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HEY REF – Part 1
Soccer players (and many coaches, too) often learn the sport in terms of how it is played: the skills, the strategies, the language, etc. However, the actual Laws of the Game are rarely addressed. Marc Block, a National Referee, will address some of the more common misconceptions in this three part featured article series.
Hand Ball or handling is one of the oldest sins in soccer and was one of the first fouls that the referee was ever allowed to call. It is one of the most defining aspects of the sport, especially when committed in the penalty area. It is also one of the most misunderstood rules of the game. Handling is defined as using your hand or arm (up to the shoulder) to play the ball.
From the Laws of the Game, we find that the actual foul is when a player "handles the ball deliberately" (except for the goalkeeper in his or her own penalty area). Deliberate means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to do so. The rule of thumb that referees should use to judge handling is a simple one. Did the ball play the player, or did the player play the ball? The punishment for this foul is a direct free kick for the other team, unless the foul is by a player in his or her own penalty area. Then this results in a penalty kick.
Can a player cross their arms to protect their body, so the ball won’t hurt them? Think about what is being done to understand what is or isn’t allowed. If the ball is already in flight, and the player moves their arms to protect themselves from being hit… hmmm… sounds like playing the ball, doesn’t it. But, if the player is standing in a wall with his or her arms crossed before the kicker plays the ball, and happens to be the lucky one that gets hit… well, that sounds more like the ball playing the player, doesn’t it?
A common complaint you will hear is "the player gained an advantage because the ball hit their arm!" Remember, in this situation the ball hit the arm and played the player. Another aspect is, the Laws of the Game don’t say anything about the player gaining an advantage from handling the ball. Again, the only foul that should be called is when the ball is handled deliberately.
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