My state has recently started offering short-sided games for U-11, similar to several other states. This weekend was the first time I had one of those games. My current opinion, based on only this game, is that short-sided at U-11 is a mixed bag. I think the success of the game depends on the teams involved. Some teams have players that are just too developed for a small field. Some teams absolutely should be playing small-sided. This game was played on a smaller than usual small-sided field, so this certainly influences how I feel about it.
We had one fairly major controversy during the game that I think deserves discussion and analysis. The white teams goalkeeper gained possession of the ball. He punted down field into blue's end. Given the field was a little small, the ball bounced a few yards outside the penalty area. The blue team's sweeper, who was pretty much alone in the penalty area was running back, right shoulder toward his on goal and left shoulder toward the opponents goal. I was a few yards past halfway, basically in the middle of the field.
The ball came down just beyond the defender and hit the ground. By my view, it looked like it bounced up and hit him on the side. He played the ball out of his penalty area. Naturally, a few of the parents on that end of the field were screaming "hand ball!", which I generally ignore since they scream that every time a hand gets anywhere near the ball. I glanced over at my AR and she was not showing any flag, although I suspected she had seen something based on her expression.
As I turned to follow the ball, I again glanced over at her and saw no signal.
After the game, I asked about that particular play. She said the ball had indeed bounced off the ground and hit the defenders palm (sort of like a basketball dribble). We didn't really have time to discuss it further as we were preparing for the next game and already running late.
I thought about this event on the way home and came to a couple of conclusions.
- My position could have been better. If I had moved a little wider, I might have seen the suspected handling.
- I need to improve my pre-game. I usually make it clear that if an AR sees a "game changing event" that I missed, I want it signalled and they should hold that flag until I see it. I wonder if this AR was absolutely sure it was deliberate handling.
- Based on the description by the AR, I'm not convinced it was deliberate handling in the first place. We are talking about U-11 and a ball that may have bounced up and hit the hand, rather than being deliberately handled.