PUTTING THE BALL INTO PLAY AT A KICK RESTART

Question:
Advice 13.5 has changed to read, ‘Being “kicked” can include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot.’ What would happen if a player used the bottom of the foot to roll the ball forward, and then without losing contact between foot and ball pulled the ball backward? Would that be a proper restart at a free kick? What about the special kicks (kickoff, PK) that have to go forward?

Does the change in Advice 13.5 change the answer of Sept 27, 2007?

USSF answer (March 11, 2009):
The information included in Advice 13.5 is quite clear:

13.5 BALL IN PLAY
The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being “kicked” can include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot.┬á The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengef├╝hl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”).

In other words, it tells us what the referee should look for at a kick restart. However, that does not mean that the referee should not consider tradition and custom in making decisions. See, for example, the information in the answer of September 27, 2007:

USSF answer (September 27, 2007):
While the procedure you describe, rolling the ball forward, etc., is not what we would allow on a free kick (see below) and certainly not what is required by Law 8, it is commonly accepted practice for kick-offs at all levels of soccer. We have seen it allowed even at the current Women’s World Cup in China and in other high-level competitions throughout the world.

The kick-off, like the throw-in, is simply a way to get the game restarted when the ball has left the field. It is, and should be, regarded as a relaxed and less tense way of doing so. We allow trifling infringements of Law 15 in this regard, and we should do the same in the case of the kick-off.

What you describe does not meet the requirements of Law 8 for a kick-off. As always, however, the issue is indeed whether the action is a violation (it is), but we must consider whether the violation should/must/needs to be handled by a stoppage and a retake of the restart. Unless the player performing the kick-off incorrectly gains some unfair benefit, we are inclined to consider the violation trifling (on par with a teammate illegally standing just over the midfield line on a kick-off to “receive” the ball). As it occurs at the very highest levels on a routine basis, you might, at most, warn the kicker that what just happened was a technical violation of the Law. However, we would recommend that you consider it trifling and punish it only if the players begin to take even greater advantage of the referee’s kindness.

Now, if we are dealing with a free kick, the requirements of Law 13 would apply completely: When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being “kicked” does not, for example, include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. Being “moved” does not, for example, include the ball simply quivering, trembling, or shaking as a result of light contact. The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match. In all events, the ball must be put into play properly.

When you consider custom and tradition, he two pieces of information are not inconsistent with one another.

Finally, we might add that the kick-off is also the way of starting a period of play.

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