I was working as an AR for an under-17 boys game a few weeks ago.
Ball is rolling through the penalty area and defender for Team A is legally shielding forward from Team B until the ball goes out for a goal kick.
Team B forward is clearly frustrated with the defender’s shielding tactic, and, after the ball rolls out, the forward picks up the ball and does a basketball-style chest pass at the feet of the defender, who is now running back onto the field to his position for the goal kick and his back is turned to the forward. The ball struck the defender on the feet. The defender did not appear to react to the ball hitting him.
The center referee did nothing. I would have at least shown a card, but I cannot decide if it would have been yellow or red. The ball definitely struck the defender, but not with much force. To the letter of the law, this is striking an opponent. But would it have been too harsh to send off the player in this instance?
USSF answer (May 27, 2009):
Only the referee on the game can determine whether the act was reckless (caution) or done with excessive force (send-off). If, in the opinion of the referee, the act constituted misconduct or serious misconduct, then a caution or send-off (depending on the nature of misconduct) would be warranted.
We see no reason for a send-off in this situation (with these circumstances), but either a strong dressing down (which wasn’t mentioned) or a caution would be warranted.
The restart — after the caution or send-off — will be for the reason the ball was out of play, a goal kick.