Monday, February 28, 2011

Will it still be Qatar in 2022?

With unrest washing over the Middle East, these are uncertain times for us all. Apparently Qatar is no exception, as this story indicates: Facebook page calls for removal of Qatar's Emir.

Funny enough, part of the FIFA technical report recounted political support for THE game in the US as a reason for not bringing it over here.

FIFA's observation seems a bit hollow in the face of what is happening in that part of the world currently.

I wonder if Sepp is having second thoughts about 2022 now?

Friday, February 25, 2011

U-20 player punches himself

Thanks to Ed Rae for spotting this unusual attempt at trickery.

Read the brief story and view the clip. Is there something out of balance here? The Chilean player Carrasco was feigning being punched in an effort to get his opponent dismissed from the game. Should Carrasco therefore be dismissed for this act?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I guess they can afford to pay them that much

Soccer is China's No. 1 spectator sport

Soccer is regarded as the No. 1 spectator sport in China. Large crowds attend live games and large audiences tune in for televised games for both local Chinese teams and famous foreign ones. By one count 3.5 million of China’s roughly 600 million soccer fans regularly attend soccer matches at local stadiums. Soccer Boy is one of the country's top comics.

Soccer is the first sport to find some commercial success. The players are highly paid. Many earn over 1 million yuan ($146,000) a year, a considerable sum in China. At home and in restaurants and tea houses, men spend a lot of time sitting around radios or televisions tuning in to soccer matches. The matches themselves can be quite rowdy. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Show me the money!!

U.S. coach Bob Bradley underpaid compared to peers

How much money do you think U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley makes? How about U.S. women’s coach Pia Sundhage?

You might be surprised to find out. ...

See the full article here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: This is interesting to me, and thinking selfishly it certainly translates to the referees. Lets face it, refereeing is a great hobby, but is not a way to make a career. While we have 2 or 3 referees that are actually employed by MLS and make ~$50K/year, it's hardly a living wage for these folks who have young families. For the others, fees are on a match by match basis and based on availability.

Mr. Bradley's $850K is certainly well earned and allows him to focus on what he needs for player development. What about the referees? I would opine that $50K does not cut it to allow a referee to just worry about their responsibilities as a referee only.

Is it worth commissioning a small group of referees, make them employee's of MLS (or other referee company), and pay them a "higher than average" wage?

What do we think US Soccer would get if we found 6 referees, and pay them each $150K/year and all they did was train and referee? Understanding that this pool would not be enough to service all MLS games ... would we get some top class folks? After all this is about what Mr. Bradley makes today.

US Soccer is spending a fair amount of money to make sure we try to get a team into international play, and maybe a World Cup. Why not spend the money and work hard to increase US Soccer's chance to send a referee?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Embrace the chaos

There are times in my recent refereeing past, and times in my current assessing present, and instructional future where I sought (or seek) to understand the style of play the teams are going to employ for the day to calculate possible problem areas.

For example, and please note I am overgeneralizing here, if I had a South American styled team, I would expect more individual ball possession than a Western European team which would likely provide long ball from the back 1/3 to the front 1/3. This combination at times could be problematic at these competing styles clashed.

More homogeneous styled teams would lead to a more balanced approach in play style and consequently, refereeing style.

So what style do US players have, and how does a referee react to them when faced with a more classic style as that listed above?

This article is intended to comment on the first part of the question only as the second part will take up volumes of a book I am currently contemplating and would certainly leak parts here from.

For those who did not know Claudio Reyna has been named the Youth Technical Director for U.S. Soccer recently and has been charged with figuring out this very question. What style does the US play?

In this article from ESPN, Reyna is suggesting to publish a curriculum to begin to standardize some common elements that the US Youth can work on. On the surface this may make some sense, but it certainly has its flaws ... and critics. From the article (sic):
"A curriculum's not going to make us any better," Arena said. "If that was the case, we'd all publish curriculums. This country, I've always said, is too large, too different to have one style of play. If he [Reyna] can get that accomplished, more credit to him."
 And from Steve Nicol who is never at a loss for words ...
"It depends on what you mean by 'try to establish a style of play,'" said New England coach Steve Nicol, the Liverpool legend who has mastered the art of scouting and developing players from college campuses. "We all want to pass the ball, and we all want to play good, open attacking football. If we can develop players to have that ability, the style will evolve on its own. What we'll have is players who can play the game properly."
So it would seem that Claudio has his work cut out for him.

On the other side of the flipping coin there are (2) issues.

First, what does a US referee do in such a case where players do not have a defined style?

My brief answer is study the individual team, and coach, and frankly be ready for anything. At the end of the day all the preparation in the world can be destroyed by a random event or player that is having a real terrible day. After all, all of us are not only involved in THE game, but also in the greater game of life and stuff happens in life that can disrupt those "expected" patters of how a match should play out on paper.

Second is in the form of a question. As the citizens of the US are culturally diverse, and among them are not only players but referees, how does US Soccer remedy this issue among its referees, who like its players, may be seeing THE game through their cultural identity, in a search for consistency among its referees?

Players have Claudio fighting the fight ...

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Soccer: Your game for life"

Must time is spent from many of us discussing either the youth game, or the professional and international game. There are times it can be easy to forget the space in between where there are tens of thousands of players in the US, and no doubt millions across the globe.

This space is where the adult players reside.

It is my opinion that no referee is ready for "the big time" unless they have a healthy diet of "adult" matches under their belt. I place adult in quotes because I am referring to chronological age only and not behavior patters as frankly some of the most childish behavior I have seen has been during these matches. Which is exactly why it is critical for referees to get experience in them.

Much is said about US Youth Soccer and AYSO, the youth organizations in the US that support THE game, and rightly so as these are huge mechanisms that keep the youth engaged and excited about THE game. This is no small feat as soccer is the most played sport in the US for the youth.

In "the gap" as it were (which is really funny as this "gap" is the largest chronological span in a players life) is the adult game. Here, the USASA has purview as the keeper of the adult game, with the (very appropriate) tagline "Soccer - your game for life."

While I think we hear less about these folks, they play a vital role in preserving continuity in THE game. After all, where does one play after U-19? Here is where the USASA provides a venue for competition after ones "youth."

As you would expect, there is a critical need for referees to service THE game at this level. As you also would expect, there is a referee committee made up of some of the best and brightest administrators to assure referees are well represented and THE game is cared for. A listing of these folks is here.

You may note a familiar name.

Indeed, Massachusetts SRA, Andy Weiss has been named as the Region I referee administrator for the USASA. Please join me in congratulating him to his, additional, new post.

I am confident he will be the guardian of THE adult game for the USASA, as he has done throughout his career for Massachusetts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man and Machine

Any fellow geeks or just pop culture followers have likely been watching the Man v. Machine battle on Jeopardy! with the "Jeopardy! Challenge." This is really fascinating stuff on a bunch of levels for me.

A brief video is below for those interested.

Well that got me thinking ... Not that long ago I ran across the Robo Cup, where technology meets soccer. A video from IEEE (which I am also a member of) is below for those interetsed.

I continue to be blown away by the technology curve we are on, and what is yet to come. Of course rumors that Sepp Blatter is creating a cyber division of FIFA must be false.

Take a peek, its worth the time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Already one foot out the door ... and being pushed?

The other day we posted about the (re)birth of the NASL.As was clear from those stories, they have only a one year lease on life to be sanctioned by US Soccer. At the end of 2011 they would, it would appear, need to re-apply and have the "provisional" removed if the league were to survive.

Interestingly enough, there was another signifigant rub as reported here by MLS Talk. From the article:
Earning their provisional sanctioning back, the NASL lost the right to participate in the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
 ... and the reason why you may ask, and I quote Sunil Gulati:
... it’s simply too late to include them. The timing doesn’t work. There is no place in the structure; they’re not going to be included.

For me that one borders on even passing the "sniff test". I understand the provisional status as there has to be concern over the business viability of such a league. Take for example the WUSA. Great league, and had all the hallmarks about staying around for the long haul. End result ... no fiscal discipline and wound up folding after just a few years. That was a fairly dramatic blow to US Soccer and promotion of the womens game here in the US. Further, while I am glad the WPS is now playing, I am equally fearful of the same result and would be concerned that to have that phoenix rise from the ashes a 3rd time in such a short span, would be too much to ask.

For my money including teams from the NASL in the Open Cup is a spectacular opportunity this year for US Soccer. It would allow US Soccer to "build some buzz" around its new 2nd division without "getting hurt" if the league does not make it. Also, the teams would benefit themselves from the same opportunity.

Imagine a final between a MLS and NASL team? What better advertisement for a viable 2nd division!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What are the odds?

Fifa investigates possible match fixing after seven goals - all penalties - are scored in two friendly internationals

The credibility of friendly international matches and Fifa’s ability to adequately regulate them is facing a fresh challenge after serious suspicions of match fixing were raised over two games held on Wednesday last week in Turkey.

Fifa confirmed to Telegraph Sport on Tuesday that it was examining whether there were suspicious betting patterns surrounding Bolivia’s 2-1 defeat of Latvia and the 2-2 draw between Estonia and Bulgaria.

The games were played consecutively on neutral territory at the Mardan Stadium in Antalya. All seven goals were penalties, an outcome described by one bookmaking source as “freakishly unlikely”. One of the penalties was ordered to be retaken after the first kick was missed. ...

See the complete story here, courtesy of The Telegraph.

Kicking Back's Comments: While I rail against FIFA for its corruption, this incident, if proven true, will bear the same fruit. It is unconscionable that one who is charged with care for THE game could act in such a manner. While I am willing to wait for the inquiry to complete to cast that stone, it is difficult to believe that every single goal was scored by a legitimate penalty (in regular time mind you). While I do believe in the "black swan" or "outliers", experience tells me otherwise here.

If shown to be true, this referee, the assistants and 4th official should not be allowed to referee again, ever, for any association. Any promoter should face a similar fate via what ever legal mechanisms exist.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Outrage!

FIFA Executive Committee Member Lashes Out at World Cup Bidding Process

Outspoken FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer has lashed out at FIFA’s handling of the process last December that led to Qatar’s winning of its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, while at the same time praising the Gulf state’s successful bid campaign.

In an interview with World Soccer Magazine’s March edition quoted by World Football Insider, Blazer charged that the recommendations of FIFA’s five man inspection team “were ignored completely” and said that there was a lack of willingness in the executive committee to discuss deficiencies raised in their reports.

See the full story here, from the bleacher report.

Kicking Back Comments: Chuck, where were you when we needed you? While I'm sure you kept the hope alive for the US at least through the 1st round of voting, where was all this outrage when the pressure was on FIFA to delay the vote? Why wait until now to rail against the seemingly corrupt body you are a part of? Was it conscience as this interview hit too close to home with accusations about what payoffs were being made? Was it after receiving permission from FIFA as questions still swirl about how odd a result it is for Qatar to host 2022? Was it just because the USA was dismissed out of hand based on the inspection reports as you stated? Why Chuck? Why speak up now when it is plainly too late?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, I would like to congratulate Russell Legaultwho has recently been upgraded to Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Well done!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Don't forget ...

Card available at Greeting Card Universe
So I have to be honest here. This particular article gave me a bunch of trouble as it went from the history of Valentine's Day, to if the US will ever love THE game, and how so many in the US, especially the youth already do as it is claimed to be the most popular youth sport in the US.

I scrapped all of this and will save it for another time.

Now it may sound goofy to some, but as the card indicates above, the true testament to affection is loving someone even MORE than soccer. I caught this post on Big Soccer from 2009 stating the authors "first and only love" was the LA Galaxy. While I am sure meant in jest, there was some truth in these somewhere I'll bet.

THE game can be all consuming at times, especially with those (like me at a point in my life) that are so singularly focused working toward a particular goal while ignoring things that are important along the way.

My advice, for what it is worth ... In the vernacular of the day ...

Stop and smell the roses to appreciate all you have, which includes the friends we make through THE game. You only go around once, and while THE game in all her majesty is life changing ... it is only a game. What you choose to do with these life experiences is what really counts.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

(Re) Birth of a new league ... for at least a year

San Jose Earthquakes of the original NASL
USSF Board of Directors Narrowly Approves 1-year Provisional Sanctioning of NASL

In a narrow 6-5 vote with both U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and MLS Commissioner Don Garber abstaining, the USSF Board of Directors approved the North American Soccer League (NASL) to provisionally sanction Division 2 pro soccer in the U.S. for 2011. The approval came with a special 1-year provisional status and must be ratified in today’s Annual General Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. ...

See the full story here, from Inside MN Soccer, and the press release from NASL here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

EPFL v. FIFA - Round 1

Euro leagues thrown down FIFA gauntlet

The European Leagues have flexed their muscles towards Sepp Blatter and told FIFA in no uncertain terms that there will be no interference with the international fixture calendar, there will be no winter World Cup in 2022 or any other time, and they will not be dictated to on the size of national leagues. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: I am tickled that the EPFL is growing a spine in this regard and hope they remain staunch in the face of FIFA's whining that will most certainly come.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I wonder if he does birthday parties too

From World Football Insider, I caught a good article which included the following:

"Zidane: Bid Backing About Football Growth

Zinedine Zidane says his support of Qatar 2022 wasn’t about the money.

Instead, the French football legend told L’Equipe on Wednesday, he backed the bid because of a desire to spread football throughout the Middle East.

The 38-year-old, who also holds Algerian citizenship, is the greatest footballer of Arab-extraction of all time and was unveiled in September as a surprise ambassador of the oil-rich nation's bid.

Zidane admitted Wednesday he was paid millions of dollars by the bid committee, but nowhere near the $13 to $17 million floated by various media since Qatar’s Dec. 2 triumph.

The full article is here from World Football Insider

Kicking Back Comments: Are you kidding me? This smacks of FIFA's absurd tagline, "For the good of the game." Who's good are we talking about here? I would opine Z's only.

I mean, millions of dollars ... really?

An amazing player in his day to be sure, but please don't insult our collective intelligence by saying that it was not about the money, and take millions. Unless of course, I missed the follow up story that he donated his earnings to a worthy charity. It must be around here somewhere. Hang on ...

It is tough to come off as altruistic when you are stuffing your pockets full of money. Please leave the altruism title for those who truly selflessly dedicate themselves to THE game, not a hired gun to make a country millions.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interesting timing indeed

Jeff Kassouf the other day penned U.S. Soccer focuses on player development in the women's game, a good quick read.

In it he describes how US Soccer has a renewed focus on the womens game likely caused from some of the recent stumbles from the U-17 and U-20 teams.

Best line in the article for me was:
When USSF president Sunil Gulati officially appointed the two women to the newly created positions on Jan. 6 he said that the appointments are not reactionary, but have been in the works for some time. If that is the case -- as overly coincidental as the timing may be -- the changes could not come at a more necessary time.
I don't know how these could not be anything but reactionary given the recent progress of the women's game. Yet I concede the possibility exists.

Flip to the comments from Neil Beuthe, communications director for US Soccer on women referees. Is this reactionary, due to some pressure being heaped on US Soccer for not having women referees in men's professional games, or a Title 9 issue rearing its head?

While it would not seem to be the case, my hope is this is a tandem effort from US Soccer and there is concert between the players side and the referee side. One can not exist without the other, despite what both may think.

In my experience this is rarely the case and the two are on separate tracks regarding development, and at times necessarily so. There are a few shining stars however as at the higher levels there is a clear recognition that it is more than a peaceful coexistence that the two need, it is shared cooperation and vision of how THE game is played and managed.

We are all one big, happy, and at times, dysfunctional family. The more we can learn from each other, the better off we are.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Neil Buethe Speaks on women referees at the professional level

For those who don't know, Neil Buthe is my opposite number for US Soccer. Where I serve as communications  director for the MSRC, Mr. Buther serves as communications coordinator for US Soccer.

From the other day, I opined and posted a link to the article written by L.E. Eisenmenger of my interview on the topic of women refereeing at the professional level.

Well, the other day LE caught up with Mr. Buthe, who shared the position of US Soccer on the topic.

As good communication officials do (unlike me in my personal capacity during my interview), he was very clear this was not a discrimination issue, but one of performance.

I agree with him 100% as I believe in a meritocracy, and I believe the Federation does too.

Part of his answer was interesting however as, and I'm paraphrasing, there is a path now for (women) officials.

This on its face is great as there is a way to get experience ... but ... and this is generic to all referees not just women ... how does a referee get experience to compete at this level? It would seem to be a chicken in the egg scenario. You need experience to get to that level, but to get that experience you need to work at that level.

I know the Federation is crafting answers to these issues, for example the new grades being created to create professional AR's. An issue remains however of how a referee can get to some higher levels, without being or having experience at those levels.

For me it was fairly easy ... there was no one else in some cases, and State Referees were used early on in MLS as 4th officials. Today it is a much harder problem to solve, and it is clear the folks at the Federation are working on it, as is clear from their actions, and the comments from Mr. Buthe.

Any bets on when a woman will be refereeing in MLS?

The US tends to break ground in many areas of THE game for the good (think diversity of players) and the bad (think "rampage" in MLS), why not make this an opportunity to show the world, we have the best women referees ... that can work in the top men's professional leagues?

I have some answers ... what are yours?

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's a snood, and why is FIFA banning them?

Is it the incredibly popular video game from Dave Dobson?

Is it the female headgear shown at right?

Or could it be as shown here ... a neck warmer that some players are making very fashionable these days?

Apparently "snoods", as they are incorrectly called, unless someone has a registered trademark on them, recently became popular in the Premier League this season, with Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez and Arsenal forward Samir Nasri among the fashion leaders. We have seen them before though with Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Brazil defender Daniel Alves at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa wearing them.

So what's the big deal you may ask?

Well, in a previous post (To bead, or not to bead, that was the question), we asked a similar question about hair adornments. In that case, we came to the conclusion that such were not dangerous to that player or another, so players were allowed to wear them ... at the international level.

I will not debate the wisdom here of why they should not be worn at other levels, other than to say it sends a mixed message.

Snoods however mat be different indeed. FIFA is considering a snood ban, and for good reason. They are dangerous! Imagine a player accident or not, getting hold of a snood and giving it a good yank. Yipes!

FIFA while inconsistent in their application of what is safe, and what is not (what makes a gold chain more safe than a snood?), should ban the snood as it is clearly unsafe, and has the secondary benefit to have it banned through all levels of soccer so referees don't have to deal with such adornments on a case by case basis.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Superbowl Day

For any who are curious what this day is all about in the United States and other places around the globe that watch this game, here is some history and some facts that I pulled out of cyberspace.

What is the Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl is the championship game of the National Football League (NFL), the highest level of professional football in the United States, culminating a season that begins in the late summer of the previous calendar year. The first Super Bowl was played on January 15, 1967.

How did the Super Bowl come to be (from Wikipedia)?
The game was created as part of a merger agreement between the NFL and its then-rival league, the American Football League (AFL). It was agreed that the two leagues' champion teams would play in an AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger was to officially begin in 1970. After the merger, each league was redesignated as a "conference", and the game was then played between the conference champions.

Who has won past Super Bowls?
As would be expected, the NFL has a very nice summary here, to see the past Superbowl's winners and all the vital stats.

Who was the referee for past Super Bowls? has a summary of NFL referee's, and which Super Bowl they officiated in. Dr. Walt Anderson will be the referee for the 2011 Super Bowl.

World Cup Final or Super Bowl, who has the larger TV audience?
From ... it's the World Cup Final (not a surprise given the relative market penetration)

While FIFA has claimed that over 1 Billion people watch the World Cup Final, that number is greatly exaggerated.

According to a 2007 article in the UK newspaper The Independent, "Fifa's overblown figures, the World Cup finals of 1998, 2002 and 2006 respectively attracted global audiences of 1.3 billion, 1.1 billion and 715.1 million people.

According to Initiative Sports Futures, independent analysts, the figure for the 2006 World Cup Final was 260 million in the 54 key markets it surveyed, accounting for 90% of the world's TV households.

Even so, at 260 million, the World Cup final had more viewers than the 2006 Super Bowl.

2006 World Cup vs. Super Bowl viewer-ship World Cup Final, Italy v France
Claim: 715.1 million, Estimated: 260 million

Super Bowl Steelers v Seahawks
Claim: 750 million-1 billion, Estimated: 98 million

So it would seem that both FIFA and the NFL are prone to a bit of exaggeration but at the end of the day, the World Cup Final takes is by 2.5 times.

Keep in mind however, the most of the world won't get the Super Bowl televised to it, as the sport is foreign to most of the world.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Exorcises its Devils?

Kicking Back comments: While I believe this good news for the sport that some involved in the World Cup pay to play scandal have been dealt with, I hardly feel that FIFA has rid itself of all its issues.

It's a good start to be sure, but one they were forced to take with some superior investigative journalism.

Adamu Finished as FIFA Exorcises its Devils; Temarii Appeal Rejected
(WFI) Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, the FIFA Executive committee members caught out by the Sunday Times bungs sting, have had their appeals against their bans rejected by FIFA. ...

Adamu and Temarii were caught on film last October requesting improper inducements in return for their votes for the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
FIFA’s appeal committee today upheld three and one year bans handed out by the organisation’s ethics committee in November. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of World Football Insider.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No female referees in MLS: a referee assessor speaks

Kicking Back comments: For some time now I have been following LE's work at the Examiner and have enjoyed her articles. The other week the Examiner caught up with me and I shared a few candid thoughts about women referees in todays professional and international game as well as some thoughts about MLS refereeing and the use of technology.

As the interview is intended to demonstrate, I very clearly believe that women referees are just as capable as men. Success in any referee depends on their ability to manage a match both through the laws and through their personality. Anyone who is able to do so will succeed in such a role.

While there are very few women currently employed in (men's) professional league matches, and I can not think of any in recent (men's) international matches, I opine that doing so, and therefore challenging the thinking of everyone involved, may not be such a bad thing. I do recognize however that doing so may run against social constructs and in result, may decrease the entertainment value of THE game for some.

Just one persons opinion ... but please read on and comment away ...

All comments are welcome, and I will answer them all.

No female referees in MLS: a referee assessor speaks

As part of an interview with former MLS referee and current state assessor Peter Kokolski about officiating in MLS in 2011, we discussed the absence of women officials in the North American league. Kokolski refereed in MLS for eight years. Kokolski is not affiliated with U.S. Soccer and his opinions are his alone based on many years working with U.S. Soccer. He regularly shares information and thoughts about officiating in his blog Kicking Back. In a separate story, Kokolski explains MLS referee directives to manage with personality in 2011. ...

See the full story here from LE courtesy of the National Soccer Examiner.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Appealing for a call ...

Fifa opens 'corruption' hearing appeals

Fifa has begun hearing appeals by five officials suspended after allegations of corruption during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding races.

Executive committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii were barred from voting by Fifa's ethics committee.

Nigeria's Adamu has challenged a three-year football ban for seeking bribes from reporters who posed as lobbyists. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

... and why did the BBC put the word corruption in quotes? It is the charge levied on these folks. Call it what it is!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And the answer is ...

Back on 11-JAN-11, I posed a video clip and a question. Here is the video again:

The answers (with poll percentages) were:
A. Caution Purple #5 ==> 0%
B. Caution Purple #11 ==> 28%
C. Caution Orange GK (#21) ==> 0%
D. A and B ==> 57%
E. A, B and C ==> 7%
F. None of the above ==> 7%

My answer is B, with a restart of an IFK for Orange at the edge of the penalty area where #11 entered. Here is why ...

For this answer please refer to the 2010/2011 LOTG here, Advice to Referees here, and FIFA Questions and Answers from 2006 here.

First, we are well in Law 14 (Penalty Kick) on p. 30 of the LOTG. Here the law states that the ball must be placed on the penalty mark, and the kicker must be properly identified.

Regarding the ball, if the field is marked properly, there is a spot, not a line, indicating where the ball goes during a penalty. This spot should be 9" in diameter, which is not surprisingly just about the diameter of a #5 ball that is used in older youth and adult matches as detailed in law 2.

Mechanics tip: Let the players place the ball. It is not the referee's kick and there is considerable pressure on the kicker generally. It's their game, let the players play it by allowing them to place their own ball.

Also ... it is hard to refute that the player who places the ball on the spot is not properly identifying themselves as the kicker.

But what is proper identification? Where is this defined?

You guessed it folks ... its not. A fair reading would imply that this is a measure to allow the goal keeper to know who the player is that will be taking the kick to avoid the trickery that we exactly see in the video. In the :30 point of the video, when #5 places the ball on the spot, I would opine he is properly identifying himself to the goalkeeper and referee that he is the one that is going to take the kick.

Now, can a player change their mind after they place the ball they want someone else to take the kick? You bet!! However as a referee you would need to be somewhat ceremonial about it to assure that the change in kicker was understood by at the very least the keeper ... and frankly the more public you can make it the better, for everyone's sake.

Now clearly that was not the case here as the #5 walks away from the ball, but continues to participate in the ruse by walking away from the ball and not leaving the penalty area after the referee blows the whistle to take the kick at :47 (as the referee is required to do). Note this matters as if all of this happened *before* the whistle we would have a very different result.

At this point the #11 comes in and scores the penalty.

Now, if you look at the law you make be tempted to look at p. 31 and begin to apply the section on "A team-mate of the player taking the kick infringes the Laws of the Game." This makes logical sense as it would seem clear that the #11 created this mess. You however would need to look a little deeper for this answer.

Refer to the 2006 Q&A on the LOTG from FIFA. Specifically question #4 on p. 35. From that text:

4. When a penalty kick is being taken, and after the referee has given the necessary signal, a team-mate of the player identiļ¬ed to take the  kick suddenly rushes forward and takes it instead. What action does  the referee take?

The referee stops play and restarts the match with an indirect free kick to the defending team where the infringement occurred i.e. where the player advanced closer than 9.15m. The player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

This is also reinforced in the Advise to Referees document which states in relevant part on p. 75:

The exceptions to the above chart (this is the magic PK chart) of decisions are:
• If an attacker other than the identified kicker takes the penalty kick, play is restarted with an
indirect free kick for the opposing team where the attacker illegally entered the penalty arc or
penalty area, regardless of the outcome of any kick that may have been performed by this

• If the kicker plays the ball backward (any direction other than forward), play is restarted with an
indirect free kick for the opposing team at the penalty mark, regardless of any further play that
may result from the kicker’s action.

From this it would seem clear that we have at least an IFK out. What about the caution? FIFA says book the player running in, US Soccer is silent on it.

For the professional match on the video, I book #11 as the FIFA guideline states. I do this for (2) reasons. (1) What he did was really against the spirit of the game, so a caution for USB works for me. (2) FIFA's Q&A, while not the law, state how they want it interpreted. Following FIFA's interpretation in a professional match is not a bad thing, and will keep you out of trouble in their eyes. Note however, there is latitude here. The laws do not require a caution, so if #11 is under a caution, I would have to think an extra second.

Regarding #5, you certainly could caution him. Would I personally in that professional match? No. Denying a goal, and booking a player I think would be just about as much as a team could take. Adding another caution onto that for, yes, being part of the trickery would be a legitimate caution, but somewhat "ticky tack" in my opinion and may invite issues longer term. Legitimate? Yes. Required? No. Desired? No. A different match may yield a different result including not cautioning anyone, or both players involved.

Regarding the keeper, I would not caution him for moving early, he fell prey to the ruse that was being done to him and no more.

... and my opinion about the penalty in the first place. Based on the excellent camera angle ... no way =)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Check Those Nets!!

Back in June of 2010 I went on a mini-rant about net safety and the deadly consequences it can have.

While not in the context of a match apparently, a 4th grader from Arkansas was killed when a falling soccer goal crushed his skull. Further details on this story are reported here.

While by itself this represents a horrible tragedy, it serves as another reminder to check those nets as the spring season begins as it really can save a life.

For me personally it gives even greater pause as Jr. is currently in 4th grade and is often found on various soccer fields. You can bet, I will check the nets myself, acting in an official capacity or just as a parent.