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Question Number: 33669

Other 9/23/2019

RE: Competitive Under 13

Bridget Merdan of Loretto, Minnesota United States asks...

My son plays keeper primarily. This weekend we played the same team on Sat (home) and Sun (away). One of opposing team members was playing very aggressively (also he was the biggest kid on the field by far). Within the 1st 15 mins of the game he had been verbally warned 3 ties by the ref for shoving, late contact... The 3rd time the ref warned him was right near the side lines so we all heard what occurred. However he did not issue a yellow card. During the 2nd 1/2 my son ran out of goal to meet this player's challenge on the goal. He dove for the ball had his hands on it but this player kicked the ball loose and stepped directly on my son's calf. He was barely able to get up and play wasn't stopped until after the ball went out of bounds. At which point the keeper collapsed down and had to be helped off the field. He has a cut and clear purple cleat marks on his calf. (Also of note shortly after another of our players was taken off after this same kid knocked him down so hard he had to be evaluated for a concussion) My son was able to play the next day when we played this same team again. Unfortunately Sunday's game was a different set of refs. Similar thing happens in the 2nd half. Same overly aggressive kid tried to knock the ball out of keeper's hands while he laid out on the ground (keeper kept the ball so obvious possession) but this time he steps on the keeper's knee while he is on the ground. Took 2 people to carry him off the field. This kid was never warned or given a card. (side note we had a different coaches for both games due to timing conflict) What should a parent do in these situations? I have asked our coach to speak with the our other coach and to file a grievance with the league. I wonder how many other keepers and players this kid has injured? Should I as a parent also speak to the league? I have always kept my comments to myself regarding ref calls and respected the outcomes but this to me is a clear safety issue. It seems the refs tend to error on the side of 'it was unintentional' vs holding players accountable. What should a parent do?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bridget
In essence the question is around what constitutes foul play and the ability of the referee group as a whole on foul recognition and sanctioning same.
At Underage one of the challenges facing any competition is the mismatch in size, strength etc. Throw in poor motor skills, differing levels of skill, ability, team mismatch, lack of coaching etc and that can cause all sorts of problems for the referee crew.
Clearly any parent does not want to see any injury to his / her child and neither does a referee want to see any child hurt on his watch. Soccer is a contact sport and there are situations where players get trod on, kicked, knocked over. It is up to the referee to decide what additional sanction if any should be taken in each individual situation.
Case in point is the goalkeeper that dives at the feet of an opponent. That has inherent risks and sometimes the goalkeeper can come off worse in such challenges. As a young boy I recall one of the times that I went into goal and I dived at the feet of an attacker which caused him to fall on me breaking my wrist. It was no fault of the opponent and it was an accident. I spent 12 weeks in plaster.
In your instance two different referees and crew viewed this player and his actions. Neither group saw the need to sanction the player. Now these are very much in the *eye of the beholder* type situations. There is nothing wrong with being combative in play and there will be a line between legal and illegal. The issue is around identifying that line when it is crossed. In addition referee actions are always in arrears meaning that even with sanction the event has still happened.
Now let me flip this around to my own experience. In hindsight I was entirely inexperienced in coming out challenging an opponent putting myself in harms way. I came off worse with a broken arm. Young goalkeepers want to emulate the Pro (which I think was my thinking at the time) who comes out to dive at the feet of opponents yet that places them in a very dangerous position.
Personally I see little point in approaching the League as they will see it as probably a refereeing issue. Refereeing will view this as very much dependent on each individual referee making a call based on individual circumstances on a given day.
The part you can control / manage is your sons playing tactics in such situations. My view is that he is putting himself in harms ways and may be taking greater risks that he should at this age group irrespective of any sanction that a referee can or should impose. I suspect the referee crews did not see blatant foul play such as leading with a raised boot, stamping etc that merited a card. Both read to me as probable fouls with after contact due to the way the players ended up which resulted both times in getting trod on.
Now I see no issue with making the League aware of your concern yet it has to be of a general nature not singling out an individual player. Whether it has any impact I cannot really say yet my experience is that it may not have much if any impact. I know that referee observers attend training sessions and they highlight concerns about safety, sanctioning reckless play. It is still though up to the referee on the day to deal with the situations that present as best he can.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Bridget,
as father, player, fan, coach and referee I admit it can be difficult looking in from the touch line if you perceive the action on the FOP is being mismanaged.
You are certainly entitled to feel that player safety is being compromised due to the lack of foul recognition by the officials.
Yet at times we must agree to disagree and move on or the game descends into chaos. I see you honor that and are to be commended. Your dilemma is how to effect change on an unpleasant situation?
Any decent soccer association has some form of training, assessment & mentoring programs designed in hopes of producing efficient integrity driven officials to do the best job they can.
There should be codes of conduct for ALL to follow and a way of communicating any issues that arise like the very one you are stating exists. t
There needs to be a conduit for complaints or recommendations to be considered and dealt with. Comment sheets , phone numbers? An address or email to send letters, comments, video, pictures petition etc.. A parent should love their kid, support his choices, look after his interests. Kids need to fight their own battles so be a bit careful in how you go about this. You do not want to embarrass, but he should know and respect that your goal is to ensure he has a good life, is safe and supported in his journeys.

I often remark that the game is viewed differently by the various individuals that comprise the game.
Fans see what they think they see,
Parents and Players see what they feel ,
Coaches and managers see what they want to see
where as a referee with integrity sees what he sees.
What we all NEED to see is there is no perfect solution.

Not unlike players, referees are at various points in the learning cure of experience as they try to work out the necessary skills and techniques to do the job effectively .
Foul recognition is not the same as reading it in the book, we can memorize the LOTG but it is as much art as science in applying them.

As a referee you need to be physically fit , aware, anticipate, seek good angles of view, pay attention to the reactions and comments.. We do not listen to be told what to do but we must be aware of the surroundings . We can not be complacent or smug in knowing that we are neutral to outcome whereas others are not so what we decide is ALWAYS correct because those others are biased. Yes we do cloud out views based on needs and perception but seeing patterns recognizing there is injurious play on display that is not sufficiently sanctioned or recognized is alarming given unnecessary injuries and USB reckless actions, SFP excessive actions, or VC vicious behavior being permitted.

Yet the position of keeper is risky one and diving into the feet of oncoming players to win a ball is going to end badly every so often. It is why keepers need to be taught how to tackle and be aware of the dangers in putting themselves in harms way. It is also true that larger player sizes do create physic issues given the wide range of physicality, mass, speed and height that can be on the pitch at the same time. We cannot punish big kids because they are big, but we can ensure they recognize they must refrain from intimidation and bullying by charging carelessly recklessly or excessively using their advantage of size unfairly .

You could approach the league in the various ways I mentioned. Write an article, ask other to sign a petition or if they agree with your observations they too can write in their comments. Check on to see what programs are offered to assist with officiating. You could become a member of the soccer association or even become a referee yourself? That too helps because then you get a better overall perspective of maybe why somethings are the way they are. If your recommendations are not rant orientated, but articulate, supported by video, doctors reports, pictures referee comment sheet by other supporting your claims etc.. it can only strengthen your position., giving you a better chance of someone in authority perhaps having some impact for the conduct of the future . I hope everyone recovers, The referees pay greater attestation & the larger sized youth gets a talking too fixing the violent behavior with some consequences should it not.

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