Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Glossary of Soccer Terms, Definitions, and Terminology

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Like every sport, soccer has its own unique vocabulary, derived from years of history and tradition. Some soccer terms are familiar, others are a bit more obscure.

Added Time: Playing time added to the end of a half to compensate for playing time lost to injuries, substitutions, time-wasting, or other any other cause for which the referee deems appropriate. Also called ?stoppage time?or ?injury time.?

Advantage: A decision by the referee to allow play to continue, despite witnessing an act of foul play, when doing so would benefit the fouled team.

AR: An assistant referee

Assistant Referee: An official positioned along the touch line, who communicates with the referee by means of a flag signal; formerly called a ?linesman.?

Attacker: A player who is in the opposing half of the field; or any player whose team is in possession of the ball.

Backpass: The common name for the technical offense of a keeper handling the ball following a deliberate kick or throw-in to him by a teammate, punishable by an indirect free kick.

Caution: A formal warning by the referee to a player or substitute whose behavior or play has become unacceptable, signified by the display of a yellow card.

Center Circle: A circle in the middle of the field marking the ten-yard radius from spot of a kick-off.

Charging: Bodily contact undertaken against an opponent in order to win or obtain possession of the ball. If done unfairly, it is a penal foul.

Club Linesman: A non-neutral official, pressed into service on one of the touchlines due to the absence of a qualified assistant referee, and asked to signal when the ball goes out of play.

Coach: The team official allowed along the sidelines, who is entitled to pass tactical advice and instruction during the match; sometimes called the manager.

Competition Authority: The organizing league or agency which is organizing a soccer competition.

Corner Arc: A one-yard quarter circle from the corner of the field, marking the spot for a corner kick.

Corner Kick: The restart of play occurring when the ball passes over the end line after last being touched by a defender.

CR: The referee (or ?center referee?).

Dangerous Play: A technical foul, consisting of any act considered by the referee to be dangerous to an opposing player.

Defender: A player on his own half of the field; or a player whose team is not in possession of the ball.

Direct Free Kick: A free kick from which a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a penal foul.

Dissent: A form of misconduct consisting of protesting a call by any of the officials, punishable by a yellow card.

Dropped Ball: A means of restarting play after a stoppage caused by something other than an offense by a player. Also called a ?drop ball.?

End Line: The boundary line at each end of the field, upon which each set of goals rests. Also called a ?goal line? or ?bi-line.?

Extra Time: The additional period or periods of play to obtain a result at the end of a match that ends in a draw, usually during the later stages of tournament play where the match requires a winner.

Free Kick: A kick awarded to a team due to an infraction committed by the opposing team, free from interference by the opponents.

Fourth Official: An extra official appointed by the competition authorities to assist at the match and serve as a substitute official for the referee or assistant referee.

Game Report: The official account of a match, including the score and any misconducts issued, prepared by the referee.

Goal: (1) The targets of both teams, consisting of two uprights and a crossbar, placed at the end line on opposite ends of the field and defended by each respective team. (2) A score, occurring when the ball passes entirely over the end line and into the goal.

Goalkeeper: The player on each team designated as the one entitled to handle the ball inside its own penalty area and required to wear a distinct jersey, different from the rest of the team.

Goal Line: The end line; usually, the end line between the goal posts.

Goal Posts: The physical boundaries of the goal, usually made of metal or wood; often described by their components, consisting of a cross bar, and two upright posts.

Half-time: The interval of time between the end of the first half, and the beginning of the second half of a soccer game.

Half-way Line: The physical line marking the center of the field extending from one touchline to the other.

Handball: Another name for ?handling.?

Handling: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate use of the arm or body to control the ball. A goalkeeper cannot be guilty of handling the ball inside his own penalty area.

Holding: A penal foul, consisting of unfairly hindering or restraining the progress of an opponent, usually by means of the arms or hands.

Impeding: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as ?Obstructing.?

Indirect Free Kick: A free kick which requires a touch on the ball by a second player before a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a technical or non-penal infraction.

Jumping: The act of leaving the ground under one?s own power by leaping. If directed at an opposing player in an unfair manner to prevent the opponent from making a play on the ball, it is a penal foul.

Keeper: A goalkeeper.

Kicking: A penal foul consisting of unfair contact against an opponent by means of the foot or leg.

Kick-off: The means of starting a half, or restarting the game following a goal, taking place from the middle of the center circle.

Kicks from the Mark: A method of obtaining a result following a draw, where the rules of the competition require a winner, consisting of a series of penalty kicks.

Misconduct: An act deemed by the referee to be unsporting, reckless, violent, or flagrantly in violation of the laws and spirit of the game, and punishable by a caution (and yellow card) or a send-off (and red card).

Offside Line: An imaginary line signifying the furthest point down field that an attacker may be without risk of being penalized for being offside.

Offside Offense: The act of participating in play from an offside position. Also called ?offside infraction.?

Offside Position: A position in the attacking half of the field in which a player is closer to the opposing goal than (a) the ball, as well as (b) the next-to-last defender.

Obstructing: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as ?impeding.?

Outside Agency: Any force acting on or influencing a match which is not part of game, or part of the physical field.

Penal Foul: An infraction resulting in a direct free kick; often called simply a ?foul.?

Penalty Arc: The marked arc extending outside the boundary of each penalty area, marking 10 yards from the penalty spot.

Penalty Area: The marked area around each goal, measuring 18x44 yards, within which the defending keeper has the privilege of handling the ball, and inside which a penal foul by the defensive team will result in a penalty kick.

Penalty Kick: A direct free kick from the penalty spot, pitting the attacker taking the kick directly against the defending keeper; sometimes called a ?spot kick.?

Penalty Spot: The marked spot 12 yards from the middle of each goal, from which penalty kicks are taken.

Persistent Infringement: The misconduct of continuous or repeated foul play, punishable by a yellow card.

Pitch: Another name for the soccer field.

Player: A competitor at a soccer game.

Pushing: A penal foul resulting from the unfair use of the arms or body to push, shove, or otherwise force an opponent into changing position or direction.

Red Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being sent off either for a serious act of misconduct, or for receiving a second caution.

Referee: The match official responsible for supervising and controlling a soccer match; also called a ?Center Referee? or ?CR.? Often called other names, as well.

Restart: Any method of resuming the game after a stoppage of play.

Result: The final outcome of a soccer match, whether a draw, or a victory by the team scoring the greater number of goals.

Send-off: The dismissal of a player following the display of a red card, either for a serious act of misconduct or for receiving a second caution in the same match.

Serious Foul Play: A misconduct, often violent, which consists of the clearly disproportionate use of physical force against an opponent during a contest for the ball on the field, and while the ball is in play.

Spitting: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate attempt to direct bodily fluid from the mouth onto the person of someone else. It is also an act of misconduct, punishable by a red card.

Striking: A penal foul, most often resulting from the unfair use of the hands or body to hit an opposing player, or to hurl an object that strikes an opposing player. If done intentionally, it is usually a misconduct, often a form of violent conduct.

Stoppage Time: Playing time added to the end of each half at the discretion of the referee to compensate for lost playing time; see ?Added Time.?

Substitute: A non-participating player along the sidelines, who is eligible to replace a player on the field.

Tackle: An attempt to obtain possession of the ball by using the feet. If a tackle results in contact with an opposing player before contact is made with the ball, it is a penal foul.

Throw-in: The method of restarting play after the ball has gone out of bounds over a touch line.

Touch Line: The boundary lines marking each sideline of the field.

Tripping: The penal foul of tripping an opponent.

Unsporting Behavior: The most common form of misconduct, consisting of conduct or play which the referee deems to be unacceptable. Consisting of a wide range of misbehavior, it is punishable by a yellow card.

Violent Conduct: A misconduct consisting of a violent act against any person at a soccer match, punishable by a red card.

Yellow Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being cautioned by the referee for an act of misconduct.

Jeffrey Caminsky, a state referee emeritus, earns his living as a public prosecutor in Michigan and specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law. This Glossary of Soccer Terms is excerpted from The Referee?s Survival Guide, his new book on soccer officiating, published by New Alexandria Press, http://www.newalexandriapress.com

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Soccer Rules: Offside

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The Purpose of the Offside Rule

The purpose of the Offside Rule is the same in Soccer as it is in hockey ? to prevent ?cherry-picking? by a player who camps in front of the other team?s goal. Without the Offside Rule, Soccer would be a large field game of ping pong, filled with long kicks and alternating mad scrambles from one end of the field to the other. By preventing any ?offside? player from participating in the game, the rule puts a premium on dribbling and passing, rather than long kicks. This promotes teamwork, which, in turn, encourages quick switching from one side of the field to the other, and compresses the action to a smaller area of the field ? usually about 30 or 40 yards long. The end result is that all the players stay closer to the action, and everyone has a better chance of participating in the game.

The Offside Rule:

"Offside Position"

A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by interfering with play, or interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in that position.

Law 11 states that a player is in an "offside position" whenever "he is nearer to his opponent?s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent," unless "he is in his own half of the field of play." Put more simply:

? No one is "offside" in his own half of the field.

? No one is "offside" if even with, or behind the ball.

? No one is "offside" if even with, or behind two or more opponents.

In addition, there are three major exceptions to the offside rule. Anyone receiving a ball directly from a throw-in, a corner kick, or a goal kick, cannot be "offside." So, if Sally receives the ball directly from her teammate?s throw-in, it doesn?t matter if she is in an offside position. The fact that it was a throw-in means that the play was not offside. However, if she flicks the ball along to Jane, who is even further downfield than Sally was, Jane can be offside, since she received the ball from Sally, rather than from the throw-in. The same holds true for corner kicks and goal kicks, as well. If the ball comes directly from the restart, the play cannot be offside; but once the first player receives the ball, the "offside" rule comes back into play.

"Involved in Active Play"

Contrary to some popular misconceptions, it does not violate the rules merely for a player to be in an offside position. The violation comes only when an ?offside? player becomes involved in the play. So the referee ? or the assistant referee on the sidelines ? who allows play to continue even if everyone can see a player well beyond the offside line is probably not missing anything. Rather, they are applying the rule correctly, by letting play continue until the player in the "offside position" becomes "offside" by getting involved in the play.

There are three ? and only three ? situations where someone in an offside position is penalized for being "offside." All of them, however, require participating in play from an offside position ? or, in the wording of the rule, becoming "involved in active play" in one of three ways:

? Interfering with play

? Interfering with an opponent, or

? Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position.

The easiest example of "offside" comes when an offside player receives a pass from a teammate. In this case, he is directly "interfering with play" because he got the ball. Other examples of the same principle apply this same logic, but seek to spare the players a few steps, or the coaches and fans a few heart attacks. So, if one or more attackers is trapped offside and running to play the ball, the play will be "offside." On the other hand, if an offside player removes himself from the play ? pulling up, for example, in order to let an onside teammate collect the ball ? an alert official will allow play to continue. And if the ball is going directly to the keeper, the officials will usually let the players keep playing.

While it is not an offense to be in an offside position, a player who never touches the ball may nevertheless affect play in such a way as to be penalized for being offside. The offside player who runs between an opponent and the ball, for example ? or one who screens the goalkeeper from a shot, or interferes with the keeper?s ability to jump for, or collect the ball ? violates the offside rule by participating in the play. But this sort of participation does not come from touching the ball. Rather, it comes from interfering with an opponent?s chance to play the ball. In this case, once the assistant referee sees the participation, the appropriate response is to raise the flag. But, if the offside player pulls up, steps to the side, or clearly indicates that he is removing himself from the moment?s active play, the alert official will simply allow play to continue.

Among the trickiest things to spot ? either as a spectator or an official ? is the player who exploits an offside position to gain an unfair advantage. This does not mean that the player is "gaining an advantage" by avoiding some extra running on a hot day, however. Instead, it means that the player is taking advantage of his positioning to exploit a lucky deflection, or a defensive mistake. So, if an offside player is standing to the side of the goal when his teammate takes a shot ? but does not otherwise interfere with play or inhibit the keeper?s chance to make the save ? then he is not offside...and the officials will count the goal. But if the ball rebounds, either from the keeper or the goalpost, and the offside player bangs the rebound home ? the play is offside, and the goal will not count, because the player is now gaining an advantage from the offside position.

"The moment the ball touches, or is played, by a teammate..."

The Offside rule is the source of more controversy than any other rule in soccer. Partly, this is because there are at least two critical moments of judgment in every offside call, or no-call. The second of these, the moment of participation, is often easy to see: that?s usually where the ball lands and the players are playing, and that?s where everybody is looking. But the first "moment of truth" is usually away from everyone?s attention, because what determines the ?offside position? is the relative position of each player at the moment the ball is struck.

Players touch the ball a lot during a soccer game, often in quick succession. And soccer being a fluid game, on a good team each player is constantly in motion. This means that the first moment of judgment ? determining whether any players are in an offside position ? is constantly changing, and the relative position of the players will often be very different from one moment to the next. Yet the officials have to keep it all straight, and have a heartbeat or less to take a mental snapshot of the players? positioning at one frozen moment in time ? the moment the ball is played by a member of one team ? in order to judge whether an offside member of that team subsequently moves to play the ball, interferes with an opponent, or gains an advantage from being offside. From the official?s perspective, the game is an endless series of these snapshots, because each new touch of the ball redetermines the offside line....and the official often has less than a heartbeat to make the decision.

The important thing to remember is that the moment of judging "offside position" is different than the moment of judging participation. And this is true whichever direction the players are moving. An offside player who comes back onside to receive the ball is still offside; to avoid the call, he cannot participate until another teammate touches the ball, or his opponents manage to collect it. On the other hand, a player who is onside will remain onside, no matter how far she runs to retrieve it, and no matter where the other team?s players move in the meantime. So, if Steve is onside when Tom kicks the ball forward, it doesn?t matter if he?s twenty yards behind the defense when he collects the ball. The play will be onside...because he was onside at the moment her teammate passed the ball. And if Steve is onside...but Frank is offside...then an alert official will wait to see which one of them moves after the ball ? because if Frank takes himself out of the play, and lets Steve collect it, then play can continue because there is no offside violation.

Soccer Officials and Offside

The offside rule has been part of Soccer for a long time, sparking arguments and controversies since its inception. But its purpose is simple: to prevent "cherry-picking." Since it is an important part of the game, the referees will enforce the rule to the best of their ability. But when they rule a play offside ? or let play continue, because they saw no infraction ? they are not doing it out of spite, or to hurt one team or the other. Rather, they are doing so regardless of which team it hurts or benefits, simply because the rules require it.

Jeffrey Caminsky, a veteran public prosecutor in Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. Both his science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the first volume in the Guardians of Peace (tm) science fiction adventure series, and The Referee?s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating, are published by New Alexandria Press, http://www.newalexandriapress.com

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Rules of Soccer: Game Etiquette Toward Officials

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Unlike some sports, soccer gives its officials nearly total discretion over the conduct of the game. With few exceptions, fouls are matters of opinion or judgment, and the rules encourage the referee not to call fouls when doing so would help the offending team. The continuous nature of the game means that it the opinion of the referee ? and nobody else ? that determines whether a challenge is fair or foul, whether a high kick presents a danger to another player, or whether a particular incident justifies a caution or send-off. And under the Laws of the Game, the referee?s decision on any point is final, and is not to be questioned.

Under the rules, the referee?s authority starts when he arrives at the field of play, and stops only when he leaves. This means that once he shows up, and whatever his age or level of experience, the referee is in command of the field. Incidents occurring before, during, or after the game are within his jurisdiction, and subject to his control. Coaches or players confronting officials after the game have no immunity, and are still liable for any misconduct that the referee decides to punish, even if the game is over.

From the perspective of coaches, players, and spectators, the least understood justification for a caution is probably the offense of "dissent." The rules provide that participants can be "cautioned and shown the yellow card" for showing "dissent by word or action" from any decision of the referee. This is to make sure that calls are not subject to the endless committee discussions that sometimes interrupt other sports, and that the game resumes as quickly as possible.

Most referees will not punish outbursts of disappointment that fade quickly, and will gladly explain a particular call in response to a polite inquiry. Still, each referee has a different tolerance for griping and, under the Rules, each limit is equally valid. In other words, a coach or player who utters a word of protest at any call by any of the officials may be ignored, admonished, warned, or cautioned, at the referee?s sole discretion. And the permissible level of grumbling for any game depends on that game?s referee, who is well within his authority to punish any showing of disagreement.

In most leagues, coaches are responsible for the behavior of their team?s spectators. This means that a referee whose patience is gone may choose to treat any adverse comments from the sidelines as coming from the coach, and take action against the coach. Or, if he prefers, the referee may simply suspend the game until the offending party leaves. From a practical standpoint, this means that referees may banish anyone, or everyone, from a team?s sidelines. They may refuse to continue the game until everyone dismissed from the field has left ? to any distance they specify as a point of retreat. Or, they may simply declare the match abandoned, if the offending parties insist on staying. The rules grant the referee full authority to take whatever action he deems appropriate to maintain or restore order on the field.

Still, despite the wide range of their power and authority, most officials are reluctant to dismiss participants or spectators. They hope to calm emotions rather than inflame them, and do what they can to keep everyone in the game. Forbearance is not a right, however, and coaches need to remind their parents of the need to avoid "riding the refs." This, in turn, helps keep the sidelines under control, and the players focused on the game.

Dealing with Mistakes
Under the rules, everyone must accept and deal with any decision by the referee during the game. Mistaken or not, the referee is part of the game, and organized soccer regards the referee's decision on any point of fact as final. This does not mean that you can do nothing to protest the conduct of abusive or inept officials. However, the right way to make a complaint is not by shouting and screaming at the official during the match, but by documenting the incident in writing and filing a report with your soccer club. Your club will review the report and, if appropriate, send it to the proper authorities. Before you do, though, there are a few things you need to know:

First and foremost, formal protests will succeed only if they involve a referee?s mistaken application of the rules ? and, even then, only if the mistake had an effect on the outcome of the game. By contrast, informal "protests" can do much to improve the quality of officiating within your club. By bringing mistakes in rules or judgment to the attention of your soccer club, you help educate the referees by alerting their supervisors to officials who need to be monitored more closely, and those who need special help. You also may help identify the rules that are giving your referees particular problem in application. The procedure for making an informal complaint is usually simple: just bring the matter to the attention of the club?s referee coordinator.

The Referee?s Judgment
Judgment calls belong to the Referee: you cannot change them, screaming about them will only get you in trouble, and protesting them will not change the result of any game. In addition, referees cannot see everything, or they may see a particular play differently than you do, and expecting them to call a "perfect game" from your team?s perspective is simply unrealistic. If, however, if your team was the victim of a pattern of favoritism or bias, it may indicate a shortcoming on the part of the official which needs correcting for future games. To document such a pattern, your report should contain a "foul chart," detailing the official?s discretionary calls: this chart should contain a separate listing for both teams, indicating (whenever possible) the player fouling, the player fouled, the timing of the foul (by minute), and noting in some way whether the resulting free kick was direct, indirect, or a penalty kick. This can be time-consuming and frustrating, and you should also be aware that disparities in calling fouls often reflects nothing more than differences in playing styles: for example, a team relying on its speed and quickness to win the ball may foul less frequently than one relying upon the physical strength of its players; and an aggressive, attacking team will often commit more fouls than one which relies on ball control and finesse. Therefore, your report should acknowledge this, and contain some indication of the styles and playing levels of both teams.

Coaches, parents, and players watch the game with their hearts, and complaints about officials often reflect nothing more than sour grapes. The same referee whom the losing team regards as an idiot may get high praise from the winners. Therefore, any complaint you make about an official should be as objective and unbiased as you can make it.

If you are going to complain about the officiating at your game, make sure that neither you, nor your team, gave the officials any cause for complaint at the field. The surest way to have your complaints ignored is to allow the referee to respond: "They were on my case the entire game, they complained about every call that went against them, and when their coach wouldn?t keep quiet after his first yellow card I finally had to issue a second, just to get some peace and quiet."

Lastly, it is often tempting for players and parents to blame the officials when a team loses. But coaches who permit or encourage such attitudes should make sure to give the referee all the credit when their team wins.

A Neutral Set of Eyes
Referees do not care who wins or loses. They are there to make sure that nobody wins by cheating. Like the players, they trying their very best. And just like a player will not deliberately try to pass the ball to an opponent, or score on his own goal, no referee will ever make a mistake on purpose.

Soccer is a wonderful sport, and a source of joy for fans and players around the world. But to play the game we need referees to provide a neutral set of eyes to settle the inevitable disputes. It is a game of passion and adventure, and cheering for your team with all your heart is a large part of its appeal. But we must all be careful not to let our enthusiasm turn into hostility toward the officials when things don?t turn out our way. There will always be another day, and another game to play. And like the weather, you may find next week?s referee to be more to your liking.

This does not mean that next week?s referee is better than this week?s, any more than rain is inherently better than sunshine (just ask any farmer). Referees are just a condition of play that both teams must deal with on a given day. But while adapting to wind or rain strikes us as perfectly natural, many of us feel free to howl at the referee when things aren?t going our way. Perhaps it?s because screaming at the referee gives us someone to blame for our troubles...while screaming at the rain would make us feel foolish.

Jeffrey Caminsky, a veteran public prosecutor in Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. Both his science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the first volume in the Guardians of Peace (tm) science fiction adventure series, and The Referee?s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating, are published by New Alexandria Press, http://www.newalexandriapress.com.

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