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Question Number: 32844

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/26/2018

RE: High School

John (Iain) Doleman of Las Vegas, NV United States asks...

If a goalkeeper has a finger on the ball on the ground, is this deemed to be possession?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when:
  the ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface
(e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands
or arms except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper
has made a save
 holding the ball in the outstretched open hand
 bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi John ,
all things being equal, the ball is stationary, finger there on top, the opponents MUST abandon all challenges .

What can occur is the reach for a loose ball as the foot arrives.

The opponent has to be mindful in how he lunges in given he can bust up the keeper face or hands if they are down reaching for the ball.

He has every right to play a loose ball but not so in a challenge, that no matter, early or late, it will wipe out the keeper regardless.

Once a keeper has possession the opponent must be ready to jump over or bailout of the challenge . To carry through, saying, I could not stop, is NO excuse!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


In high school, possession is defined as a live ball controlled by a team, player, or a goalkeeper. A controlled ball is one which may be passed, thrown, dribbled or shot on goal by a player. Having a finger on the ball is then only considered control if the touching of the finger would allow the goalkeeper to dribble, throw or pass the ball. If there is control of the ball with the finger, i.e., the ball is being held (stationary) or pushed on the ground, there would be control, and, therefore, possession. If the ball is moving without any control by the goalkeeper, then there would be no possession. I think that in most instances, it is evident when the ball is under control of the goalkeeper. I hope that this helps and that you get to work in the NIAA State Championships.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
In live play this can be difficult to determine.
In NFHS games possession or control of the ball includes when the goalkeeper has the ball trapped by either or both hands.
Does one finger constitute *trapped* by a hand. In FIFA the law as outlined by Referee Wright is interpreted as any part of the hand. Even at that though I cannot really envision a one finger trap.
So each situation will be different. The ball may be trapped for a second yet then released again in the finger scenario.
What the rule / law is there for is to protect the goalkeeper while in control / possession of the ball. Without that opponents could decide to kick the goalkeepers hands / arms in such situations. That is not allowed under both codes.

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