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April 2005 Archive (I of II)

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U-19 Boys competitive match: During dynamic play, a ball is floated into the penalty area from the right wing. Team A striker establishes his position at the penalty spot as this is where he has determined the ball will land. From his established position, he jumps straight up in an attempt to head the ball goal ward. At the same time, Team B goalkeeper, tracking the flight of the cross, comes off his line aggressively (i.e.. like a bat out of hell) with the intent of either catching or punching clear the cross. Goalkeeper, while moving forward at speed, jumps and manages to punch the ball clear a fraction of a second before his momentum virtually obliterates Team A striker, who had previously established his position and had jumped straight up in his attempt to head the ball. Has the goalkeeper infringed the Law or is this similar to a field player making contact with the ball first during a slide tackle and his momentum then upends the opponent? Or would this be a case, as the Additional Instructions tell us, "...the fact that contact with the ball was made first does not automatically mean that the tackle is fair..." and that one of the prohibited acts was committed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force? I'm struggling with this because this is not a "tackle".

The center referee in this case waved play on (no foul was called), only to stop shortly thereafter to allow the striker to receive treatment.

I have seen similar scenarios played out many times, and the only time the center (me) called a foul and awarded a penalty kick, he was met with a firestorm of criticism.

I know this is probably a case of ..."in the opinion of the referee...", but could you provide a little guidance. Is the goalkeeper, unfairly, getting the benefit of the doubt here?

Answer (April 8, 2005):
While the goalkeeper has certain privileges specified in the Laws of the Game, he or she certainly should not be given privileges that do not exist. The goalkeeper is expected to play as fairly as any other player, and this includes challenging for the ball.

If the Team A striker had already established position at the penalty mark and was already jumping up to play the ball when the goalkeeper took off, then the goalkeeper may well have committed a foul and might be punished by the award of a penalty kick--and possibly further punishment for misconduct, depending on what the referee saw happening. This will have to remain an item covered under the wide umbrella of "if, in the opinion of the referee."


When a goal is scored should I blow the whistle? I notice some refs do and some refs don't?

Also, If a player commits a foul worth a yellow card but I notice that the ball has gone to a team-mate that has a good scoring chance. Should I call play on or not call play on? Then blow the whistle if the play doesn't end in a goal and card the player that was deserved the card?

If so, what would the proper restart be? A goal kick if the ball goes out? An indirect kick if the goalie saves it? Is this correct?

Answer (April 8, 2005):
We cannot make the decisions for you, but we can offer some advice.

When goals are scored, it is normal to blow the whistle, but certainly not required. It is individual preference to blow the whistle or not. The top officials now simply point to the center spot. However, blowing the whistle ensures that players recognize that play has been stopped and often prevents acts that might occur through hard play near the goal.

You may invoke the advantage clause in such a case and then stop play if the advantage does not materialize within 2-3 seconds, as described in the Law. (This does not mean that you would stop play and return to the spot of the infringement only if a goal is not scored.) The restart would be for the foul, and it would be taken after you have administered the caution and the yellow card for the misconduct.


On a breakaway the goalie comes out hard, sliding horizontally into the offensive player and simultaneously getting both hands on the ball. The goalie's momentum carries her feet past the 18 with her hands inside and on the ball. The ball squirts out,slightly past the 18 and the goalie gathers it . The lead referee signals illegal use of the hands. The trail ref. whistles and comes to confer. He issues a yellow to the keeper, sends her off and with a replacement on, awards a P.K.. Is this an "in the opinion of the referees" situation? Wrong? Right?

Answer (April 7, 2005):
Please remember that we are not authorized to answer questions based on games played under high school rules. While we do not have all the facts necessary (where were the other players comes to mind), we will nevertheless attempt to answer the question based on what is available.

If this game had been played under the Laws of the Game, using a proper number of officials (one referee and two assistant referees), the correct decision would have been to award a direct free kick for the attacking team at the place where the goalkeeper handled the ball outside the penalty area. No penalty kick could be awarded, as the foul occurred outside the penalty area. It is impossible to tell if the requirements for an obvious goalscoring opportunity existed, but the description of the incident suggests that calling that would not have been a good decision. And the reason for the caution/yellow card escapes us altogether.


This game (Real Salt Lake at Metrostars) was almost as windy as my 1st time at the Tampa Sun Bowl, in 1997, just after the tornado passed through on the 1st day of competition.

Anyway to my question: Many times, during the game, during a FREE kick, the ball began to roll (blow) away. In many cases the players used another player to hold the ball, with their foot, to keep it stationary and allow them to put it into play, properly.

Both teams, when they were defending against this process, complained that this initiated the kick. I can understand BOTH positions? But, which is correct. Wouldn't this have been better handled (no pun intended) by having the ball held stationary by using a team mates hand/finger, instead of their foot?

Not knowing what, if anything, the referee said to the teams. What could the referee have done differently to prevent all the problems that the wind caused. I'm not saying that what he did was wrong, but you know what I mean.

Answer (April 7, 2005):
When such winds are blowing, using either the foot or the hand to keep the ball steady for the restart is permissible. Holding the ball still with the foot or the hand does not constitute either "kicking" the ball or deliberately handling it, and both provide the proper amount of stability.

As to what the referee could have done, we all know that the powers granted to the referee are many and far reaching, but none of them is enough to top the powers of Mother Nature. We need to remember that players and coaches will always whine when they imagine that the other team is gaining some sort of "advantage," even if they are gaining the same advantage. The referee needs only to remind the players of that.


The instructor for a Grade 8 USSF recertification clinic presented the following scenarios
While the ball was in play, an angry goalkeeper handles the ball and, while standing in his penalty area but not the goal area, throws the ball in a reckless manner at an opponent
1) who is in the field of play.
2) who is standing in the back of the goalkeeper's net.
3) who temporarily steps over the touchline while running up the touchline to avoid a teammate.

At the clinic, we argued 1) Penal foul for striking. Direct free kick from where the striking (would have) occurred. Send off and red card for the goalkeeper.
2) (a) Misconduct occurred off the field by a player on the field. Indirect free kick from where the striking originated. Send off and red card the keeper.
(b) A goal should be awarded instead of an IFK. Misconduct occurred off the field by a player on the field. Send off and red card the goalkeeper.
3) (a) Misconduct occurred off the field by a player on the field. Indirect free kick from where the striking originated. Send off and red card the keeper.
(b) A throw-in is awarded to the opponents instead of an IFK. Misconduct occurred off the field by a player on the field. Send off and red card the goalkeeper.

What is the correct call and restart for each scenario?

Answer (April 7, 2005):
1) Award the direct free kick. Send off the goalkeeper for violent conduct and show the red card.
2) Award the goal, send off the goalkeeper for violent conduct and show the red card.
3) Indirect free kick from the place where the goalkeeper threw the ball. Send off the goalkeeper for violent conduct and show the red card.


We recently played a game where the Referee and one of the two linesmen did not speak the same language as the players or coaches. The other linesman spoke only broken English served as an interpreter. When a card was given to a player, he could not communicate what the offense was. This is in a State Qualification game.

Does the Referee have a duty to be able to communicate with the Kids and Coach to explain calls, etc.

Answer (April 5, 2005):
The proactive referee may explain VERY BRIEFLY why a player is being cautioned or sent off, but the Laws of the Game do not require it. All the player needs to know is that he or she has committed misconduct. There is no rational reason for any explanation other than that the player is being cautioned (or sent off) for one of the seven reasons for each punishment. The yellow and red cards were invented for just that reason--when referees and teams do not share a common language. The fact that the player has been cautioned is indicated by the yellow card, just as the send-off is indicated by the red card.


I was coaching a U14 girls game in [a local] league. There were two AR's and one center ref. There was a scramble in the top of the 18 area. The center ref was within 30 feet of the ball. The AR (who was behind the center on the sideline) called a hand ball. He raised his flag and told the center he saw a hand ball. When our captain on the field inquired as to who and what happened, the center ref told her "he didn't see it but he believes his AR". He awarded a PK. The AR was a father of a player on the team which was awarded the PK. After the game, the coaches asked the AR what happened. He said the ball came off the ground and bounced straight up and hit our girl in the forearm.

My question is this: Doesn't the handling of the ball need to be intentional and doesn't the law imply the hand must hit the ball and not the ball hitting the hand?? Also, is it common to award a PK when the center was within 30 feet of the alleged infraction and admittedly didn't see anything. It seems a PK should be something only awarded when the AR or center is 100% sure of the infraction.

Answer (April 5, 2005):
The fact that the ball "played" the hand, rather than the hand playing the ball, is a significant one. If this is true, the "foul" should not have been called.

But even more significant to us is the conflict of interest exhibited by the assistant referee. In the Referee Administrative Handbook, p. 33, it suggests that assistant referees should not be related in any way to either team participating in the game unless it is impossible to get other affiliated officials assigned. Unfortunately, sometimes the referee game assignors do not have enough bodies to go around and ask parents or siblings to referee games in which their kin will be playing.

You can download a PDF copy of the USSF Policy Manual at this URL:

When you get it, look for Policy 531-10, which expressly addresses conflict of interest.


Here is the situation: Attacker fouled near the top of the penalty area, referee awards an advantage. Within the 2-3 second window the referee has to determine the advantage has not materialized, the attacker who was originally fouled passes to a teammate in an offside position. This teammate is then confronted and referee realizes that no advantage is present, so he awards the free kick. However, the AR has the flag up for offside. What is the correct restart to the match, a free kick for the attacking team for the original foul, or an indirect free kick to the defending team for the offside infraction? Thank you in advance.

Answer (April 4, 2005):
The intelligent referee will recognize the situation immediately as the AR's flag goes up and wave down the flag just before blowing the whistle, thus negating the advantage decision. The restart should be a direct free kick for the attacking team from the spot where the foul (for which the advantage clause was applied) occurred. If the original foul occurred within the penalty area (you stated "near the top of the penalty area"), the appropriate restart is a penalty kick.


In the Eng vs Aze, at the 43rd min Beckham lost a boot. He remained on the field with the boot off, and eventually played the ball. The game was stopped and he was issued a yellow card. Was this because he didn't step off the field to get his equipment in order, or because he played the ball with one boot off? I officiate youth, non-USSF, when a boot comes off during the match, I let the player stay on, because they usually get the boot back on immediately. Should I have them step off till they get the boot on, or is it acceptable to leave them on while they get their boot as long as they don't play the ball?

Answer (April 4, 2005):
We cannot give you a definitive answer on the incident with Mr. Beckham. It appears he left the field to correct his equipment, but then came back with shoe still in hand and then played the ball. The referee allowed play to continue and then the assistant referee got involved.

It is true that when players lose their footwear they are expected to replace it as quickly as possible. This can occur either on or off the field. Not doing so might conceivably be considered unsporting behavior, for which the player would be cautioned and shown the yellow card, but that sounds a bit harsh to us. It is all unclear in Mr. Beckham's case.


Could you please tell me whether there is an official recognised reason for using either a Triangular corner flag or a square one. Is there a reason for the different shapes?

Answer (April 4, 2005):
Flags on the corner posts are intended solely to make the post stand out for the safety of the players. There is no required shape for corner post flags. They may be rectangular, triangular, or pennon-shaped.


Question: An attacker kicks the ball towards the goal unfortunately the boot of the kicker also flies simultaneously towards the goal. The GK is in confusion. The Referee stops the match and restarted with an Indirect free kick. Is the Referee justified? Since the boot is an outside agent is the correct restart - drop in? Pl. clarify, Sir.

Answer (April 4, 2005):
The goalkeeper's job is to keep the ball out of the goal, not worry about flying boots. As we responded to your earlier question on March 8, 2005:
There is no need for the referee to stop the match if the boot was lost accidentally and did not disturb any other players. The player is expected to replace the boot as quickly as possible and get on with play.

However, if the referee does stop play for this incident, the only possible restart is a dropped ball, taken from the place where the ball was when play was stopped (subject to the special circumstances of Law 8).

A final point: The boot could not be considered an outside agent.


I was an AR for a varsity high school boys game recently. A diagonal through ball is rolling away from the keeper in the penalty box, with an attacking player in pursuit. He has a defender on his back. The ball is headed for the goal line and it is clear that the forward will reach it before the keeper. At about 10 yards from the goal, maybe 5 yards off the near post, the defender pushes the forward with his hand in the flat of the back and he falls. There is no way the Center could have seen it. I wiggled my flag. He confirmed the foul and called a PK. At the half he made it clear that he wasn't happy with the call; that because the attacker was moving away from the goal, and even if he had gotten it was still 2 people away from a goal, "the punishment didn't fit the crime". I understand his point, and he is a respected referee in this area, but I'm still struggling with it. When is a foul "PK worthy"?

Answer (April 4, 2005):
The rule is the same for all competitions, whether World Cup or Under Eight soccer: If a direct free kick foul should be called outside the penalty area, that same foul should be a penalty kick if it occurs within the penalty area.


What, exactly, is the definition of "possession" by the keeper and what is the preferred call if an attacker violates it? Thanks.

Answer (March 31, 2005):
The goalkeeper establishes possession with as little as one finger on the ball, provided the ball is under his control (in the opinion of the referee) and the ball has been trapped against the ground or some other surface -- the keeper's other hand or a goalpost. An expanded definition of goalkeeper possession may be found in the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game," downloadable from the referee page at
The goalkeeper is considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground. As noted in Advice 12.10, handling extends from shoulder to tip of fingers. While the ball is in the possession of the keeper, it cannot be lawfully played by an opponent, and any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick.

At very young ages, possession of the ball by the goalkeeper should be defined broadly to include having a hand on the ball (other than purely incidental contact). Once the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball, opponents must cease challenging or otherwise attempting to play the ball. Where the ball is being "bobbled" by the goalkeeper, and depending on the age/experience of the players, it can be played by opponents.

If the goalkeeper has control by means other than his hands (e.g., dribbling with the feet or holding the ball against the ground with his body or feet), an opponent is not only free to but is expected to challenge the goalkeeper in any permissible way. As there are very few permissible ways to play a ball trapped by the goalkeeper's body or legs, the goalkeeper is expected to either release the ball immediately or to rise and play the ball immediately. Failure to do so could result in the awarding of an indirect free kick against the goalkeeper for playing dangerously--and, if this illegal control persists, possibly a caution/yellow card for unsporting behavior.


45 sec left, 0-0 game, linesman signals keeper crossed 18yd line while punting. Ref awards direct kick. Keeper thinks it is indirect because of ref lack of signals. ball goes in. game ends without restart. Score 1-0 favor home team. Ref never warned keeper about crossing line in 79 min. Other factors - field - no grass-dirt- old lines- not visible. Should it be direct or indirect? Should ref over-rule linesman? What is correct way to handle this?

Answer (March 31, 2005):
The referee need only indicate the direction on a direct free kick; there is no need to tell the goalkeeper that a kick may be coming toward the goal. Although it is certainly proactive-and therefore intelligent-refereeing, there is no need for the referee to warn the goalkeeper before calling an infringement of Law 12. As to the "lack of signals," as a matter of self-preservation the goalkeeper should know that the signal for an indirect free kick is a raised arm. No raised arm equals direct free kick, not indirect free kick.

We have a number of factors that might have gone into another decision (field condition, lines, etc.), but not the full story of the game here. Therefore any other response would be simply guesswork, not anything useful.

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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