I had a situation that happened last night: Team A had a throw-in deep in their defensive half. The outside defender threw the ball in to the sweeper’s feet. The sweeper dropped to his hands and knees to head the ball back to his goalkeeper, who picked up the ball with his hands.

According to the “Advice to Referees,” I made the interpretation that trickery was used to get the ball back to his goalkeeper who could punt the ball. However, . . .

Can [the following] situation happen and be legal?

Player A throws the ball towards his teammate’s head, his teammate heads the ball back directly to his goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper picks the ball up with his hands.

Is the goalkeeper allowed to play the ball with his hands in this situation?

I didn’t think it was legal but the question has come up because the team has filed a protest, claiming a mis-application of the law.

I believe in my case, trickery was used, but in a more normal case, is a teammate’s throw-in allowed to be headed back to his goalkeeper to play with their hands?

USSF answer (November 15, 2007):
When speaking of trickery in playing the ball toward the goalkeeper, we normally think of this as occurring during restarts, not during dynamic play. A player who goes down on hands and knees to head the ball during dynamic play is not committing trickery.

With that point established, consider our response of August 29, 2007, to another question on trickery:
“When considering the possibility of trickery, the referee must decide if the action was natural (a normal sort of play, the sort of thing you would see in any sequence of play) or contrived (an artificial, unnatural play, which, in the referee’s opinion, is intended solely for the purpose of circumventing the Law and preventing the opponents from challenging for the ball).

“The call is always in the opinion and at the discretion of the referee, who is the only person capable of making the judgment as to the nature of the kick. If there is any doubt in the referee’s mind as to the nature of the play, then common sense should prevail. Unless the referee believes plays like this to be trickery, there is no need to make a call.”

Consider also that the goalkeeper infringes the Law by handling a throw-in only if it has come directly to him or her from a throw-in taken by a teammate.

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