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Question Number: 22592

Law 5 - The Referee 11/27/2009

RE: competitive Adult

Nikunj Patel of Canfield, OH United States asks...

I was playing in a match last week and was rather confused by a call a referee made. I believe he might have been taking out a personal grudge against the team when this happened, but I figured I would ask what the rule is before making any harsh opinions. There was a free kick taken from about 25 yards out. I was in the box with my back towards the goal and a defender on my left shoulder. The ball was delivered towards me and i flicked the ball off my head and into the goal. Here is the dilemma... At the same time I was heading the ball, the keeper came behind me and jumped up to punch the ball away. He missed the ball and landed squarely on my back and we both hit the ground. The goal was not allowed and I was called for undercutting the keeper and the other team was awarded a free kick from the spot. Am I wrong to think our team was cheated? Can you provide some clarification on the rule of when a ball is in the air and box like that?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

The question is how did this look from the referees perspective, from his position on the field of play rather than what you describe here. If the referee saw the goalkeeper making a play for the ball and a forward as you describe it 'undercuts' with contact that would indeed be a foul, even if the ball was played. Player are not allowed to back in to an opponent and it would be viewed as a charge using the back. In addition referees tend to 'overprotect' goalkeepers from unfair challenges in the air and I have seen many fouls given to goalkeepers that in fact are on the generous side so this referee is not unique. The incident as you described it would not be a foul.
I might say as well that players and referees do not take very kindly to be called a cheat and it is a comment that should be used with the greatest caution in respect of anyone and most certainly in respect of an official.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

To decide whether your play was fair or foul, the referee probably watched your feet. When a defender jumps straight up, and the opponent on the ground moves his feet to back in, it feels like the keeper jumped on your back (and inexperienced referees may call it that way). The foul, however, is charging by the one the undercutting (also described as making a back) . To judge who jumped on/charged whom, the referee has to be positioned correctly from the side.

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Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

When the referee makes a decison to call a foul, it is based on their opinion of what they saw. This opinion, in turn, is based upon their experience. The referee for your match had the opinion that you committed a foul. This is a fact connected with play and therefore irrefutable. Since I was neither the referee , nor even there to see it, I am in no position to tell you whether it was or was not a foul.?

From the stand point of the referee, it is possible that he saw somehing you did not. Since you had your back to the goal and you were concentrating on the service from your teammate, couldn't it be possible that you left the ground AFTER the goalkeeper had already committed his play in the air and you may in fact have undercut him as you describe??

As a referee, there is nothing to be gained to have some personal vendetta against a team. The job of the referee is to punish players who cheat. It's highly unlikely that you will ever come across a referee who's sole purpose is to punish a team simply because he/she doesn't like that team. The path you choose to follow is one that is quite offensive to me and to any referee you will ever come across. There is only a difference of opinion here and you would do well to consider your accusation and what you are really saying.?

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

From your perspective it may have seemed like the goalkeeper fouled you; from the keeper's perspective it may have seemed like you fouled the keeper. The referee made the choice from his perspective. For an example that, I refer you to Esse Baharmast's PK call in the World Cup. He saw a jersey pull and called it. The resulting goal changed who would advance. He was vilified for 3 days, until a newspaper photo finally showed the perspective he had - a hand on a shirt that was stretching it into a size XXXXXXXL.

There were also remarks made at that time that Esse was biased, just as you claim your referee was. These are serious charges indeed. When true bias is found, such as in match-fixing scandals that have happened over the last several years, it is dealt with severely. A referee in England was even temporarily barred because he was in financial difficulties in his business, just in case.

I've heard comments about myself that indicate someone thinks I'm biased, simply because I talked to the other coach after the game. (He was a fellow referee and I was confirming an appointment we had together.) There was even one memorable U12 game where the coaches were yelling across the field at each other about which team I was favoring more! And I've been called a 'homer' when I was reffing at an away site. In all those cases, I had no opinion on which team should win, and I certainly wasn't rooting for any teams. The perception of bias is strongest when things aren't going our way.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

You couldn't possibly see what the keeper was doing as you had your back to him. The referee called what he saw; you undercutting the keeper. Were you 'cheated'? Of course not. Whether the call was incorrect or correct is immaterial. Referees don't cheat; they punish players that do. 99.999% of all referees could not care less who wins a game and to even infer that this referee had somehow cheated you is inappropriate

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