Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Challenging Tournament Weekend

I had a great weekend working a large tournament in the area.  With the decidedly Spring-like weather and good soccer, I couldn't have asked for more.
I was originally scheduled to work a tournament site that hosts the younger boys games, but at the last minute, I was moved to the site with the older teams.  I wasn't going to complain as I need the field time with the bigger boys.
In one of the games in which I was an AR, we had an interesting bit of play.  The white team came through alone about 30 yards out, making a run toward the left side of the goal.  The keeper came out to meet him and the attacker flicked the ball toward the right post.  He didn't get all of it and it slowly bounced toward the post.  A black defender got to the ball and instead of clearing it, kicked it straight up in the air.  Naturally, the keeper caught it coming down.  I popped the flag immediately.  The referee looked at me a little confused and came walking over.  I told him this play falls under the "deliberately kicked to the keeper" part of Law 12 and that it was an indirect kick to the attackers.  There was much protest as the defenders felt it wasn't a "pass-back" etc.  The indirect kick resulted in a goal.
I was a bit nervous about my decision, until I check the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game."  Section 12.20 tells us this:
A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 if he or she touches the ball with the hands directly after it has been deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate. The requirement that the ball be kicked means only that it has been played with the foot. The requirement that the ball be "kicked to" the goalkeeper means only that the play is to or toward a place where the ‘keeper can legally handle the ball. The requirement that the ball be "deliberately kicked" means that the play on the ball is deliberate and does not include situations in which the ball has been, in the opinion of the referee, accidentally deflected or misdirected.
So, in this case, the defender deliberately kicked the ball.  Obviously, it was kicked to where the keeper could legally handle the ball.  We have to get away from calling this a "pass back" because that results in too much confusion.  This surely falls into the category of Myths of the Game.
When I was in the middle, there was 2 plays that were interesting when compared.  I got a lot of grief from one of the coaches on this.  In one case, we have a high ball come in on red's keeper.  Two gray players are in front of him and to either side.  As the ball comes down, the keeper reaches over the players and catches the ball before they can head it.  On the way down, he hits one of the gray players shoulders and that player falls to the ground.  All player eyes were on the ball.  To me, there was no hint of foul play.  About 2 minutes later, red is attacking and they come free at the top of the penalty area.  Gray's keeper comes out.  As red shoots, the keeper slides through the attacker.  This is not red tripping over the keeper.  This is the keeper sliding through the legs of the attacker.  I whistle hard and point to the spot.  The difference between the two plays, in my opinion, is the first case is the keeper playing the ball and inadvertently getting a player.  The 2nd play is the keeper taking the ball, or the player, or both in a careless fashion.  After the game, the coach ripped me pretty good.  His take was I needed to be "consistent" etc.  I've never understood that.  We penalize the team that commits the fouls without regard for making the count event out.  I feel confident I made the correct decisions here.  That said, it did get me thinking about how much leeway we give to keepers.  Do we let them get away with too much?  Do we do our best to make sure we protect them when necessary, but punish them when they take advantage of their position?  Give that some thought.  The laws make it clear that keepers are just like any other player, aside from their ability to handle the ball.
The next day, I was with another crew on an adjacent field.  I knew right away this was going to be a better day.  These guys were in real good shape, and based on the first game (I watched as I had the 2nd middle), they were also very experienced.
The 2nd game of the day was my first in the middle.  The game started pretty well, but it was clear one of the teams was weaker.  About midway through the half, I started to get a lot of complaining from that team's bench.  So much so that I gave the coach the "stop sign" hand and a run by saying "Enough coach!"  I was trying to be patient as it seemed they were getting frustrated.  Going into the 2nd half, all was going pretty well.  There was a routine careless charge in front of the benches which I immediately called.  Naturally, it was against the complaining coach's team.  The coach just starts screaming "what is the call?  WHAT IS THE CALL?"  I stopped play and motioned the coach onto the field.  I started the "Ask, Tell, Remove" procedure outlined in the 2009 directives by saying "Coach, I'm asking you to calm down.  I've already talked to you once."  Well, this guy was incensed I guess (by a trivial careless foul call).  He wouldn't stop.  I had enough, so I dismissed him.  I admit, I probably could have given him one more chance, but I've seen that back-fire previously.  The level of anger in this coach made it clear to me he wasn't going to get better, and I sensed he was getting his players wound up as well.  This is not good so off he went.  Interestingly enough, I got a little push back on that one from the assignor.  Personally, I'm starting to wonder if maybe the assignor is paying a little too much attention to the tournament organizers and the political aspect of the tournament and not enough to the behavior of the teams and coaches, but that's another post for another day.
About 5 minutes later, there was a reckless tackle by the same team.  It seemed to be a routine caution right up until the player told me "You're f-ing terrible!"  Yeah, it seemed to meet the criteria of "Public/Personal/Provocative" so off he went.  Fortunately, it was right in front of my AR as well, so he heard it.  I noticed his (remaining) coach didn't seemed surprised at all when I went to the back pocket.  That's usually a sign that the player has been there before.
The big news of the day was I was given the U-16 final game!  I guess I've been doing these tournaments long enough that the assignor recognizes I don't screw up too badly!
The highlight of the game for me was I had that "ah ha!" moment with a player and cautioned him for persistent infringement.  I noticed his pattern of fouling pretty early.  He was the white team's right back.  His play was kind of ugly when challenging for the ball near the flag.  Lots of arms over shoulders and hands on jerseys etc.  I talked to him after the 2 foul (and 1 or 2 triflings that I let go).  He committed another foul at about half way.  I called him over and was able to point to each spot on the field where he had committed all the fouls.  When you are able to do that, everyone on the field is OK with the caution and also knows you are paying attention.
It turned out the be a really interesting game.  The under-dog team went on to win, stunning the favored side!  It was a well played game and I felt like it was one of my better outings.  That's a nice way to end a tournament!


Anonymous said...

Don't take my word for it, but on the pass-back kick-straight up situation, many refs would consider this a mis-kick and let it go. I believe USSF is conflicted on whether the hard line is the correct line on this offense. See this JIm Allen answer http://www.askasoccerreferee.com/?p=922

Anonymous said...

The 'kick to the keeper' was an incorrect decision. While you and the center were the ones there that saw the play, the way it is described is clearly a miss-kicked clearing of the ball. It does not sound like a deliberate kick to the keeper or a place where the keeper could play it. Pooched that one, you did.

The Referee said...

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you. Perhaps my description is poor, but comparing my description with the words from the Advice to Referees suggest a correct decision. This ball was deliberately kicked to a place where the keeper could handle it and the 'keeper chose to do so.

Geoff said...

Well, by the letter of the USSF interpretations I've seen it was a legitimate call.

Spirit of the law though, I'm not so certain.

The back pass rule was put in 20ish years ago to prevent deliberate time-wasting. I'd suggest using Jim Allen's answer, the exalted Law 18 should have some place in everyone's analysis on it. For what little my experience is worth, I've never seen a back-pass in youth soccer designed to waste time. As a result I almost always warn a keeper before actually calling it.

There's some conventional referee wisdom along the lines of: if nobody is going to complain about a particular call because it's the one they all expect, then make that call. The converse is also true, if nobody is going to complain about a non-call, then don't make one.

This situation sounds like one that could've been comfortably swept under the pitch as trifling.

Though as a somewhat amusing aside this weekend I had a bunch of earnest U11 girls telling me "she kicked it back to her keeper!" Good times.

Anonymous said...

I think you got it wrong as well. The law says misdirected, which this ball obviously was.As the defender obviously did not want to direct it straight up. However, it was also a deliberate kick, he just misdirected the deliberate kick. like a shank on a shot. I would have pulled some law 18 on that. Nevertheless it obviously needs further clarification.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but I just found your blog and I've enjoyed reading it. I'll be honest though, don't call the IDK in this situation, or hardly ever. That said, what you're guilty of here is very common among referees who know the laws really well, but may not have played at a high level: a reluctance to bend the rules for fear of breaking them.

While I agree with Geoff and Anon above about the "mis-kick", a better reason to not call this is that IDKs in the box cause a ton of problems because of the lack of space. There are too many opportunities for the players to do stupid crap that the referee may or may not be able to see.

Because of this, an IDK in the box could lead to preventable cards, if the referee had not made the call.

The key words in the advice to referees that allow you to "bend, but not break the rules" in this situation are "deliberate" and "in the opinion of the referee". You can't know what the player was thinking in this situation, therefore, the real question is: "in your opinion, was the ball deliberately kicked to the keeper?" If there is any way to answer no, err on the side of keeping yourself out of trouble.

In my games, I will specifically yell out, "that's not a pass" BEFORE the goalkeeper touches it if there is any doubt in my mind, make it clear to people that you don't think the touch was a "deliberate kick". Of course, you must call it if, in your opinion, the pass met the criteria in 12.20.

I am a 6, so I do mostly adult amateur games where many players will take any opportunity to elbow another player if they think they can get away with it. As a result, a lot of my refereeing skills are geared toward keeping players from doing something stupid, so bear that in mind.

Anyway, good luck in the future.