What Is a Kick?

A HS/College coach asks:

Is it within the laws of the game to “lift” the ball (meaning to slide your foot under and propel the ball up in the air — as opposed to striking or rolling it with your sole) on a kick-off, corner, free kick, etc.


Yes.  We think.  Probably.  Actually, the only place which specifically deals with your question is in Law 13 (Free Kicks) where it states that “a free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously” (2016/2017 edition).  So, at least for direct and indirect free kicks, the answer is clear.

What we don’t know, because the Law doesn’t mention it, is whether the same “ruling” would apply to such other restarts as penalty kicks, kick-offs, corner kicks, or goal kicks.  Because, in general, all restarts involving kicking a ball are similar in many respects, our conclusion would be that, in practice, the “lift with the foot” approved for free kicks would apply to all “kick the ball” restarts, but with the proviso that all such restarts must still be governed by any other characteristics specified in the Law.  For example, a penalty kick must still “go forward” even if lifted up.  Another example would be that, even if the ball is put into play by lifting it up with the foot (or both feet), a player who did so and then headed or volleyed the ball would still be guilty of a second touch violation.

Perhaps the reason the Law is silent on whether the “lift with the foot” kick applies to kicked-ball restarts other than free kicks is that it really makes little sense (at least as regards to the purposes and dynamics of these other restarts) to kick the ball in this particular way.  Why, for example, would a player want to take a goal kick or penalty kick using that technique?

In any event, however, the answer is absolutely clear with regards to free kicks, and probably the same for any other kicked-ball restart.


What is going on here? Why didn’t the referee caution Newcastle’s Steven Taylor for unsporting behavior in this incident?

Answer (March 13, 2013):
While the referee was taking an inordinate amount of time in dealing with the wall, Steven Taylor was playing mind games with the goalkeeper. If what Taylor did had occurred at the taking of a corner kick, it might have been actionable, and some referees would be within their rights to do something about it if they felt it to be actionable under those circumstances. But the normal and prescribed “action” at the corner kick is usually a clear warning to the player to stop what he was doing. In this case, the referee took no action at all, although he plainly noticed Taylor jumping around. (You can see this in the video.) He was too busy establishing the distance of the wall to be proactive for the ‘keeper.

Solution: Treat such matters the same way in all cases: proactively warn the player—in this case, Taylor—and then, if his behavior continues, let the kick occur, whistle (cancel any goal), caution for USB, and restart with an IFK for the defending team. That would certainly make the would-be scorer rather unhappy with the miscreant (Taylor here), even if the free kick had been so well-taken that the miscreant’s actions played no part in the goal.

Let me be up front about this. I like Steven Taylor; he is one of my favorite pranksters (remember the ball headed to the ‘keeper from last year). He knows what is legal and what is not, and he knows when to stop, even if the referee does or says nothing about his antics. In this situation any misconduct could not be punished (and thus the goal could not be disallowed), because Taylor stopped his antics and returned to an onside position several seconds before the whistle was given for the kick. And neither the referee nor the assistant referee took any action, making Taylor’s deed “legal” in this particular case. And, other than a few minor complaints, there has been no official reaction to the incident in England.

And if we wish to be fair, referees have to admit that goalkeepers have been doing much the same thing for years:


Having a debate here about definition of ‘delay of game’.

On a kick-off from the half line, after a goal, or starting a game, if a team does an improper kick-off (i.e. ball does not move forward, and cross over the half line) several times, is this delay of game? I have seen teams do this in the past. I would allow this twice, then give an IDFK to the opposite team. I was recently told by a senior official that this is not a delay of game and not IDFK. Well, if so, what do you do about it?

USSF answer (November 17, 2011):
The tactic you describe could be considered to be delaying the restart of play. A number of examples are given in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

The following are specific examples of this form of misconduct (some of which may also be committed by substitutes):

• Kicks or throws the ball away or holds the ball to prevent or delay a free kick, throw-in, or corner kick restart by an opponent

• Fails to restart play after being so instructed by the referee

• Excessively celebrates a goal

• Fails to return to the field from a midgame break, fails to perform a kick-off when signaled by the referee, or fails to be in a correct position for a kick-off

• Performing a throw-in improperly with the apparent intention of being required to perform the throw-in again, thus wasting time

• Unnecessarily moving a ball which has already been properly placed on the ground for a goal kick

• Provokes a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play

Because the ball was out of play at the delay, the restart after any caution in this case would still be the kick-off.


1. The ball deflects over the goal line to give Team A a corner kick. Player A1 retrieves the ball, which is about 15 yards beyond the end line and in line with the side of the penalty area, and throws it to teammate A2 who is positioned by the corner flag. A2 quickly takes a corner kick while A1, who is still a couple of yards out of bounds, is running diagonally towards a position on the field in front of the near post. A1 enters the field unmarked as the kick is in the air, and he scores on a header. Even though he was off the field when the ball was initially played, is this a legal goal since he had a legitimate reason for being off the field? Does it matter that he did not re-enter at the nearest point of the field instead running diagonally towards a spot nearer the goal? Is there any reason that the referee should delay the corner kick until he returns to play?

2. Same general scenario, but the ball goes out of touch at the 35-yard line for a throw-in for Team A in its offensive end. A1 retrieves the ball in line with the 25 yard line – about 10 yards out of bounds – and throws it back to A2 to take the throw-in. A1 then runs diagonally towards the field, entering at the 18-yard line, behind the defense who apparently hasn’t noticed him. He runs onto a long throw-in and eventually scores. Good goal? Should the referee hold up play in a situation like this?

USSF answer (June 6, 2011):
1. If it is clear to the referee that there was no duplicity in this situation, then it was probably legal. To avoid such situations (and their concomitant problems) in the future, the referee should hold up play until the player has returned to the field of play. There is no requirement that the player must return to the field at the same point from which he left.

2. Same answer. Plus, the referee must be aware of this player’s position in situations where, depending on the sequence of play, the returning player might be in an offside position.

The referee should always ensure that all players (other than the taker) are on the field when play is restarted from off the field.

NOTE: The referee is not responsible for poor defensive play. The Laws of the Game were not written to compensate for the mistakes of the players.


The revised format of the Week in Review contains representative video clips and expert description and commentary from Michael Kennedy that is greatly appreciated. This type of approach serves to clarify a
variety of game situations and provides explanations of correct decisions based upon the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Michael also invites viewers to submit questions. My question and request for clarification arises from a subject covered in week 7.

The first video clip from week 7 shows a player in an offside position that was not punished for being in that position because he received the ball directly via a throw-in from his teammate. As mentioned in the presentation, Law 11 Offside states “There is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from: a goal kick or a throw-in or a corner kick.” Additional information on this subject is also provided in the USSF publication, “Offside Made Easy”, wherein the offside law is restated and the word “directly” is clarified to mean that no one else touched or played the ball.

Now, suppose that during the execution of a goal kick, throw-in, or corner kick, the ball is deflected off the head of: 1) a teammate, 2) a defender, or 3) both a teammate and defender (difficult to determine if just one) and goes to the player in the offside position. What is the correct decision?

For each of these three cases, please provide the correct decision based upon the LOTG along with any supporting reference in the LOTG or other official written documentation. If there are exceptions to Law
11 as written, please provide the rationale and reference to supporting written documentation (I haven’t found any, but there possibly could be–hence this email).

The aforementioned scenarios seem to have varying interpretations of law and resulting decision depending upon who one speaks with-referees, instructors and assessors. We would all probably agree that 1) referees need to make correct decisions based upon the written laws and other official publications that support sound decision making; and 2) official validation and written verification are preferred to unsubstantiated and unsupported individual views.

USSF answer (May 18, 2011):
In 2001 we ;published a document entitled “Speaking Directly,” which covers all these situations. Thank you for encouraging us to publish the article once again.

Speaking Directly

If a “direct” free kick is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal is awarded. (This is not the case with an “indirect” free kick, where a goal cannot be scored if the ball does not touch a second player — which can be the goalkeeper, who is, after all, also a player — before entering the goal.)

That is the primary meaning of “direct”; however, there are references in the Laws of the Game to “direct” or “directly” which do not apply to scoring goals. These references seem to confuse some referees:
– Law 11 states that there is no offside offense if a player receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick
– throw-in taken by a teammate
– Law 13 and Law 16 declare the ball kicked from within a team’s own penalty area to be in play from a free kick or a goal kick only when it leaves the penalty area and goes directly into play
– Laws 16 and 17 tell us that a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick or a corner kick, but only against the opposing team
The use of “directly” in Laws 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 is fairly clear: if the ball goes from point A to point B without interference, something can or cannot happen. That is not true of the use of “directly” in Law 11. Tradition and custom give us a slightly different meaning of the word “directly” in the context of offside.

If at a goal kick, throw-in, or a corner kick taken by his team, a player receives the ball directly from the restart, there is no problem. Nor should there be any problem at a corner kick, as it is physically impossible for a player on the field of play to be offside directly from a corner kick. The confusion arises at throw-ins or goal kicks when the ball is deflected or misplayed by an opponent and then comes to the teammate of the thrower or kicker who is in an offside position. In such cases, the referee must disregard the deflection or misplay of the ball by the opponent, as there has been no infringement of the Law. However, if the ball were to be deflected or misplayed instead by a teammate of the thrower or kicker on its way to the player in the offside position, that player must be declared offside.


For clarification purpose, I would like for you to honestly assist with normal procedure and correct interpretation of the law and in accordance to; and in US Soccer and FIFA opinion the correct procedure and your recommendation to the following.

In the first half of a competitive match, a corner kick was being taken from the leading AR side. Properly, the Assistant referee applied the distance of encroachment and the team taking the corner kick tricked the defense as the kicker walked away and another player acted as if he was going to take the kick started dribbling the ball towards the goal when he got to the corner kick spot. I made eye contact with the leading AR who did nothing and I let the play go.

In the same half, a corner kick was awarded to the same offense, but now in my quadrant. The ball was set, and the kicker stood over the ball with his foot on the ball but made no movement because the defense this time were encroaching. When I realized the the attacker won’t play the ball, I instructed the defense to respect the distance of which they obliged. While we were waiting for the corner kick to be taken, number 7 of the team taking the corner kcik who was behind me in the goal area loudly yelled to his team mate on the the ball. “Leave it, let me take it.” He then ran past me and the defenders while his team mate walked away from the ball. When he got to the ball, he took position as if he was going to put the ball back in play, then he started dribbling the ball towards the goal. All these happened while I was still holding back the defense from encroaching. When I realized he was in active play, I blew the whistle walked to him and cautioned him for unsporting behavior. I then restart the play with an indirect kick to the defense for double touching a direct kick restart. 

As usual, the cautioned player pleaded his case and claimed that was their trick and my response was that you were deceptive. I told him it’s legal to apply trick fairly, and by audibly being deceptive, you gained unfair advantage.

USSF answer (February 6, 2010)
The kicking team is allowed to use a certain amount of trickery at any kick restart, including corner kicks. If the kicker actually kicks at the ball, then it is now in play. Observe these two video clips of corner kicks, one of which was not allowed by the referee. However, both were totally legal, as the ball was played in a kicking motion by the original player on the ball.

First clip:

We responded to a question on this clip back on January 30, 2009:
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

Second clip:

The assistant referee’s flag was incorrect and the referee should have waved it down; the resulting goal should have been allowed.

So, what is NOT allowed?
The ball must move a perceptible distance from “here” to “there” to be considered in play through a kick. If the “kicker” only steps on top of the ball and does not kick it, and therefore the ball has NOT moved from “here” to “there,” the kick was not properly taken and must be repeated. It is not a cautionable offense.


I had a question a fellow referee asked me and we both would like some clarification. Please help.
The situation: On a corner kick the attacking player tap the top of the ball and called to her teammate to come and take the kick, her teammate starting dribbling the ball towards to goal.
The referee decided that the ball was not properly put into play with the 1st attacker’s tap; he blew his whistle and had them retake the corner kick.

What is the correct course of action?

USSF answer (October 13, 2009):
This excerpt from the USSF publication Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (2009) should clarify the matter for you. While it speaks of free kicks, it also applies to corner kicks. The Advice is available for download on the USSF website.

The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion or being dragged with the top or bottom of the foot. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking or dragging motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another).  The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.
The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengefühl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”).


I was watching a U-11 girls match last weekend. The red team was about to take a corner kick, one player (player 1) from the red team retrieved the ball and set it on the corner arc. As she was doing so the coach of the red team began to yell “NO I don’t want you to take the kick have (player 2) take it” Player one then apparently touched the ball with her foot and went into position while player 2 ran over and began to dribble the ball. The referee blew the whistle and indicated a IFK to the other team. The red coach began to scream at the referee that player one had touched the ball, and it was obvious that this was a designed strategy. The referee then changed his call and allowed the red team to retake the corner kick.

While the players certainly could have done this on their own, is the coach permitted to engage in intentional deception by his instructions as to who will take the kick? Would a caution to the coach have been proper?

USSF answer (September 2, 2009):
Under the Laws of the Game, no team official may be cautioned or shown any cards. However, the (unauthorized) rules of some competitions may allow this. You would have to check the rules of the competition to see if this is allowed. The IFAB, the body that makes the Laws of the Game, does not permit it. Nor does FIFA, the body that administers the game and publishes the Laws, nor the U. S. Soccer Federation. Leaving aside any (unauthorized) rules of competition, if, in the opinion of the referee, the coach interferes with the game, that act becomes irresponsible behavior and the coach should be expelled (not sent off and not shown the card, but expelled) from the field and its surroundings. We should note that most instructions from coaches are simply noise and can generally be disregarded. However, if the behavior of the coach clearly distracts and misleads the opponents, or is loud, sudden, or abusive to anyone (his/her team’s players, the opponents, or the officials), that is the time to deal with the action.

The tactic in your scenario might be legitimate if the players had come up with it themselves. The critical issue to be resolved is whether the first player merely touched the ball (no kick, no movement of the ball) or actually “kicked” it so as to put it into play. If it was simply a touch, then the second player is the one who put the ball into play and then played it a second time — this is a second touch violation, whistle, indirect free kick to the opposing team where the second touch occurred. If there was at least some perceptible movement to the ball as a result of the first player’s contact, then what followed was entirely lawful.

As to the restart, if the referee stopped play for what he thought was a second touch violation but was then advised by the assistant referee that the first contact did indeed result in “kick and moves,” then the restart must be a dropped ball.


This is an accumulation question that comes to mind only over years of watching games.

Referees are typically generous in placement of the ball for the taking of a free kick unless it’s advanced unreasonably closer to the goal (sometimes, just sometimes an inch beyond the corner arcs) OR when the ball is advanced beyond the penalty area or beyond the halfway line. There is no instruction I’m aware of that says that placement must be within the bounds of either area. But, I keep seeing referees force the ball back before the kick is accepted. This seeming pettiness goes against the ambition of keeping the game flowing without unnecessary interruption.

Why do referees do it?

USSF answer (March 9, 2009):
To prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage.


I have stumbled upon a few videos on the internet about “tricks” on how to play a corner kick.

This one specifically leaves me with quite the bitter taste…as a player but also as a Referee)

All that gesture to make everyone think he’s calling a teammate to take the corner kick (and then takes it while starting to go away from the corner kick) can it fall under the “unsportsmanlike behavior” ?

It sincerely doesn’t look/appear like a “Fair Play” at all as the only intent is to deceive the opponents in a way that only make me think of “cheating”.

There is no “technical” infringement as the ball is played according to the LOTG.

Now, according to the USSF “CAUTIONS AND CAUTIONABLE OFFENSES” memo of 2006 :

< A player commits an act deemed by the referee as bringing the game into disrepute (also known as showing a lack of respect for the game, e. g., aggressive attitude, inflammatory behavior, or taunting) >

Can this sort of ‘act” be considered as an offense (as outlined by the memo) ?

If yes, it should be considered unsportsmanlike conduct therefore the “guilty” player should also be cautioned.

USSF answer (January 30, 2009):
It is perfectly legal to do this. How could anyone object to this tactic? The player has put the ball in play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The kicking team is allowed to use such deceptive tactics and SHOULD NOT be punished for them. However, if the kicking player had merely stepped on top of the ball and then left it for the next player, who dribbles it away, that would not have been a legal restart. But even that is not punished with a caution, as it is not misconduct; in that case, the referee would call the second player for a double touch and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.