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Question Number: 29029

Law 18 - Common Sense 12/4/2014

RE: Comp Under 11

Chris of Marysville, California United States asks...

I coach a U10 boys competitive team. I have a VERY aggressive goalkeeper who is not afraid to put his body on the line. He will often make sliding challenges, diving for the ball and covering it up, sliding through in what could best be described as a fetal position. Occasionally, his momentum will carry him into the oncoming attacker. While he has never been penalized I wanted to get the opinion of some more referees. If a keeper makes a sliding challenge, gaining clear control of the ball, and his momentum carries him into the oncoming attacker, has he committed a foul? I often hear complaining about him playing dirty from other coaches/parents, but he never attempts to slide through an opponent, he is covering up the ball to ensure he maintains possession. As I said, he normally has the ball in his gut with his knees pulled up to protect himself, never with his legs extended.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Chris,
aggressive keepers at the youth stage are a great benefit to a team knowing they have a guy between the pipes that is not scared and thus inspires confidence in the team. As long as the player refrains from RECKLESS actions in he plays the position well, tactically and practically not radically!
Lets face a few facts!
Competitive youth play is a bit of a roll of dice. The skill level of players even at that stage has many levels of accountability and range. The abilities and athletic inclinations often put players in distinct top versus bottom when sizing up potential. For example where I used to coach there were rec leagues, house leagues, then travel with bronze 1,2,3 silver 1 ,2 or 3 and gold 1 or 2 with metro being the final stage before being selected for provincial elite then national . This for a single age group, 15 or so different levels of play. From a kid running around the school yard to a selected national possibility! If you get a player who could be playing up, but is not, he can dominate in a lower division. A highly competitive player who will not back off from a challenge at the youth level is intimidating to many at that level. There is a reason why young kids move up to play in the older divisions.
Without watching your keeper it is difficult to say if his technique is top notch versus he just scares the crap out of the opponents with an intimidating style. You make a case for his value given your description I can see nothing foul about it! You mention those watching do not like his style of play. While perceived bias is one element of an observation. Are those refereeing awarding Pks or fouls against his actions?

My colleagues give thought as to what can be considered foul but to assign blame to your keeper's action it seems his fearless attitude may cause some to jump to conclusions? Safety is ALWAYS a concern and while there are risks to throwing the body at the feet of incoming players, what we deem acceptable may not always fit within the opinion of another.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

How the keeper executes the tackle will be very important in judging fair or foul, even when the keeper makes contact with the ball. The distance slid, the amount of force used, whether the keeper has launched into the air (and how high off the ground) and what the keeper does with each leg will inform the referee's decision.

We often see a keeper sliding toward the ball, but extending their legs straight toward the opponent (exposing the bottom of the cleat). This is a form of intimidation, and should be punished (and cautioned as unsporting behavior). The same slide with the legs tucked under the keeper will appear to be (and is) a fair challenge for the ball. Similarly, if the hips are well off the ground, the keeper has set up to take out the attacker if the keeper misses the ball. If the hips are sliding on the ground, the keeper's focus is usually on the ball.

Keeper/attacker challenges present one other difficulty for the referee. If the referee is directly behind the attacker, it is difficult to judge who runs into whom. (It is often clearer when viewed from the side.) Because of this, the keeper should be mindful that it needs to be clear that the keeper has a clear opportunity to play the ball.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chris
An interesting question and one that confronts referees from time to time.
It is always a difficult call when a goalkeeper put himself at more risk than an opponent through his actions by diving at the feet of opponents or sliding from a distance to gather the ball. If the goalkeepers actions though are reckless with raised cleats or he has been reckless then the referee must deal with by the award of a penalty kick and a caution. Many times though the opponent may also show little fear and it ends up in a strong coming together of both players.
Most times when a goalkeeper has gathered the ball in the manner described referees will not see that as a foul. Referees will probably be relieved that no one is hurt and as the goalkeeper has gathered the ball will allow play on. It is certainly always going to be a big call to award the penalty kick when the GK has the ball safely gathered. That is not to say that it cannot be a foul just that it is rarely called.

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