'The right call', by Ref. Vangelis December 2006
Dear Ref. Vangelis,
I am a soccer player, but recently I started to referee games and I am training to become one.
I would like to ask a question: In my last game, one player got injured because he rolled on the ball and fell on the ground. The opponent player then gently took the ball away and carried on. The injured player could not get up and so I decided to blow the whistle to avoid any dangerous play near the injured player. I resumed play with a "drop ball". Now FIFA Fair Play suggests that the team kicks back the ball to the opponent's side of the field. Instead, the player took the ball dribbled around players, and took a shot at the goal that was close to goal. The players complained at him for doing such thing and me for not stopping play. My questions are: Can I stop play for not doing what is fair? Is it rule?
Answer: In soccer all players are expected to play and act in a responsible manner. Anything that is not "Fair Play", in the opinion of the referee, can be described as "Unsporting Behavior" and penalized by a free kick and a yellow card. So with this in mind the answer to both questions is yes. However, "Fair Play" is a matter of perspective, therefore, the referee must exercise caution in making such decisions especially when the game is played among teams of different nationalities or cultures. Let’s see why.
When I received this question I had to write back to Jonathan asking him to clarify two things for me.
First, who was the player who dribbled the ball? Was it a teammate of the injured player or an opponent? He answered that it was one of the opponents.
Second, did he administer the drop ball with two opponents or just one player expecting him to kick the ball back to the opponents?
He answered that he dropped the ball with two opponents, one player expecting the ball back since he had possession of the ball when he blew the whistle.
The reason for asking the second question will be explained next week. For now let’s analyze the first question and explain why I needed this clarification:
Player A got injured because he rolled on the ball and fell on the ground. In a perfect situation according to the spirit of the game, the opponent would stop and help the injured player. But as we know, this doesn’t happen very often.
Most players usually try to take advantage of these types of situations and mess-ups of their opponents. So up to this point player A had possession of the ball but lost it due to his injury.
Player B tried to capitalize on the fact that his opponent was incapacitated and took advantage of the situation. So there was ‘nothing wrong’ with what player B did, except he did not act according to the ‘spirit’ of the game of soccer. Let's keep in mind that it is not unusual for a team to play with a player down because of an injury. We see this all the time when an injured player is removed from the field of play.
So now player B has possession of the ball.
The referee did the right thing in stopping the game because in his opinion a player was seriously injured and he needed to be moved from the field of play so he could receive proper attention. In the process player B, who was in possession of the ball, lost the advantage.
So as we can see, both players A and B had possession of the ball at some point in time and in their opinion this possession was lost unfairly. Each team therefore expects the ball back. Yes, "Fair Play" is a matter of perspective especially among different cultures and nationalities.
Next week we will discuss the second question and see how the referee can handle the dropped ball.
(second part of last week's question)
Dear Ref. Vangelis,
In my last game, one player got injured because he rolled on the ball and fell on the ground. The opponent player then gently took the ball away and carried on. The injured player could not get up and so I decided to blow the whistle to avoid any dangerous play near the injured player. I resumed play with a "drop ball". Now “FIFA Fair Play” suggests that the team kicks back the ball to the opponent's side of the field. Instead, the player took the ball dribbled around players, and took a shot at the goal that was close to goal. The players complained at him for doing such thing and me for not stopping play. How can the referee handle the drop ball in this situation and avoid what happened?
Answer: Law 8 states that “A dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage that becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.” And that “The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped.”
If you recall from last week, the second thing I needed clarified when Jonathan submitted his question was if he administered the dropped ball with two opponents or just one player expecting him to kick the ball back to the opponents. He answered that he dropped the ball with two opponents, one player expecting the ball back since he had possession of the ball when he blew the whistle.
As we can see from the wording of Law 8 quoted above, there is no requirement that players from both teams or any player from either team must take part at a dropped ball. A dropped ball is a method of restarting the game and the referee can do so by dropping the ball with one, two, or no players at all.
Last week we discussed that "Fair Play" is a matter of perspective and therefore the referee must exercise caution in making a decision especially when the game is played among teams of different nationalities or cultures. The referee as an impartial judge must decide what is fair in his opinion in a particular case and announce his decision to the teams prior to the dropped ball so everyone is aware of what is about to take place.
As was explained last week, with both teams having a good reason to expect the ball back you can always bring two opponents together, announce that no one should expect the ball and they should play it after it touches the ground.
Or if in the referee’s opinion player B deserves the ball, you have two options:
1. You can drop the ball at the feet of player B without any opponent close by, explaining to everyone that he had possession of the ball when you stopped play.
2. You can drop the ball at the feet of a teammate of player A with or without an opponent close by. Before you do so, you ask: "Are you going to give it back to the other team?"
If the answer is "Yes", you proceed with the dropped ball. Now if he does not pass the ball to the opponents and instead he dribbles the ball as you describe in your scenario above, he is guilty of unsporting behavior and you can take action accordingly and penalize him by a free kick and a yellow card. If the answer is "No", you use the first option.
Dear Ref. Vangelis,
In October you gave us the official position of FIFA and the USSF on possession of the ball by the goalkeeper. You wrote that “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”. Could you please explain the difference of 'while bouncing' (possession), clearly touching the ground, and “while throwing” (possession is given up) “allowed to strike the ground”?
I believe that put in this way, is exactly the same! Could it be that the second, means, when the ball is PUT ON THE GROUND and dribbled with the intention to chick it more accurately?
Answer: Putting the ball on the ground with the intent to play it is not addressed in the wording of the official position of FIFA and USSF on goalkeeper’s possession of the ball. Such an action by the goalkeeper will be an obvious intent to play the ball and easily judged by the referee.
The wording covers two different situations. The first, “bouncing the ball on the ground”, is something that we see goalkeepers do all the time. The second, “throwing the ball into the air”, is something that does not happen very often but it occurs occasionally by some goalkeepers perhaps due to a habit or while moving the ball from one hand to another or for any other reason.
Let’s analyze these two statements. I am sure everyone will agree that there is a difference between “bouncing the ball on the ground” and “throwing the ball up in the air”.
The first is an action downward similar to a basketball player with the goalkeeper moving or stationed in one place. Obviously, some extra force is required to accomplish this and the ball is expected to come back to him unless something unnatural happens.
The second is an upward action in which the ball is expected to come back due to the law of gravity. Obviously, the force applied by the goalkeeper in this action varies depending how high he throws the ball into the air.
In both scenarios the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball and an opponent cannot lawfully attempt to play it or attempt to take it away from the goalkeeper.
Now let’s come back to the statement “allowed to strike the ground”. If during this second action, of while throwing the ball in the air with the intent to catch it again, the keeper allows the ball to strike or hit the ground in that instant the possession is lost and an attacker can play it.
The word “strike” here is the same as “hits”, or “touches” the ground but please note that the emphasis here is on the word “allowed”. This can happen by choice as the goalkeeper allows the ball to strike, hit or touch the ground. In such a case the keeper, cannot legally try to regain possession of the ball by picking it up with his or her hands again.
This can also happen by accident such as by miss-kicking the ball or dropping it from his hands. In such a case he may legally pick it up again with his hands.
The USSF position paper I quoted in this scenario allows for every possibility of the keeper losing possession of the ball and then being challenged by an opponent.
Posted on 21 Dec 2006 by coachgianni