My question is about the concept of punishing the “first foul.” Situation: a player goes up for a header, using the shoulders of an opponent to launch himself. No horizontal movement, just vertically up. The opponent, sensing this, bends over and causes the opponent to fall over him (“tabletop”). Should the resulting DFK be for the team of the player who went up for the ball (ignoring the shoulder-push and punishing the tabletop) or for the team of the player who had his shoulders pushed on in the first place (with a possible caution or chewing-out for the tabletop)?

Would it change if the original shoulder-pusher had horizontal motion over the player who decided to bend over so he fell?

USSF answer (June 9, 2008):
Why worry about “problems” over what the Laws tell us to do? In situations like this the referee can and must punish both offenses — provided, in his or her opinion, they are indeed both offenses.

The first offense, using the opponent’s shoulders as a support, is an old and time-honored way of cheating. It is called holding and is punished with a direct free kick AND a caution for unsporting behavior. The tactic of using a teammate’s shoulders is not a foul, but is certainly misconduct and would be punished by a caution for unsporting behavior and an indirect free kick for the opposing team at the place where the offense occurred.

The second offense, in which the opponent bends over and thus trips the initial offender, might ordinarily be called a foul, but that cannot happen in this case, because the foul has already occurred and whatever follows it can only be misconduct. If, in the opinion of the referee, this is indeed an offense, rather than the natural aftermath of having extra weight and leverage applied to one’s shoulders by an outside force, then the referee must punish it with a caution for unsporting behavior. However, the restart would still be for the first offense.

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