The following incident occurred during a recent Midwest Regional League match between U15 girls. Near the beginning of the second half with the score tied at 0, a defender on Team A won the ball in her own third and began dribbling up the side on which I was the AR. The wing midfielder on Team B pursued the defender and caught her at midfield. The defender played the ball a little forward to set up a long pass and the opposing midfielder stepped between the defender and the ball. Without intending to, the defender kicked the midfielder in the back of the legs, she fell forward, and landed on the ball. The Referee blew his whistle and pointed in the direction of Team A. When he came over to spot the ball, I asked him whether the ball should not be given to Team B since it was their player who got kicked. He agreed and reversed the call. Team A’s coach went ballistic saying that his player had possession. He became so loud that the Field Marshal came over to calm him down, but he began yelling at the FM and was escorted from the field (the Referee did not dismiss him).

Two questions:
1. What is the correct call? Should the Referee have called a foul? Should the ball be given to Team A or Team B?
2. Should we have stuck with the original call, since neither coach was complaining about a free kick for Team A at midfield?

I don’t think the call affected the outcome, a 0-0 draw. However, I still felt bad that Team A had to play without their coach for most of the second half.

Answer (October 29, 2007):
1. If we read the scenario correctly, the referee should have called a foul on the player who kicked the opponent in the back of the legs. That would give the ball to Team B.

2. If the original call was wrong, then there was no reason to stick with it.

Referees (and ARs) must learn to be alert to complaints by coaches and players, but not necessarily to “hear” them or allow them to influence any decisions; the referee should measure the content of the complaint against what he or she has seen on the field thus far in the game and allow that to guide decision making Remember that coaches usually see the game only in one light, that which is most favorable to their team. They will complain about anything that does not go their way. This seems to work out well in this country, particularly if the coach has a foreign accent. However, if you watch higher-level teams, whose coaches and players are highly experienced, you will find that most of them — except perhaps in this country, where whiners abound — do not object to calls that go against them, knowing that the referee is not going to change his or her mind.

As to the field marshal escorting the coach from the field, that is a matter covered by the rules of the competition, something not governed by the U. S. Soccer Federation.

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