By: Ed Rae, NISOA National Assessor, Massachusetts
Some years ago in a Division I Men’s game, it was a ‘go-through’–conference match. If the Don team lost or tied they would NOT make the post season, conference playoffs. If the Dons won, they would go. The Dons had six (6) exchange players from Argentina & Brazil. They were all good. They knew the game implications and that elimination was at stake. The opposing Hammers knew they only needed a tie.
The game had gone along with few fouls, as both teams came to play, since the playoffs loomed. Late in the game the Hammers’ best player, Greg Allen, was seeing the ball a whole lot! He had excellent ball skills: dribbling & shooting. As the time wound down, he did get fouled more often, it seemed.
The Dons were slowing play down, being more physical, with less than 10 minutes to play. They were ahead 2-1. The Hammers best player, Greg Allen, was victimized by 2 or 3 successive fouls. These were not mean spirited, but intelligently and subtly designed to slow the Hammers attack.
Ahead by one goal, the Dons’ side players were saying, ‘Take your time.’ ‘ No hurry.’ They seemed to have it won. They were just coasting, playing defense; kicking the ball away, with most players behind the ball, sitting on the lead. When a free kick was awarded, against them, they would be in no rush to restart play.
The Dons’ goalkeeper kept telling teammates to: “take it easy.”
The Referee was close to every foul spot. During play, the Referee was right next to Greg Allen, as that was obviously the action area. Even though the defense wanted to slow it down, Mr. Allen & teammates were accelerating their attacks. The Referee saw no reason to intervene. The Allen led offense was apparently pleased with the calls. They put the ball into play methodically & quickly, each time.
As the clock wound down, close to the last five minutes or so, there was a foul about 25 yards out from the Don’s goal. Greg Allen was fouled again! Unfazed, and as he was picking the ball up for the kick he paused, looking at the Referee at his side. The Referee was pointing for a direct free kick.
The Dons’ defense on the other hand, was arthritically slow now. They turned their back to the ball, and to Allen, with the ball nearby. Some were 3-4 yards from the spot and the ball. The Dons’ players were talking among themselves: “Where do you want the wall?” The Dons’ goalkeeper said ‘Take your time.’ Others said ‘Let’s see…where?’
‘Well, take it easy.’
Greg Allen quietly placed the ball down. As he did, he whispered to the Referee, who was about two yards to the side, “Is this the spot?” The Referee nodded.
Without waiting for a whistle, Allen took the shot. A blast slammed into the net! The shocked goalkeeper was just not ready. There was no wall. Few defenders were watching the ball. They leaped in protest. They said the Referee could not allow it. “The Ref has to get 10 yards first.’ ‘Don’t you have to give a whistle?’ ‘Keeper was not set,’ etc.
In two minutes, the game ended. Greg Allen and company went to the Conference tournament.
Discussion: Was the goal good? Of course it was. The Spirit of the Rules allows the offended team to take a free kick quickly, if they so choose. A quickly taken free kick is wanted more often than assumed. Carl von Clausewitz would agree, surprise!
Did the defenders have cause to protest? Does the Referee owe the defense a ‘heads up?’
The only thing the defending team, (i.e., the guilty party) is entitled to, at this moment, is an obligation to surrender the proper yardage. What about persistent infringement? The Referee chose to ignore persistent infringement, repeated fouls. But why?
The Referee understood—rightly so-that the offense, aka, Mr. Allen, just wanted the ball. The Referee chose not to hold up the taking of the kick until all opponents were te required 10 yards, and did not call for them to do so. The Referee could well have shown a yellow card for Persistent Infringement to players who encroached. However neither the game nor the key player, Mr. Allen, needed or wanted that card. Card delay might favor the offending team. Player Allen was in a rhythm, a mindset, a positive, offensive’ zone.’ An ‘ in-play’ ball–this was his true advantage.
The Spirit of the Game was served, as it allowed control of the ball, by the foul-victimized team. Referee mechanics were employed flexibly and intelligently. The Referee stood out of the way, allowing the kick to be taken quickly at the fouled team’s option. The Referee precisely ‘read’ Greg Allen’s mode and his team’s style.
The Referee ignored extraneous distractions. Justice prevailed, as the skillful player received the in-context response, from the officiating. The Referee ‘read’ the terms acceptable to Mr Allen.
The aggrieved party terms: simply that the ball & free kick be quickly taken for the best advantage!