Apologies if this has been asked and answered on the site already, but I could not find an answer to this question on impeding or interference.
An attacking player is chasing a “through ball” that has been kicked past the last defender, and towards the goal. That last defender is also chasing the ball, and is actually closer to it than the attacker, but not close enough to it to be considered “playing the ball” at the time that I suspect a foul was committed.
With the ball still 7 or 8 yards from the defender, with the attacker following right behind, the defender sees that her goalie is coming out of the box to make a play with their feet to clear the ball. To ensure the attacker has less of a chance to get to the ball first, she slows and appears to deliberately block the attacker from getting a clear run at the lose ball, giving the goalie more time to get to the ball first.
Lots of spectators commented on what a heads up play it was, but I was of the opinion that since the defender was not playing the ball at the point she made contact with the attacker deny her a run at the ball that a foul had been committed.
What do the laws say about this please?
USSF answer (August 27, 2008):
It would appear from your description that the defending player impeded her opponent. The correct restart for this would be an indirect free kick from the place of the infringement. However, please read these excerpts from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:
12.14 IMPEDING AN OPPONENT
“Impeding the progress of an opponent” means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between the opponent and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying progress. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.
The offense of impeding an opponent requires that the ball not be within playing distance and that physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick, see Advice 12.22). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).
12.15 PLAYING DISTANCE
The referee’s judgment of “playing distance” should be based on the player’s ability to play the ball, not upon any arbitrary standard.