By Joe Manjone, Ed. D.
A new rule that emerged from the January meeting of the National Federation Soccer Rules Committee changed the definition of a free kick. The definition of a FREE KICK now reads:
FREE KICK – A method by which a dead ball becomes alive. The ball is placed on the ground and, while motionless, it is kicked unchallenged in any direction prior to being touched by another player. The ball is in play when it has been kicked and moves. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball is not sufficient. There are two types of free kicks – “direct” from which a goal may be scored against an opponent without a second player touching the ball and “indirect” in which a goal may not be scored unless the ball is touched or played by another player of either team.
Previously, the ball was considered to have moved and in play when it was touched by the kickers foot. It was believed that the touching of the ball made it move, even though the movement was slight and not readily observable. With this rule change, the ball must move and the official must be able to observe the movement.
This new rule was also implemented to prevent confusion and trickery on free kicks. One example that often occurred and is no longer legal was in corner kick situations where players have been taught simply to touch the top of the ball or to stand on top of the ball, and then walk away, followed by a teammate running on to the ball and dribbling it toward the goal.
This change in the free kick rule makes it easier for you to determine if the ball is in play. At the same time, it will make it more difficult for players to be deceptive. You now simply have to observe that the ball moved for it to be in play. If it has not moved, it is not in play.
Following the above rule and recommended procedures in every high school game you work and making certain your partners do the same will provide the required consistency and make each game a better experience for all participants.
Dr. Joe Manjone is the former chair of the NFHS Soccer Rules Committee.