March 1, 2013
This question relates to impeding an opponent. This little incident frequently occurs both in 1- a-side and 5-a-side in which i participate, and i can’t help but wonder if it is the attacker at fault rather than the defender in this case.
What happens is, an attacker will make a forward dribble and approaches a defender who hopes to stop him passing. As they reach near-touching distance, and the defender is ready to make the tackle, the attacker will pass either left or right to a team mate and then quickly dash forward in a straight line, to receive a one-two exchange. However, he occasionally plows through the defender as if he did not see him standing there. This can sometimes result in injury for the defender who was not aware of this forward dash, and there are usually pleas for obstruction against him. Has the attacker drawn this foul, knowing that there is a body in the way that is unlikely to react at such short notice? Or must the defender attempt to quickly move and allow him to pass?
Note: This question was asked by a player, not a referee. After a first response to him, he added: “Many times i have been rushed by an attacker in this way. Recently i was knocked over badly, was dazed and came to find that he had been awarded a free kick. I have felt that not bracing myself for the collision could cause me injury, but still when the forward hits into me, he calls obstruction even though i have not moved from the spot. I will make sure to argue my case when the incident re-occurs.” [The answer that follows covers both questions.]
Answer (March 1, 2013):
What you describe is not impeding the progress of an opponent or obstruction, it is standing in territory that belongs to the player, in this case the defender. Every player is entitled to the spot of ground he or she is currently occupying. The forward has charged illegally and must be punished with at least a direct free kick. If he has knocked the defender over, then it’s likely also a caution (unsporting behavior) for reckless play. If he knocks him ass over elbows, it’s likely a send-off for using excessive force.
In brief, the defender who stands his ground does not have to move. However, this caveat applies: It is illegal for the defender to MOVE from one spot into another simply to stop the oncoming forward. If the attacking player moves into the defender and the defender has NOT moved, then and only then does the defender have the Law on his or her side — although many referees are too thick to remember it. If the referee is a right (you pick the word; my favorite would be ‘dunderhead’), the defender should be careful about protesting too loudly, as he is very likely to be cautioned.