I am a coach and in my teams last game, an opponent took a shot on goal. The shot was a slow roller on the ground and my keeper went to pick up the ball. As he was about to pick up the ball, another player on the opposing team came crashing into my keeper knocking him to the ground. Another player ran up and kicked the ball in the goal.

The referee counted the goal. When I argued the call the referee explained to me that as long as my goalie doesn’t have possesion of the ball that the play was legal, no matter if another player ran over my goalie. Is there a rule I don’t know about? I have been playing, coaching, and watching soccer for many many years and it seemed to me like the worst call I had ever seen.

USSF answer (April 14, 2009):
We didn’t see the incident, so cannot comment specifically on it; however, we can say with full certainty that the goalkeeper’s role is, by the very requirements of the job, inherently dangerous. Goalkeepers know this going in and most operate accordingly.

The goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player, with the exceptions of protective equipment and not being challenged when attempting to release the ball into general play. When not in possession of the ball, the goalkeeper may be fairly challenged. And the “fairly” is determined by the referee, not the coach and not the player.

The goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e.g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm.

Finally, a reminder that, as age and skill levels go down, the referee must interpret both “possession” and “safe challenge” more liberally.

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