Injuries, Fouls, and Misconduct

Enos, a HS and college coach, asks:

What does the rule book say about the following situation in a HS Soccer game?

During the play, a defender player came in with a 50/50 slide tackle against an attacker with the ball.  The tackle looked bit hard.  The Referee issued a yellow card on the play and the whistle was blown.  Unfortunately, the attacker sustained an injury.  During the visit of the sideline coaches and trainer, it was determined that the injured player might have a broken leg. The Referee came to the sideline and issued an additional red card stating that she is changing a card due to injury.  Is that allowed or should the report be made where yellow card is recorded and explanation is added to the match report?  What would be suspension in that case?

Answer

First and foremost, readers may recall from the information under the “About” tab above that our primary focus is on the Laws of the Game.  While we are fairly familiar with such other rules as those used  by NFHS and NCAA, we avoid interpreting them or offering guidelines about their implementation except where their meaning is crystal clear.  Accordingly, for the most part, we will treat this question as though the scenario occurred in a match controlled by the Laws of the Game.  Perhaps, later, if we are feeling frisky, we might branch off briefly into high school play.

Also, one minor observation — we hope that, in this scenario, the Referee had sufficient presence of mind to have whistled play stopped before actually issuing any card, no matter what it’s color.  We also wonder why the Referee felt it necessary to come to the sideline in order to change the card from yellow to red.

Anyway, two principles are in play here.  One is that the Referee has the authority to change a decision as to any matter (including, in fact, whether to have stopped play in the first place, though that leads then to the issue of how to restart play if this is the case) before play is restarted.  Accordingly, the Referee has a right (arguably even a responsibility) to change a decision in pursuit of more accurately implementing the Law upon private reflection or becoming aware of additional relevant information or receiving information from a member of the officiating team.  So, changing a card, by itself, is certainly permitted by all Law/rule sets.  Here, it was yellow to red but it could also have been red to yellow or to no card at all, or it could have involved removing the card from one player and charging a different player with misconduct.  There are only two misconduct-related changes that can occur even though play has restarted (we have dealt with them in other Q&As).

The other principle, however, is a bit more problematical.  We referred above to “relevant information” as the basis for changing a decision.  Suppose the Referee had announced that, upon reflection, she thought the defender should receive a red instead of a yellow card because his hair was red.  Does the Referee have the right to change the card?  Yes.  Is this information about hair color relevant?  No.  The seriousness of an injury is not a relevant fact.  Law 12 provides that, for each of seven specifically-named player actions, the Referee is to  decide the action is a direct free kick foul if the act was careless or reckless or if it was performed using excessive force.  Any one of these is sufficient to make the decision that it was a direct free kick foul.  As for the possibility that the action might also be misconduct, the Referee is advised in Law 12 that carelessness by itself does not involve misconduct, that recklessness by itself is cautionable, and that the user of excessive force should be sent off.  Nowhere here or in the subsequent explanations of each of these three critical terms is the word “injury” used.

Injuries can occur any time, caused by anyone or by no one, be the result of deliberate action or simple accident.  Even carelessness can result in an injury.  Furthermore, the seriousness of the injury is not, by itself, any indication of how to treat the action.  Clearly, the risk of serious injury increases with the use of excessive force, but a “serious injury result” does not make its cause a red card offense.  When the tackle occurred, the Referee’s job was to assess carelessness, recklessness, or the presence of excessive force.  None of these three things can be inferred by the subsequent decision that an injury was serious, just as the lack of a serious injury cannot infer that the action did not involve excessive force.  Neither can the presence of a serious injury be cited as proof that the safety of an opponent had therefore been endangered any more than the absence of a serious injury be offered as proof that no opponent had been endangered.  The seriousness of an injury is a function of the injury’s impact on the player, not a function — an element perhaps, but not a function — the Referee should take into account in deciding the color of a card.

In the given scenario, it would have been entirely appropriate (indeed, good officiating team communication) if, before play was restarted, an assistant referee had advised the Referee that the “50/50” tackle, in addition to being a “bit hard,” had come in uncontrolled from the attacker’s blind side, and with studs up.  Any of these factors, much less all of them, would have been clear-cut grounds for the Referee to decide that the caution should be changed to a red card.

Hanky-Pank with KFTM

Shawn,  a HS and College Referee, asks:

Have you ever had a kicks-from-the-mark situation where, in the execution phase, an eligible player became ineligible due to injury, misconduct, or other cause? How did you handle it?

According to LOTG, “the opposing team will not further ‘reduce to equate’” and “the team with fewer players may use all its eligible players before the other team and will therefore begin allowing its players to kick a second time before this occurs for the other team.” Also, KFTM “will continue so long as the team has at least a single eligible player”. This seems ripe for abuse, as, in a worst case scenario, a team whose keeper is also an excellent penalty kicker could declare all other eligible players “injured” once the execution phase has begun, or after the initial group of five have kicked. The guidance from expert referees is the referee should “reduce to equate,” using Law 18.

Answer

We can tell you how it used to be handled in the “good old days,” how that changed to the not-so-long-ago days, and how it is supposed to be handled as of June of this year.

First of all, take note that what follows your opening to the second paragraph below of “According to the LOTG” is out of date.  Second of all, the scenario you describe is always possible if there are bad intentions on the part of a team – the consequences may be in accordance with the LOTG and the Referee may have little recourse because nothing illegal is being done but the Referee can include in the match report the behavior of a team which is otherwise legal but offends the spirit of the game.

As of this year’s version of the LOTG, “reduce to equate” continues throughout the entire KFTM procedure, not just during the phase of the procedure that precedes the first kick.  The loss of an eligible player through injury or misconduct triggers a comparable reduction in the number of opposing players who are eligible.  The Law also specifies, though, that a player who chooses not to participate despite being eligible (i.e., not being declared injured or sent off for misconduct) is counted as having unsuccessfully kicked from the mark.

If the Referee believes that a team is apparently manipulating the availability of its eligible players in an unsporting manner, the solution resolves into two options.  First, if listed eligible players are being declared “injured” and unable to participate with no supporting evidence, then the solution is to proceed in regular order (i.e., following the rules) but then to report this information to the competition authority with full details in the match report.  Second, if after listed eligible players in any round have taken a kick but there remain other listed eligible players who, despite not having been sent off and not having been declared injured, do not respond to a call to take a kick, then after calling the name of a remaining eligible player several times without success, the Referee simply marks their “attempt” as a “miss” (i.e., no goal) and moves on in regular order.

Remember, the Referee does not choose who kicks — this information is supplied by the team at each kicking opportunity.  The Referee has four tasks: (1) signal for the kick to be taken, (2) observe if any misconduct occurs by the kicker or goalkeeper, (3) record the results, and (4) ensure that no eligible player from that team in that round takes a kick a second time in the same round.  The only way a player is removed from eligibility is to be sent off or declared injured and unable to participate, at which point the opposing team reduces its eligible play list accordingly and notifies the Referee which eligible player has been removed.

A Plethora of Cards

Steve, an adult amateur fan, asks:

If a Referee plays advantage with the intention of going back to book the player once the play has stopped but that same player makes another tackle worthy of a yellow card in the same passage of play, can the Ref deliver 2 yellow cards and send the player off?

Answer

Absolutely  …  assuming the original misconduct was also a cautionable offense.   If it was a sending-off offense, however, then only the red card would be shown at the next stoppage with no following yellow card for the subsequent misconduct because, by tradition, no additional cards are ever shown following a red card.  Nevertheless, in this sort of situation, the additional misconduct (cautionable or sending-off) is included in the match report but clearly identified as conduct occurring after a red card.  Keep one thing in mind – the International Board has strongly recommended that, if a sending-off offense has indeed been committed, advantage should generally not be applied, particularly if the red card offense involved violence of any sort (e.g., serious foul play, violent conduct, or spitting).

Getting back to your original question, it is entirely possible, at the same stoppage, for the Referee to display a yellow card, then to reshow the yellow card, and then to display a red card – three cards at one time (they are still showed sequentially, not literally at the same time)!  Finally, in a case like this, the restart would be determined by the original offense, not by what happened afterward, during the “advantage time.”  The exception would be if, in the Referee’s opinion, the advantage had been fully realized: if so, the restart would be dictated by the second offense.

Playing Distance (and Happy Holidays to Our Readers)

Scott, an adult amateur Referee, asks:

Is there a distance from the ball when a referee should call an impeding foul instead of allowing the defender to “shield” the ball from the attacker. For instance, the ball is rolling quickly and is on a path to go out of bounds if no one touches it and there is an attacker running full speed towards the ball from a distance and the defender steps in 5 yards from where the ball is and shields the attacker so the ball will go out.

Answer

Good question and, as with many similar good questions, there isn’t a simple answer.  Fortunately, the answer became less complex in 2017 when the International Board published the 2017-2018 Laws of the Game.

At the core of your query is the concept of “playing distance” which arises in several different scenarios in soccer generally as well as in the Laws.  For example, it arises in Law 12 when the offense of “impeding the progress of an opponent” is discussed:

Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the opponent’s path to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction when the ball is not within playing distance of either player. [emphasis added]

A bit later on in the same section of Law 12, your scenario is targeted:

A player may shield the ball by taking a position between an opponent and the ball if the ball is within playing distance and the opponent is not held off with the arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent. [emphasis added]

Other places where the concept of “playing distance” arises include “interfering with an opponent” as one way of committing an offside violation, as one of the criteria for DOGSO (denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity), and as one of the ways that a legal charge can become illegal.  Clearly, knowing what “playing distance” is and is not is an important element of refereeing.

Years ago, it was common for referees to treat “playing distance” as some absolute value – e.g. one or two yards or several steps – in all cases and circumstances.  More recently, the 2014 version of Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game made the following observation:

The referee’s judgment of playing distance should be based on the player’s ability to play the ball, not upon any arbitrary standard such as a specific number of feet or steps a player is away from the ball. The decision as to whether a player is or is not within playing distance of the ball belongs solely to the referee.

In 2017, the International Board for the very first time provided an operational definition of the concept as follows:

Playing distance.  Distance to the ball which allows a player to touch the ball by extending the foot/leg or jumping or, for goalkeepers, jumping with arms extended. Distance depends on the physical size of the player

In essence, the now-official definition is completely consistent with USSF’s 2014 Advice to Referees that the concept has to be defined by the “player’s ability to play the ball” and adds the critical reminder that, even so, it has to depend on “the physical size of the player.”  Obviously, for most referees, this means that an average-sized U14 player will have a shorter playing distance than would an average-sized adult amateur player – all of which takes us back to what we said at the start of this answer and what Advice to Referees said in 2014, that decisions about playing distance belong solely to the Referee. What has changed (and improved) is that the International Board has now given us a “yardstick” for exercising this judgment – the distance between the ball and how far a player can stick his or her own, individually-sized leg out (or a goalkeeper can jump up or out while reaching for a ball in the air).

Soccer and Physics

Ben, an adult amateur player, asks:

Why does the air pressure affect the distance the ball travels?

Answer

Interesting question – ready-made for an answer chock full of equations and lots of physics, but we’ll I’ll rein in our enthusiasm and try not to get technical.  The answer depends on what the ball is traveling on.

When the ball is in continuous contact with the surface of the pitch (i.e., it is rolling), the pressure of the ball determines the rigidity of the surface of the ball (higher pressure = more rigidity) which in turn has a measurable though not easily visible effect on the total surface area of the ball that is in actual contact with the ground’s surface.  At higher pressures, the area of contact is smaller (because the ball is “rounder”) and thus there is less friction on the passage of the ball across the pitch surface.  There is a smaller, secondary effect at higher pressure caused by a somewhat greater “lift” that makes the ball ride a bit higher on the pitch surface.  Remember, a ball is, in effect, a type of balloon – the more air there is in it, the lighter it is and, as with “roundness,” this reduces slightly the contact surface area.  In short, a higher pressure produces a speedier ball, all other things equal.

However, the other medium on which a ball travels is the air.  Here, again, air pressure acts similarly (see above).  A rounder ball (a function of air pressure)  encounters less “drag” while in the air and has greater buoyancy.  There is a third factor regarding a ball traveling in the air that is not found when a ball is rolling on the ground and that is the fact that, inevitably, a ball in the air comes down and makes contact with the ground.  Holding all other factors equal, a higher ball pressure makes for a higher bounce (a factor that you can often actually hear by listening to the sound of the contact – a ping rather than a thud in extreme cases!).  Now, however, something else comes into play (no pun intended) and that is the angle at which the ball is traveling just prior to contact with the ground.  It isn’t speed as such (as is the case with rolling) but it does directly affect distance – which, in a soccer game, may be just as important as the speed of the ball.  With higher air pressure comes greater bounce when the contact occurs – the more acute the angle, the greater the distance for any given air pressure as a result of the bounce effect.

So, the higher the pressure (within the range permitted by Law 2, of course), the greater is the rolling speed and the greater the rolling speed, the longer is the distance the ball will roll (assuming someone from the other team doesn’t stop it!).  This generalization also assumes a relatively constant consistency in the surface (one of the reasons why, again all other things equal, soccer balls travel faster on artificial surfaces relative to grass, and faster on short grass than taller grass).  Further, for a ball launched into the air, the higher the pressure is, the greater the distance traveled both before and after “the bounce” for contact at any angle of less than 90 degrees behind the ball (disregard all forms of spin … it gets too complicated).

There — not a single formal physics lecture and no equations!  Instinctively, though, a home team which has been coached to engage in fast play will likely provide the Referee with game balls at the upper end of the allowable pressure range.  A different team, which may not like or be used to fast play, is likely to provide game balls at the lower end of the pressure range.  It is not the Referee’s job to deliberately favor one team or another by changing an allowable ball pressure up or down based on personal preferences.  If it is in the allowable range, leave it alone.  If it is not, give it to the home team (it’s their ball anyway) for correction but be sure to check a corrected ball again and, again, leave it alone if it is in the allowable range.

Brief (Sort of) Offside Answer

Jeff, a HS and College Referee, asks:

An attacker is NOT in an offside position when the ball is touched/kicked towards the goal by his teammate. He runs to an offside position before the ball arrives. Is it an offside foul?

Answer

We recommend that you use the search feature on the website and look for recent Q&As under the search category  “Law 11” – what you find there (this answer will also show up) can provide considerably more detail than what follows.

No.

OK, maybe a little more detail.  Your terminology is incorrect – and incorrect in a way that makes explaining the answer a bit more difficult.  So, let’s start simply with the incorrect terminology.  You say that this attacker was not in an offside position when a teammate last touched/played the ball.  Fine so far.  Then you say that “He runs to an offside position before the ball arrives.”  That is your downfall because, wherever that attacker was when he and the ball finally “connect,” he was not in an offside position.

“Offside” position is not a place on the field, it is a condition an attacker acquires by being in a certain place (ahead of the second-to-last defender, ahead of the ball, and ahead of the midfield line) at a certain time (the moment a teammate touches/plays the ball).  This “offside/onside” condition remains unchanged during whatever happens afterward until that “play” is over.  In short, if the attacker was not in an offside position when his teammate kicked the ball, then he can never thereafter be in an offside position no matter where the ball moves, no matter where he moves, no matter where his teammates move, and no matter where any of the defenders move … as long as it is the same play.

How do you know when it stops being the “same play”?  When (a) the ball leaves the field, (b) the referee stops play for any reason, (c) there is a new touch/play of the ball by a teammate, or (d) a defender clearly gains possession and control of the ball (except for a “deliberate save”).  In the case of (c), a new determination for all attackers must be made as to their individual offside/onside positions.  In (d), determinations must also be made as to offside/onside positions but, this time, it’s the opposing team players who have to be evaluated because, guess what, they are now the attackers!

Since, according to the scenario you provided, the attacker wasn’t in an offside position when he made contact with the ball (because he wasn’t in an offside position when the play began), then by definition he did not commit any offside offense when he himself touched/played the ball.  We call this “coming from an onside position” and it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Law 11 because everyone else (excepting the officiating team, of course) thinks in terms of where everyone is when the play ends, whereas we as officials have to pay attention to where everyone was when the play began.  The evil twin to “coming from an onside position” is “coming from an offside position” — it is equally misunderstood but we’ll leave that for some other Q&A.

Oh, and by the way, one other item of incorrect terminology … offside is not a foul.  It is an “offense” — only an offense covered in the first part of Law 12 can be termed a “foul.”

CLOSURE on Notice, Apology, and Regrets

A Note to Readers of this website:

When this message first appeared, it was very long and laid out our newest challenge involving a total shutdown of the website, making it inaccessible, and the loss of all previously posted Q&As since mid-May and all Challenge questions since the posting of #2.  Subsequently, the message was revised to  announce that, by very good luck (with maybe a bit of clean living thrown in), our awesome webmaster had recovered some of the lost material and one of our readers could supply what was still missing because he kept a personal copy of the posts.

Today, we are very happy to announce that all the recovered material has been transferred to the site.  The posts that our webmaster discovered are now chronologically where they were originally while the rest of the posts were converted and reposted currently with a note as to when they had appeared originally.  Prior Challenge Questions 2 – 4 (with their answers) and current Challenge Question #5 have been added back to the Challenge tab.  #5 will be closed out sometime in early December and #6 will be offered for consideration.

We sincerely hope that this event, added to the earlier server problem which refused to pass along to us nearly two months of questions (whose eventually posted answers, ironically, were among those also lost in this latest event), marks the end of our troubles for a while.   We are now fully back in business.

A Clarification Unrelated to Any Question

(Originally published on 10/22/17, “Operation Restore”)

From time to time, we become aware of an authoritative clarification of some element in the Laws of the Game and it is our intention to make sure that this website’s readers are informed.  This posting relates to a relatively brief, somewhat unexpected, and a bit confusing new sentence that was added in 2016 to Law 12 immediately following the list of those seven actions (a.k.a. fouls) for which a direct free kick should be the response if the action were careless or reckless or performed with excessive force.  Here is the sentence (p. 82 in 2016, p. 95 in 2017):

If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty kick.

Among the seven offenses in the list prior to the above sentence were three which explicitly included the attempt to perform the action (striking, kicking, or tripping).  Attempting to do something like striking, kicking, or tripping normally implies that, being unsuccessful, the action missed — i.e., did not involve contact.  Adding a bit of mystery to this issue was the introduction into the 2016 edition of the Laws of the Game (continued in this year’s edition) of the first specific and concrete distinction between impeding involving contact and impeding not involving contact with the added admonition that the latter was an indirect free kick foul while the former, because of the contact, must be considered a direct free kick (or penalty kick) offense.

The explanation in 2016 did not clarify the reason or purpose of this sentence and was primarily a simple restatement of its language.  It has now been clarified.  We thought that the positioning of the new sentence was unusual (right in the middle of Law content related to direct free kick offenses).  It turns out that the reason the sentence was added was because a disturbing number of Referees (no numbers, no indication of where they were, etc.) were treating a “dangerous play” event involving the so-called “high kick” as still an indirect free kick offense even if the kick was not only high but also made contact with the opponent!  To disabuse Referees of this notion, the sentence was intended to advise all Referees that an indirect free kick offense can become a direct free kick offense if it includes contact with an opponent.

This was abundantly clear given the International Board’s Law revisions involving impeding (with and without contact) but, for some reason, the Board handled the application of this concept differently in the case of dangerous play.  We personally felt that that the principle the Board was setting forth here (an eminently reasonable one which has been part of USSF training for years, we should add) might have been more clearly understood if the sentence had, for example, been located in the section on IFK offenses or if each of the IFK offenses that might involve physical contact with an opponent could have been rewritten (as the Board did with impeding) to emphasize that an IFK foul which included physical contact raised the level of the offense to that of the DFK/PK offense.

Impeding (of course) and now dangerous play have this contact/no contact distinction but the principle could just as well be extended to interfering with the goalkeeper’s release of the ball into play.  It seems to us reasonable, for example, to treat kicking the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hand(s) as a DFK offense since a ball in the goalkeeper’s possession is an extension of the goalkeeper and therefore kicking a ball held by the goalkeeper is the functional equivalent of kicking the goalkeeper — ergo, a DFK restart (with possible misconduct punishment levied the same way as would be considered appropriate if the kick had been delivered directly to the goalkeeper’s body).  This also, by the way, has been the guideline used in USSF Referee training for more than 20 years.

Ending A Period of Play

Maninder, a HS/College fan, asks:

Today in a match ( Real Madrid vs Malaga), it was first half injury time going on, i.e in the 47th minute. Malaga got a free kick.  The Malaga player kicks the ball into Real Madrid’s penalty area and another Malaga player scored from a header.  But the goal wasn’t given because the Referee blew the halftime whistle just after the Malaga player kicks the ball.  Is this the right thing from the Referee?

Answer

There is no kind way to answer this because the correct answer is absolutely clear – yes.  Maybe.  Probably.  Hopefully.  We, of course, have no way of knowing what was in the Referee’s mind when he whistled.  Ironically, the questioner above is a HS/College fan where none of what follows is a serious problem because HS and College matches in the US use a visible stadium clock, officially stop/start time for various things during a period of play, and sound a loud horn to stop play when the count-down reaches 0!  In the match cited in the question and all other matches played under the Laws of the Game, time is controlled solely by the Referee.

The point is that the Law is very inarguable about match timing.  Assuming the half is 45 minutes, then the whistle blows to end play when the moment the watch count-up timer hits 45 (remembering that a 45 showing on the timer means that the 45th minute has ended, not begun). The  only exception is that a penalty kick signaled before the end of the 45th minute must  be taken regardless of the time, and the period ends when the PK ends.

But what about what is variably called “Referee time,” “injury time,” or “wasted time”?  The Referee must announce any additional time to the lowest full minute (i.e., 1 minute and 45 seconds is 1 minute, 45 seconds is 0 minutes, etc.) before the period of play is due to end.  When 45 minutes + that time is up, time is over and play must stop, no matter what is going on (unless, during this “extra” time there is further time wasted).  No flexibility in this element of the Law is allowed.  Stopping the half can happen just before a goal is scored or while play is stopped for a throw-in, goal kick, corner kick, etc.  Play can stop just before a player on your team is getting ready to make the game-winning shot on goal that will make them the champions (Boooo! Idiot Ref!) or the opposing team is getting ready to make the game-tying shot on goal that keeps your team from winning (Hurrah!  What a great Ref!).

There are some Referees who won’t stop play even if time is over if one team is attacking the opposing team’s goal from nearby.  They are wrong.  There are some Referees who would refuse to stop play even though time was up until a corner kick is completed (because they might score).  They are wrong.  There are Referees who, in a 9-0 game, might allow the team with no goals that just happens to look like they might score and he wants to give them a chance to go home with at least something.  They are wrong.  There are Referees who believe that the Law requires there to be a restart after every stoppage even if time ran out during the stoppage.  Except for a penalty kick, they are wrong.  There are some Referees who really hadn’t been keeping track of wasted time and thus hit the 44:50th minute with no notion of how much wasted time there had been but with the vague feeling that there had to have been some so they let play continue for a bit longer.  They are wrong.  Finally, there are Referees who know all time is up (both regulation and extra time) but they let play continue because they fear becoming the object of anger by one team or the other based on whatever was going on at the time.  They would be not only simply wrong but sadly wrong.

By the way, we have dealt before with questions regarding match timing and this is as good a place as any to draw every reader’s attention to the readily available “Search” feature ( try the “Law 7 – Duration” category).  We decided to answer this question even though it (or something like it) has already been asked and answered because we felt this building up inside and needed to get it out.  We feel much better now, thanks.  And, getting back to the Referee, he was entirely within the Law if (a) the match was set at 45 minutes for each half (as usual), (b) he announced before the 45th minute that there were 2 minutes of additional time, and (c) there was no excessive loss of time during the extra 2 minutes.

The Plight of Goalkeepers

(Originally published on 10/17/17, “Operation Restore”)

Kaleb, a U13 – U19 player, asks:

Yesterday during my soccer game I was playing goalie.  I stopped the ball and started to get up so I could kick the ball up the field.  A person from the other team started running full force at me (note, I still had the ball in my hands) so I snapped one arm out in front of my body and the person from the other team hit my arm. The Referee immediately called a penalty on me for using my arm as a weapon.  I didn’t swing my arm at him I just put my arm up to protect myself and he hit my arm.  I would like to know if putting your arm up to defend yourself is a penalty.

Answer

Could be.  This is one of those judgment calls for which “you had to be there” in order to get some sense of what the Referee saw — the decision depends on so many variables.  We will say that, in general, the picture we get when you said that you “snapped one arm out in front of my body” is the classic football (American football) photo of a pigskin carrier running down field with an arm held out to fend off opponents trying to stop him.

Let’s just admit up front that the job of a goalkeeper is, as one observer noted, marked by “80 minutes of boredom and 10 minutes of terror.”  In other words, it’s not easy and every goalkeeper walks a thin line in situations like this between trying to stay uninjured and doing their job, a job which often requires the goalkeeper to get into positions on the ground or in the air which are inherently risky.  Having had some experience with serving in this position, we also understand that some goalkeepers take advantage of the quick, brief dust-ups that are a normal part of the goalkeeper’s life to respond in ways that are, shall we say, unforgiving of opponents.  Opponents, on the other hand, generally are not very forgiving of goalkeepers (except their own, of course) when it comes to a willingness to take their efforts to continue attacking the goal right to, and sometimes beyond, the edge of the goalkeeper’s safety.

All that said, it is the job of the Referee in situations involving challenges to or in the vicinity of the opposing goalkeeper to remember that the Laws of the Gamer require such challenges to cease immediately once the goalkeeper has control of the ball. “Control of the ball” is marked generally by having both hands on the ball or one hand on the ball against any kind of surface (ground, body, goalpost, etc.).  Keeping in mind the need to factor in the age, skill, and experience of the players, Referees should be proactive in safeguarding the goalkeeper where the flow of play appears to include one or more opponents acting recklessly despite the goalkeeper arguably having control of the ball.  In your scenario, the Referee should have begun closely monitoring the actions of the opponent who had “started running full force” at you, repositioning to warn the opponent that his behavior was being observed, and even providing a strong verbal caution against violating the Law, all in an attempt to forestall the impending offense.  At some point, the apparent intent to interfere by the opponent would warrant a preemptive whistle.

On the other hand, you are not warranted in taking actions which go beyond mere “self protection” — after all, a more effective way to protect yourself in a case like this would be to simply sidestep the onrushing opponent.  This often does not appeal to more macho goalkeepers whose mindset is, “it’s his job to avoid me so I will simply stand my ground and maybe get in a bit of mayhem on my own which will probably be ignored or justified by the Referee.”

In short, while we would have preferred to see the Referee in this case act in advance to prevent or stop a rapidly building momentum which, if left unchecked, is only likely to end badly for everyone involved in the likely collision, you had other opportunities besides snapping your arm outward in what could only be termed an aggressive manner.  Hence our answer at the beginning of all this — yes, it could be a penalty (i.e., determined to be “striking” and, since it was by a defender within his own penalty area, leading to a penalty kick restart).

Better for all concerned, however, would have been a whistle by the Referee to stop play as the opponent’s run brought him close enough to justify a decision that there was an intent to interfere with the release of the ball into play, resulting in a caution for the opponent for unsporting behavior and an IFK restart for the defending team.  Better yet would have been proactive officiating aimed at getting it through the opponent’s head that he needed to stop running at the goalkeeper once control of the ball was established.