Player’s foot slides over the top of the ball as his opponent tries to kick the ball.

Player’s cleat is over the ball while the opponent’s leg is swinging toward it. Contact is made, unavoidably by the opponents ankle to the first player’s cleat. Had the opponent’s timing been better the contact (cleats to ankle) would have still occurred.

I felt the first player was careless allowing his foot to go over the top of the ball and awarded a DFK against him. Nobody liked my call. The sore ankle team thought a caution / send-off was in order, the cleat over ball team went to the “I got the ball first”. I get 50/50 opinions on this situation. Can you give me any easy guidance?

USSF answer (June 18, 2008):
“Cleats up” means little if that is the only way the player can play the ball. What the referee must be concerned about is the nature and result of the play.

Referees should pay particular to the actual foul here, the “over the top” (of the ball) tackle. Unless the referee on the spot detects some malice in the play, this is a simple foul. However, if it is done other than through accident — and “accident” would appear to be the case here — it is the sending-off offense of serious foul play. The final decision must rest with the referee on the spot.

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