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Question Number: 21050

Law 5 - The Referee 3/28/2009

RE: NFHS, AYSO, select Under 12

Joe Griego of Bishop, CA USA asks...

This happened last weekend during the Quartz Hill Shootout at the Lancaster Nat'l Soccer Center, and I've been second guessing myself since.

I was CR for a medal round match (3rd place) for U12 girls. Team A is attacking just outside the Team B's goal area. Team A player takes a shot. Team B keeper moves to one side to get the ball. She kneels down to scoop the shot, the ball rolls up her arms, strikes her face, and bounces away, right in front of the goal.

Team B keeper is out of the goal, the ball has bounced in front of the goal for a goal scoring opportunity. Team B keeper then goes to ground, hands to her face, crying (we're talking 11 year old girls here).

I allow play to continue (no one else has stopped playing), as no players are near the keeper - they have all followed the ball in front of goal. A Team B defender touches the ball first, but fails to clear, and a Team A player puts it into the net for a goal, which I allowed.

I blow the whistle and immediately attend to the fallen keeper. She has no blood, but she is still crying. The Team B coach is beckoned, and he has nothing but nasty things to say about my ability to protect the safety of players. This is an AYSO select tournament, and their stated objective is to keep games 'safe, fun, and fair.' The keeper chose to continue to play after being assisted by her coach.

So, my question is this - should I have stopped play immediately? This all takes place within about five seconds.

My rationale was 'what would I have done if this had happened anywhere else on the field?' I would have observed the fallen player for any serious injury, and if seeing none, I would have then waited for the next natural stoppage of play to attend to the player, and allow the coach or staff to attend to them.

I have no doubt that getting popped in the schnozz by a ball stings, and if it were an older age group, I wouldn't even doubt my decision for a moment - but with U12 girls, I'm torn. I know I would get stick regardless of which way I would have called it, but what do you folks think?

Joe G.
Bishop, CA

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

If the keeper was incapacitated by a shot and the result was that team no longer has a functioning alert keeper, keeping in mind the skill and age level it is likely a whistle to stop play could be correct.
A drop ball at the ball location subject to the goal area special circumstances would then be the correct restart.

I have had similar incidents where the younger ages although not seriously hurt, will still cry. If there is a momentary player break down, one could ask, "Can you continue!'

The Keeper must be able to realistically defend the goal! If the keeper was hurt by a ball that deflected into the goal or bounced immediately back and was shot into the goal on an immediate secondary follow up, the goal is likely not to be challenged as unfair.

Given there was NO immediate scoring threat and the ball did not deflect into the goal if the keeper instead of trying to recover the ball falls down and holds her face crying we can assume she is unable to play keeper, technically it is illegal for her team to play without one. A free ball, that if she was in playing mode she would recover it is easy to understand why the coach of her team thinks it is unfair to continue since she WOULD have control over that ball.

Time and circumstances dictate the reality of whether the injury albeit not truly seriously hurt, it was truly incapacitating and prevented the keeper from being able to collect or challenge for the rebound.

During a match here the young keeper dropped the ball, and the striker alertly responded to the free ball trying to boot that free ball into goal! The keeper bravely tried to reach down and grasp the ball as the striker knee clipped the side of her head and the ball went into the goal. I can not fault the keeper for trying to recover the dropped ball but it was not the striker's fault the keeper did not have ball control with her hands! The ball was FREE to be challenged the striker was in the process of kicking it. The follow through caught the keeper. Although now in my opinion seriously hurt AFTER the collision she could never have prevented the ball from entering the goal!

The coach responded similarly as yours did that I should protect the keeper by creating an imaginary foul against the striker or immediately stopping play! Yes she was hurt, Yes a goal was scored and Yes she was 12 BUT and this is the part most coaches fail to grasp she was the KEEPER and throwing the body in front of oncoming opposing players is RISKY business. Collisions will occur but this collision was a result of NOT making the save. It was not a lets run her over to knock the ball free event!

One last bit of detail here the coaches who accuse referees of not being as concerned as they are over the safety of their players simply are blowing emotional hot air! We can understand their feelings and cut some slack to vent but when they personalize the abuse or accuse of us of cheating just because the call was not made in their favor. Reasonable behavior guidelines dictate early trips to the parking lot

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

I doubt there's a right or wrong answer but since you asked.... Were I the center at this level game I would have stopped play when the young keeper went down. From your description she is unable to play and there is no attacker that immediately gets the ball as you state a teammate of the keeper first played the ball. This is in no way a criticism of you or your willingness to protect the players. You made a decision in a split second that the keeper was not seriously injured and allowed play to continue. The coach was insulting and out of line but it's expected in this instance. It's standard fare for coaches to complain we don't care about their players safety when a goal goes against them. Of course, the coach is rarely concerned about the safety of the opposing keeper.

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 21050
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