Over the past nine days, I have encountered a number of situations that I have not seen often (two were in fact firsts for me). I share these so you might recognize a similar situation and be better prepared.
- In a high school game (I know, this is supposed to be about USSF), I had a player high-kick a ball and kick his own teammate in the face. Under the Laws of the Game, if this was not an intentional act (Violent Conduct), it is not a foul. Under NFHS rules, it is Playing in a Dangerous Manner (we have the unusual situation of an offense being committed against a teammate!) I had never had to call this before in a HS game. I mention this as a reminder that we need to keep the various Laws and Rules of our competition authorities in mind for each game we work.
- In a youth soccer match, as the referee, I had a keeper spill the ball in her goal area. The ball rolled forward out past the penalty spot with the keeper in pursuit. She passed a defender and an attacker as she pursued the ball, and converged with two other defenders and an attacker. As the ball ping-ponged for a few seconds, the second attacker managed to kick it free towards goal. It was received by the first attacker standing between the goal area and the spot, who turned to shoot past the last defender. I was about five yards away looking across the penalty spot at AR2. No flag went up. I verified for myself that there was only one defender between the attacker and the goal and blew my whistle as the attacker kicked the ball into the goal. I waved off the goal for the offside offense. The attacking coach became, shall we say, vocal.
At halftime, my AR thanked me for catching the offside. He had locked onto the second to last defender and did not adjust when the keeper came forward. The coach argue for a time with me that it cannot be offside because there was a defender between the attacker and the goal. I spent a few moments attempting to explain that there must be *two* defenders, and that one is usually the goalkeeper, but not in this case. The coach is convinced that I do not know Law 11! This was the first time I have ever made an offside call not seen by my AR. The lesson here is that the referee is the final authority on whether an offside offense is committed, and we must be ready to step in if the circumstances require it.
- In another match, I had a good player get clearly fouled outside the area only a few yards in front of me. I held my whistle momentarily as the ball came free into the PA. The player, perhaps thinking I had not seen the foul, then embellished the impact as I was blowing my whistle due to no advantage. I had to quickly decide if the attacker’s actions were misconduct. I announced that we had a foul and there was no advantage. I then called the player over and told him that he need not embellish fouls to get my attention and that such embellishment was misconduct that could be subject to a yellow card. The player played the rest of the game above board (and scored two goals). The lesson for me was that it was important to communicate to players what I expected so as to achieve a change in behavior. While another time a similar situation might result in a Caution, I don’t believe I needed it on this day.
- Finally, in a State Cup match today, I had two rare situations. First, I had a defender, while being challenged for the ball outside her PA and facing her goalkeeper, directly kick a ball to her keeper. This was not a miskick, nor was there any chance that the attacker touched it or that the keeper even believed the attacker might have touched it. The keeper stopped the ball with her legs in the goal area and I breathed easier for just a moment until she picked up the ball. I blew my whistle (and the keeper knew what she had done). I brought the ball to the six yard line and announced that it was an indirect kick. The defenders set up their wall on the goal line and I raised my arm for the IFK.
This set up the second rare situation. An attacker tapped the top of the ball. It did not move. My arm remained up. A second attacker kicked the ball at the goal. My arm remained up. The ball entered the goal without being touched by any other player, even with the wall there (I was between the ball and goal line at the edge of the goal area and had a clear look). My arm remained up. I blew my whistle, pointed at my raised arm, waved off the goal, and pointed for the goal kick. The attacking coaches were upset, but not inappropriate. At halftime, they questioned the call and accepted my explanation (I explained the USSF position: kicking motion, with ball moving from here to there). The lesson for me was to be in the correct position, use the correct mechanics, and use the words of the Laws and Advice when speaking to coaches.
I read a number of referee blogs so that I can be better prepared for the unusual situations. I know that some of you run into these things all the time, but for me it was an interesting week or so…