uhlsport USA
"Outstanding keeper instruction. This is a must for goalkeepers and coaches."
—Ottawa Internationals S.C. web site, Ottawa, Canada

Goalkeeping Tips, Tidbits and Random Thoughts

An athlete talking to themsleves during competition is hardly a new phenomenon.... The talk does not have to be vocal. By merely thinking you are talking to yourself and sending a message.
   -- Tony DiCicco, Goalkeeper Soccer Training Manual

If you have a question, comment or rebuttal you'd like to see addressed here, send me email. I will post your mail to the blog at my discretion unless you specify otherwise.

Kickoffs are direct

Remember, kickoffs are direct.

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Laws which prohibit interference with the goalkeeper

The end of the World Cup Qualifying playoff between Trinidad & Tobago and Bahrain the other day got a little ugly. An incident having to do with the goalkeeper sparked a melee that led to one Bahraini player being sent off.

The T&T goalkeeper, Kelvin Jack, had the ball and went to the top of the box, where Hussain Ali of Bahrain was standing. As Jack went to punt the ball into play, Ali kicked the ball away as it fell from Jack's hands, and went on to score the apparent equalizer. But referee Julian Oscar Ruiz Acosta correctly disallowed the goal. In the ensuing ruckus, Ali made contact with the referee and was sent off.

While the goalkeeping in many instances is given no special treatment over other players on the field, there are a few laws which prohibit interference with the goalkeeper. Had Ali known the laws, he wouldn't have even attempted the gambit in the first place:

FIFA Laws of the Game, Law 12: "An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the referee... prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands."

If that isn't sufficiently clear, add this from the 2005 FIFA Laws of the Game Questions and Answers: "As a goalkeeper releases the ball to kick it into play, an opponent intercepts it before it touches the ground. Is this permitted?

No. It is an offence to prevent a goalkeeper releasing the ball from his hands. The releasing of the ball from his hands and the kicking of the ball is considered to be a single action."

The same thing happened to Thierry Henry against Brad Friedel in the Premiership, and then too the goal was disallowed. Some pundits believe the reason for calling a foul is dangerous play, and although it may be dangerous it's not really the correct reason. In either case, the goalkeeper's team is awarded an indirect free kick.

Know the Laws, and prevent yourself and your team a lot of misery.


Replace your divots

I've heard coaches have their goalkeepers mark their area by scuffing the ground with their boots. I don't recommend this practice. The new FIFA2004 Q&A on the Laws specifically prohibits it:

"4. A goalkeeper or another player draws unauthorised marks on the fi eld
of play with his foot. What action does the referee take?

If the referee notices this before the match starts, the offending player
is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.
If the referee notices this being done during the match, he cautions
the offending player for unsporting behaviour when the ball next goes
out of play

And I found a video clip that demonstrates disasterous consequences for a keeper who did this in one instance. Go to SoccerClips.net and check out the clip labeled "Bouncing ball - a goalkeeper nightmare". An easy roller hits the divot the keeper has dug at the center of the 6-yard line and hops over his shoulder into the goal.

Most goalkeepers often have to deal with horrendous pitch conditions anyway... don't make matters worse. Learn to use the existing field markings to help you, and frequently look back to your posts to check your positioning.


No whining

I spent four hours on the soccer field yesterday and didn't have much fun at all. How could that be? I was wearing a striped shirt and carrying a whistle or flag, instead of playing or coaching. Why wasn't it any fun? Because the teams I was officiating seemed determined not to have any fun either.

The whining in both games started from the opening whistle. Whining at teammates, opponents, and the most convenient target, the referees. Three red cards and numerous yellows later, nobody walked away happy.

As a referee, let me tell you that whining about calls or trying to "game" the ref seldom gets you anywhere. In fact, if the ref gets annoyed at the constant badgering, do you really think he's going to give you the benefit of the doubt on a 50-50 challenge? Or if you "cry wolf" on every little knock, he'll see it differently if you really do get cleaned out? This goes all the way up to the pros: look at the reputation that FC Porto, the Champion's League finalists, have earned themselves.

Griping about the ref takes your focus away from the game. Whether they are good, bad or indifferent, referees must be considered part of the field conditions. You adjust to them the way you adjust to sun, wind or rain. (A referee instructor I had put it this way: "The ref is part of the field. The field is made of dirt. Therefore... referees are dirt!") The team that focuses on playing soccer and adjusts better to the referee that day will usually come out on top... and yesterday, that's just how it happened, by a scoreline of 4-1 in both games.

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Goalkeeper control vs possession

I don't address this in the Laws page, but the question of when the goalkeeper has control of the ball and whether an attacker may challenge for it usually opens up a big debate. Law 12, IFAB Decision 2, states that "The goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball by touching it with any part of his hand or arms," but in many ways that only confuses the issue. See what experienced referees have to say about the matter in this thread and this thread both about "Control vs Posession".


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