A recent event during a local cup: Player A is defending a corner kick, facing towards the corner flag/goal near the opposite end of the box. The ball goes over the defence and player A, bounces, and he goes for the clearance. Player A, however, doesn’t notice player B (from the attacking team) coming from behind him to head the ball. When player A makes contact with the ball, it’s at head height (and hence, so is his foot), and he catches player B on the head/face with his boot. Player A did, however, make contact with the ball first (or roughly at the same time). This was all inside the box.

Should this play be a penalty or an indirect free kick for the attacking team?


USSF answer (August 28, 2009):
We have a hard time buying the scenario completely. If player B is “coming from behind,” how then does A manage to kick B’s “head/face”? And it would be rare that a ball at head height is more naturally played with the head than with the foot. Any player playing a ball at head height with his foot must take more than average care that an opponent is not nearby and, failing that, has been CARELESS (which is what defends the minimum foul level — i. e., with no accompanying misconduct. The referee should look not at what a player INTENDS as a valid basis for judging a foul (other than handling) — but should look, instead, at the results of the player’s actions.

Only the referee on this game can make that call, whether in favor of player A or of player B.

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