Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 16054

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/17/2007

RE: Semi Pro College

Modi of Porcia, Porcia Italy asks...

I know people like Ronaldinho can balance the ball on their head for a considerable amount of time. In accordance with FIFA is it allowed for someone to balance the ball on their head and advance towards the goal?

Furthermore what about using the side of your face and your shoulder to trap the ball and then advance towards the goal?

This is a serious pun intended. Thanks for your answer.

Answer provided by Referee Ben Mueller

It is not only a serious question, but a good question. If a player balances the ball between their shoulder and head and an opponent hesitates to play the ball as a result, then it is a dangerous play. This results in an ifk. Same thing with balancing the ball on the top of the head. Opponents would hesitate to play ball because they do not want to kick at someones face. I am interested in what my colleagues have to say about this one.

Read other questions answered by Referee Ben Mueller

View Referee Ben Mueller profile

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

I agree with Ref Mueller that a ball trapped between the head and shoulder is playing in a dangerous manner, if the opponent cannot fairly challenge.

As for balancing the ball on top of the player's head, a fair shoulder-to-shoulder charge should soon cause the player to lose the ball. I also doubt that any player, Ronaldinho not excepted, could manage to run very far down the field balancing the ball. I see no problem here, unless the opponent thinks he should try to remove the ball from the head using his foot.

Read other questions answered by Referee Gary Voshol

View Referee Gary Voshol profile

Answer provided by Referee Jon Sommer

I don't see a reason why a player can't legally challenge for a ball on top of someone's head with their own head. The ball is open to be won, and hesitation from opponant isn't, in my opinion, legit here. The ball is possible to win by a legal shoulder to shoulder challenge or a header. Therefore it doesn't constitute playing in a dangerous manner. Having said this, if it becomes impossible for the ball to be won, by any means other than a high foot, then it is playing in a dangerous manner and IDF. This is completely different to running with the ball between head and shoulder because that is a secured ball, whereas on top of your head is open and easily moved.


Read other questions answered by Referee Jon Sommer

View Referee Jon Sommer profile

Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

The referee MUST look at the skill of the players involved when something like this happens, just like he does when a player falls down and continues to play the ball. The primary concern happens to be is there a danger present AND does that disadvantage an opponent or does the opponent give up play for the ball because of the danger?

The greatest majority of referees are doing matches where the skills are just above reading how-to books. Something, like this, on one of those matches is going to require a stoppage. If Ronaldinho pulled something like you describe in front of John Terry you can bet the ball won't be there very long AND Ronaldinho won't pull that one again. Things like this are relative... Who is doing it, who is trying to undo it and what are their skills. Can the ball be safely played by THAT player, yes play continues and, if, no then we pull him up and restart indirect.


Read other questions answered by Referee Chuck Fleischer

View Referee Chuck Fleischer profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Modi,
the level of skill and the nature of the game I can just about guarantee Ronaldinho would get knocked flat on his butt by a legal shoulder charge very quickly as it would be dificult to manuveur about the field in such a fashion.
While such a ball can not be FAIRLY kicked if it is accessible to be fairly challanged PIADM might not be present at all. I agrre with my colleagues that a ball on the head is far different than a ball carried in the small of the neck and top of the back .

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Gil Weber

Hello, Modi. Allow me to give you my thoughts.

There is a player in Brazil named Kerlon. He's about 20 years old and has played for the Brazilian U-17 and U-20 national teams. Kerlon has developed a skill that's called the "Seal Dribble." When he gets near the opponent's penalty area he flicks the ball up into the air, runs underneath it, and then bounces the ball off his forehead as he runs (dribbles) toward goal. He is VERY good at this.

How do opponents stop him? Unfortunately, by using cruel tactics.

I have several videos of Kerlon in my collection. In one the opponent steps directly into Kerlon's path and throws a shoulder into Kerlon's chest. Kerlon is flattened. Obvious foul.

In another video the opponent kicks Kerlon across the chest -- just below the neck. Kerlon is flattened, Another obvious foul.

In yet another video the opponent pushes Kerlon out from under the ball using a much too aggressive shoulder charge. Again, an obvious foul.

In all these instances Kerlon's play clearly can NOT be considered as playing in a dangerous manner. He has not trapped the ball, and he has not done anything that in any way violates the Laws of the Game or the Spirit of the Game. While Kerlon's opponent's cannot safely or legally play the ball away with a foot, that's too bad for them. Kerlon is simply creating a huge BUT FAIR advantage for himself.

Now, since the opponents cannot play that ball away as they would if it were being dribbled on the ground, the only way to LEGALLY disposes the air-dribbler is to knock that very skilled player off the ball in a fair manner. I suggest to you that the ONLY fair way to stop this sort of exceptional skill (air dribbling) is with a carefully timed shoulder charge using LIMITED (reasonable) force.

As referee we need to judge the challenge and decide if the force behind the challenge is reasonable given the circumstances. Clearly the defender cannot run full force into the air-dribbler and "blast" that player out from under the ball. Remember, even shoulder charging is a foul if done with excessive (disproportionate) force.

So we need to look at and "feel" the charge. We need to watch the defender and gauge his actions. For example, did the defender run along side the air-dribbler and put in a reasonable shoulder charge timed for the moment the air-dribbler's weight is on the foot nearest the defender (the moment when any dribbler is most vulnerable to a shoulder charge). Or did the defender simply run straight at the air-dribbler and take him out?

Referees have a responsibility to protect all the players and to allow them, especially the very skilled ones, to show their abilities and to enjoy the game. When players show exceptional skill the referee has an added responsibility to make sure that any opponents who may be embarrassed do not use any callous, cynical, calculated tactics to destroy those who make the game beautiful.

Read other questions answered by Referee Gil Weber

View Referee Gil Weber profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 16054
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.