In one of last year’s ‘week in review’ articles (and in one of the DVDs provided this year to the SDIs), there is a statement that says, “the goalkeeper may legally handle the ball as long as any part of the ball is crossing the penalty area line whether on the ground or in the air. The position of the goalkeeper’s body plays no role in determining the handling offense.”

Now I ask you to consider a situation in which part of the ball is within the penalty area, but the rest of the ball is geometrically outside of the penalty area. The week-in-review statement suggests that it would be legal for a goalkeeper to deliberately touch (with his hands) that portion of the ball, even if the goalkeeper’s body were geometrically located entirely outside of the penalty area.

I have four questions.

First, is what I just said true? That is, is it legal for a goalkeeper (irrespective of his location) to use his hands and deliberately touch the red portion of the ball in Fig 1a?

Second, if the above is true, how is the ruling reconciled with the Law, which tells us to award a direct free kick to the opposing team where the offense occurred unless the goalkeeper is within his own penalty area? Do we simply say that, if a player touches a ball and if the ball is in the penalty area, the touch (by definition?) occurs within the penalty area?

Third, if a field player uses his hands deliberately to touch the red portion of the ball, do we award a PK?

My fourth question is this: If a player is off the field of play and deliberately touches the red portion of the ball with his hands, is the offence considered handling? That is, would we stop play and restart with a DFK?

USSF answer (July 27, 2009):
Let’s look at it in increments.  If any part of the ball is on the line, the ball is within the penalty area.  At no time in this situation did the ball leave the penalty area.  The fact that part of the ball was outside the penalty area is irrelevant.  The BALL was still in the penalty area and, accordingly, it can still be handled by the goalkeeper, and that includes ANY PART of the ball.  The BALL is a whole thing and either is or is not in the penalty area.  If it is, it can be handled by the goalkeeper.  If it is not, it cannot be handled by the ‘keeper.  Thus the WIR article is in complete agreement with the Law.

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