in a recent game, the attacking team A shot into the box from a wide position, striking a player on Team B, the defending team(who was inside the box). the referee stopped play and awarded a free kick with the ball clearly placed inside the box approximately 5 yards from the top and 5 yards from the side of the box. the free kick was taken w/out any scoring. at halftime, we saw the referee and asked what infringement had occurred on the play-specifically asking if it had been an indirect foul such as dangerous play. the referee said that it was actually a handball inside the box but he did not deem the foul to be worthy of a penalty.
is a free kick inside the box a correct application of the laws of the game in this case?

USSF answer (April 7, 2008):
Another case of a referee with no courage. While the Laws of the Game allow referees plenty of discretion, allowing them to make some decisions based on the statement in the Laws that many infringements occur only “in the opinion of the referee,” this is not one of them.

Based on your statement that the ball struck the player (rather than the player striking the ball, which would be deliberately handling the ball), it would appear that there was no infringement at all. If the ball simply hits a player’s “hand” (anywhere on the arm from shoulder to finger tip), that is not a foul. There must be a conscious act by the player to manipulate (sorry for the unintended pun) the ball.

Timid referees like this one might consider giving up the game altogether, as they do no favor for referees who want to get it right.

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