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Question Number: 32276

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 3/3/2018

RE: Casual Under 19

Arthur of Cariacica, EspĂ­rito Santo Brazil asks...

Hi there. When I was a child and was part of a soccer school, our coach always oriented us to protect not only our private parts but also our faces when forming a wall, so the ball didn't hurt us so much and it wouldn't affect the ball trajectory significantly (since if the hands weren't there the ball would hit us anyway). Isn't this allowed in professional soccer? Is it considered a foul if the ball hits the player's hand that is protecting his face?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Arthur
I am of the view that raising the arm across the head at a free kick is using the arm for an advantage not just protection. It is without doubt handling if the player jumps / moves instead of just standing there.
Some referees will allow the protection with no jump / move yet many will not seeing that the alternative is to avoid the ball. In the lower regions of the body the player does not have any option as the ball is going to hit him anyway so it is significantly different.
So the player runs a very high risk of handling with an arm up at his head. If the player does not want to get hit then avoid the ball or do not go into the wall in the first place.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Arthur,
there is a movement to ban heading in youth matches, in the USA it already is instituted for u 12 matches and lower . Now given it is an free kick against if you use your head I see keeping the hand in front of the face or covering the ear will occur even more. Personally I do not care if with in the wall they place their hands or arms along the front of the body. I see no deliberate action by this unless they use it to push away the ball or extend outwards to block.

I had a group of fearsome players who would link arms to prevent the opponents from inserting themselves into the wall. I hemmed it was a poor tactic but they thought it was their right to do so and were amazed somewhat when I awarded a second free kick from the ball hitting their linked arms which in my opinion widen their body using the arm cutting down the ball flight path illegally. Their claim their arms were there to start in a chicken wing formation made no headway in denying the DFK I awarded for a deliberate handling.offence.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Arthur,
As we frequently mention when questions about handling offences come up, it's probably the most subjective area of the law. I think the referee should always try to base their decisions on the law, which says that:

''Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.

The following must be considered:

the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offence''

If the hand is held motionless in front of the face, you could say that it has not moved towards the ball so the player is not guilty on that count. In terms of hand position, the law is fairly equivocal and frankly not much help here. Where this particular practice risks falling foul of the law for me, is on the second factor of distance and/or unexpected ball. With 10 yards distance and a clear expectation that the ball is coming their way, the players in the wall should be capable of avoiding the ball hitting their hand, if they so choose. They can for instance, either head the ball away or duck out of the way. Their coach and team mates might not be too happy if they move out of the way and let the ball go by but that isn't really the referee's problem.

I tend to interpret the second consideration to mean that if a player clearly sees the ball coming their way, has enough time and space to avoid the ball hitting their hand, but simply chooses not to and deliberately leaves the hand there, leading to contact between hand and ball, that makes it an offence.

I might allow a little more leeway to younger players as it is often the case that they do not have so much control of their actions and are more likely to have an instinctive reaction to a ball but for adult players I'm unlikely to be so tolerant of a player that leaves their hand in front of their face and lets the ball hit it.

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