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Playing The Ball While On The Ground

Mark Sprenger 12/18/2005

Why is the referee not penalizing players for "playing the ball while on the ground"?

The simple answer is that it is not a foul to "play the ball while on the ground". Players, especially in the higher age groups, use a move called a "slide tackle", which adds an exciting element to the game, where a player "plays the ball on the ground" by sliding into it.

If it is not a foul then why do some referees call this a foul?

If the referee signals a free kick against a player who is "playing the ball on the ground" he is actually penalizing the player on the ground for playing in a dangerous manner.

The player on the ground has as much right to the ball as any player on the field, however, he is not allowed to endanger himself or others in his attempt to play the ball. An Indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team when, in the referees oppinion, a player plays in a dangerous manner (FIFA Law 12 2000). This is the most common reason a referee stops play and awards a free kick when a player "plays the ball while on the ground". It becomes dangerous when attacking players kicking at the ball are near the downed player. I should add that this is more of a problem in the younger age groups when players are still learning how to control their play. If the downed player continues to play the ball then he is endangering himself and possibly the other players. Play is stopped for his own safety and an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team.

So next time you wonder why the referee did not call a player for "playing the ball on the ground" ask yourself did the player endanger himself or someone else by playing the ball. If not "play on" - no harm no foul!

I will also add that in many indoor soccer leagues it is illegal to play the ball while sitting, laying or being on the ground. Many referees officiate both and the seasons do overlap so those that do should be mindful of the rules for both.

Mark Sprenger is the Founder and Creator of While not on or around the field Mark runs an Internet Marketing Company for Realtors.

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