth game on an undersized field. Not likely, but possible. In the event a keeper could throw, or punt the ball directly into his opponent's goal, I would think that a goal kick should be awarded instead of a goal, but again, I haven't been a referee that long and the information I'm using as a basis for this decision is mostly hearsay. I tried to look up information on this topic in the Laws of the Game, Questions and Answers on the Laws of the Game, and Advice to Referees handbooks, but didn't find anything relevant. Any advice you could give would be most welcome.

Answer (February 16, 2005):
When in doubt, go to the beginning of all soccer knowledge, the Laws of the Game. Law 10, Method of Scoring, tells us: "A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, provided that no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed previously by the team scoring the goal."

Note that there is no reference there to whether or not the scorer is a goalkeeper or a field player. Nowhere in the Laws of the Game does it say that a goalkeeper may not score a goal directly by any legal means-and punting is a legal means.


A player is dribbling the ball along the end line, he steps off the field by a foot or two to avoid a defender. While he/she is off the pitch the defender fouls him.

What is the restart? Direct kick or indirect kick? Obviously if he is several feet off the pitch a yellow card could be issued too. The high school rule book calls for an indirect kick. That got me to thinking what would the FIFA rule be. You can't really call fouls off the pitch so that seems to apply here too.

Answer (February 15, 2005):
Such an act would be regarded as misconduct, rather than a foul, because it occurred off the field of play. The player is cautioned for unsporting behavior and shown the yellow card. The restart is a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped.


My question pertains to drop balls. In a drop ball situation, a player verbally acknowledges to the opposing team that he will kick the ball back to the team's goalkeeper. The opposing team leaves him alone at the drop ball, believing that he will be true to his word and kick it back. Instead, the player who told the team he'd kick it back smashes the drop ball into the back of the net. My position is that the goal should not be counted, because the player used trickery to make the opposing players think he would be returning the ball to them. The player should be cautioned and shown the yellow card for unsporting behavior (because of the trickery) and play is restarted with an IFK to the opposing team from the spot of the drop ball. Others maintain that the goal should be counted as players are not obliged to return drop balls. Please help us clear this situation up.

Answer (February 14, 2005):
After a stoppage for an injury or a similar situation caused by one team, a player of that team usually plays a dropped ball (or a throw-in) to a position where the opposing team may regain possession. Despite the fact that it is traditional that a player do this, there is no requirement for it under the Laws of the Game. Nor does the referee have any authority to deal with this situation. Indeed, over the past several years, we have seen instances in very high-level competitions where players have refused to do this. This is not the forum in which to discuss the reasons for evil or ignorance.

The referee has a preventive remedy for situations at a dropped ball where the only fair thing (within the Spirit of the Game) is for one team to get the ball. There is no requirement that players from both teams take part in a dropped ball. This gives the referee the implied authority to drop the ball only for a member of one team to ensure fairness.


In a U14 Competitive game player for team A is throwing the ball into play. A player for team B stands about a yard away from the thrower. Player A is irritated and throws the ball off of Player B expecting the ball to go out of bounds. However, Player A picks up the ball on the touchline prior to it going out of bounds thinking that it was going to go out of bounds anyway.

What would you do?

Answer (February 13, 2005):
The answer to your question is twofold. First, it depends on what the referee perceives in the initial throw-in. That is covered in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
A throw-in taken in such a way that the ball strikes an opponent is not by itself a violation of the Law. The act must be evaluated separately as a form of striking and dealt with appropriately if judged to be unsporting behavior (caution) or violent conduct (send off from the field). In either event, if deemed a violation, the restart is located at the place where the throw-in struck the opponent. If the throw-in is deemed to have been taken incorrectly, the correct restart is a throw-in.

The second part of the answer deals with the deliberate handling of the ball after it has touched the opposing player. That could be punished as deliberate handling unless the referee has already decided to deal with the throw-in hitting the opponent.


If a goalkeeper reaches outside his/her own penalty area and touches the ball, but his/her feet are completely inside the penalty area, is it considered a handball ? Likewise, the goalie is outside the penalty area and reaches over the line into the penalty area to grab the ball. Is this a handball? I guess the question boils down to is is ball location or goalkeeper's feet/body position?

Answer (February 10, 2005):
It makes no difference where the goalkeeper's body or feet are. The only significant factors are the position of the goalkeeper's hands and the position of the ball. If they are in contact simultaneously (and deliberately on the part of the goalkeeper) outside the penalty area, then the goalkeeper has deliberately handled the ball counter to the Law.

However, under other circumstances, such as the goalkeeper accidentally carrying the ball over the line marking the penalty area while releasing it so that others may play it, this could be a trifling infringement and the intelligent referee might overlook the matter.


Recently while on the pitch, I overheard a referee speaking with another referee about a recent FIFA rule change allowing an opponent to head a ball being held by the goal keeper. Has there been such a rule change?

Answer (February 13, 2005):
Yes, an opposing player may play the ball from the open palm of the goalkeeper. However, if the goalkeeper holds the ball so that the palm is not open or is holding the ball against his or her body, the opponent may not play the ball.


In the latest FIFA Q&A, there are a number of questions that deal with illegal substitutes on the field of play. Several of the questions refer to an illegal substitute having to leave the field to complete the substitution procedure. My question is, "When is that 'substitute/player' allowed into the game? Is it as simple as having them step of the field and then back on after the referee signals or is the person required to wait until the next stoppage of play?"

Answer (February 10, 2005):
Provided that the referee has completed all bookkeeping and disciplinary measures appropriate to this offense, and that the "substitute/player" has been removed from the field, then the same "substitute/player" may then return to the game (without waiting for any further stoppage).

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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