EPIC Storm: FIFA laws of the game

Tuesday, September 15
Myths of the Game

MYTHS OF THE GAME (provided by Paul Ellis Soccer Academy)

The rules of the game of soccer are governed by a worldwide body known commonly as FIFA. However, many of the Laws are misunderstood. Here are some common examples of misconceptions, myths or other common questions about the game.



1. Not all contact with by a player’s hand is worthy of a hand ball call by the referee. Actually, the proper terminology for the foul is handling, however, according to Law 12, the handling must be deliberate to be a foul. Therefore, if a player has his back to ball and someone kicks the ball and it hits his arm, this is most likely not intentional and therefore, not a foul. One common phrase used to determine whether contact is deliberate is did the ball hit the hand (not a foul) or the hand hit the ball (a foul)?. Not sure how completely correct this is, but it is one simplified analysis that is easy to remember. Now, the reality is that most referees call almost all contact with the hand or arm a foul and, if there is contact to the hand when a defender is on or near his own goal line, he will most certainly be called for it, whether deliberate or not; unless it is Germany playing the U.S. in the World Cup!



2. The ball is out of play when it touches the sideline. Nope, Law 9 states that the ball is in play until the ball has WHOLLY CROSSED the touchline (sideline) or goal line. This is true even if the ball is in the air, therefore a player cannot jump and kick a ball back in play if it has, in the air, wholly crossed the line. Interestingly, the player can be wholly outside the field of play and still legally play the ball, as long as the ball is either on the line or inside the field of play. That is why the center flags are supposed to be at least one yard off of the touch (side) line. Similarly, the goalkeeper can legally be outside the field of play but be holding the ball over the line in the penalty area so that it is on the field of play. Conversely, even if his feet and body are in the penalty area, he may not be holding the ball over the line and outside it that would be deliberate handling.



3. Offside, what is it? This is not so much a myth as a lack of understanding. A player is called for being offside when two things are true, he is in an offside position AND, he is involved in active play. A player is in an offside position when he is nearer to his opponents goal than both the ball (thus any backward pass cannot cause an offside offense) and the second to last defender, (usually the goalie and an opposing team’s defender. A player is involved in active play by either interfering with play or an opponent or by gaining an advantage by being in the offside position. Think of it this way; imagine that the law is designed to prohibit a player from camping out in front of the opposition’s goal. So, if a player was doing this, and one of his teammates sent a long pass to him when he and the opposing goalkeeper were the only ones down on the other side of the field. He/she would be in an offside position (which is determined at the time the pass is made) and would be called for being so, because he/she was involved in active play by being in that advantageous position. Imagine the same situation except that the player was injured and sitting down near one of the corner flags. This player is certainly in an offside position, but he is not involved in active play because he is not interfering with play or any opposing players and gains no advantage by sitting down away from play in an injured state. Therefore, he should not be called for being offside. There are some situations where offside does not apply, on a throw in, goal kick or corner kick and on a pass to a player who is on his own half of the field.



4. Tackling from behind is not necessarily a foul. True. Not all tackles from behind are fouls, though a player takes his chances when attempting this difficult tackle. If performed cleanly, and it does not endanger the safety of an opponent, it is not a foul. However, due to the difficulty of performing such a tackle and the risk of injury to the opposing player if the tackle is incorrectly performed, many coaches, especially at young ages, discourage this attempt.



5. If a defensive player tackles the offensive player but gets to the ball first, there is no foul. This is also incorrect. Just because you get the ball first does not mean you have carte blanche to take out the player too. A tackle where the ball is reached first can still be called a foul if the tackle was made in a dangerous manner. However, if you get the player before the ball, it is always a foul. But even if you get ball first, if you then get the player in a dangerous manner, you may still be called for a foul.



6. Play should always stop on an offside offense or foul. No again. The referee may use what is called the advantage rule. If the team that was fouled would be better off if play continued, rather than it being stopped and the foul called, the referee has the discretion to let play continue. Sometimes the referee will let play continue for a time to see if in fact the disadvantaged team did benefit from the continued play, and, if not, he may then call the foul.



7. Long kicks toward the opposition’s goal are always a good thing. For little ones, the focus for them is to kick the ball, and not much more. For them, sometimes the direction isn’t even relevant. The older the players get though, the better their passing skills and the more important (and feasible) possession of the ball and controlled kicking (passing) becomes. Therefore, aimless boots downfield, or even long dropkicks by the goalkeeper, can often be counter productive, as the opposing team will often regain possession and bring the ball right back toward your own goal. Even a pass backward, to keep possession, is a very acceptable strategy. The goal of a team should be to keep possession, because, if you don’t have possession, you can’t score.



8. If the other team has the ball, a player should go after it immediately. Again, not always true. It is not always good to immediately challenge the offensive player for the ball. Sometimes it is better to delay the offensive player so that the defenders’ teammates can come and cover for him, in case he tries to steal the ball and is unsuccessful. The defender may also want to take time to encourage the opposing offensive player to move in one direction or the other (usually toward the touch line) or may also want to use patience to find just the right time to attempt the tackle (when the ball is furthest from the offensive player’s feet or when he has proper cover from his teammates). Patience and containment are often the goal of good defending, many times making an immediate challenge ill advised.



9. Physical Contact and shoulder charges are permissible. True. While violent and dangerous conduct is impermissible, jockeying for position and shoulder charges (two players contacting each other when going for the ball) are permitted, even if the contact sends one player flying. For a fair shoulder charge, imagine the ball at 12 o’clock. A fair shoulder charge is where the player, either by being slightly in front, even or in back of the side (but not center of the back) of the opponent pushes the player away from the ball to the 1 or 2 o’clock position. If the player pushes to 3 o’clock he has committed a foul, even if the shoulder charge is fair from all other aspects. The ref looks for the ability to make still play the ball even after the contact is made. So at 1 and 2 o’clock it is reasonable to assume the player can still put a foot on the ball. At 3, the player’s energy is being used to drive away the other player and they can no longer make a legitimate play on the ball as part of that situation. They have to stop one action (the shoulder charge) and step over to do the other action (possess the ball). This is not a fair charge. Any hands up to face or neck area is a foul regardless of possession. Also, any elbow up is a foul when applying pressure on an opponent. A player is in good shape with their hands and arms if they can maintain them at a 45 degree angle or less, provided they are not pushing the opponent to the 3 or 9 o’clock positions.



10. A player's "position" is not set in stone. Nothing drives a coach nuttier than a player not playing in his "position", however, positions on the field are relative. At any point in time, any field player can be almost anywhere on the field. They might be making a run into space to get open for a pass, dropping back to cover for someone else making a run, moving to support the player with the ball, or moving to support the player defending the ball. In general, they should maintain a certain "shape" on the field, but at any instant depending on the opportunities and necessities of what is happening, the general rule may not apply. Additionally, there are no set attributes that always apply to a certain position. Therefore, there is no position that is the "only" one your child can or should play. Your child could, during a game or over the course of a season, play more than one position.  For youth soccer, all the players benefit by playing different positions.



11. A coach who wins is a good coach, one who loses is not. This is not necessarily the case. The players and the coaches usually determine who wins and loses. It may be that the winning coach was fortunate to have better athletes assigned to the roster, or he/she may have recruited them. If you want to know if the coach is good, look for improvement in the players over the course of a year or two, whether or not they are having fun, has their been any movement among the players to other teams, does his/her players show up for practice all the time and most of all, are they developing a love for the game. If these are true, you have a good coach