The following occurred in an official match in Argentina’s “Torneo Argentino C”: A forward kicks the ball towards the goal, the ball hits the crossbar and goes up, then hits a branch that was inside the field area and goes down. A defender takes the ball with his hands, and the referee signals a penalty.
Questions: Was the branch an outside agent? Should have the referee signaled a dropped ball instead of a penalty?
Source (with video):
USSF answer (February 25, 2012):
We agree with the referee that the ball was still in play. The tree limb overhanging the field is a pre-existing condition, meaning that play is the same as if the ball had hit the crossbar or the referee — it is still in play.
One is unlikely to find a tree overhanging a field in which the game is played under a FIFA-run competition, as there would certainly be no tree to worry about.