July 26, 2011

LAW12 - Handling the ball

Typical situation: "Referee! That was handball!!"
Who does not remember Maradona`s “Hand of God” ? This misconduct which did not merely lead to England’s elimination in the quarterfinals of FIFA World Cup 1986 but also to the retirement of the referee who was in charge of this match and could not believe his eyes when he later saw this action: Ali Ben Naceur from Tunisia.
Well, one of the best positive examples for the detection of a handball is certainly the situation in a World Cup 2010 match when Hector Baldassi decided upon consultation with his assistant referee Ricardo Casas that Kuzmanovic (Serbia) brushed the ball in the box. The consequent penalty kick was converted into the victory of Ghana.

It would be great if handballs and a possible purpose of the respective player were always thus clear. You can experience it several times in Bundesliga when the whole stadium among 60.000 visitors believe to have detected a clear handball; this belief normally expresses itself in the collective and wrathful cry “HAAAAND!!!”. What many people forget is the fact that the referee has to pay attention to several aspects when weighing up a handball and its consequences. You know, all this has to happen in perhaps a second (normally, much less).

According to Law 12 of FIFA’s Laws of the game 2011/2012, the following explanatory annotations must be taken into account:

 Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration (the last two aspects are not of bigger importance here):

- the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
- the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
- the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
- […]

This sounds logical and clear. It goes without saying that the referees must pay attention to ALL these aspects.
What if a player took his hands in the air before a free-kick is played and he touched the ball with his hand? If the referee only followed the first aspect, he could not detect purpose in this action (according to the rule). Therefore, all the aspects are necessary.

Nevertheless, it is always difficult for the referee if the first aspect supports that it was the player’s purpose and if the second aspect, the distance between player and ball, contradicts this? A 50-50 decision, mostly, it is more likely a gut decision.

This case could be observed in the last Champions-League season when Felix Brych (GER) did not award a penalty for Real Madrid in the following situation (I think most of you have seen it (0:47): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuQRBkb7wtk&feature=related).

Let us go through the two main aspects of Law12:
- is there a movement of the hand towards the ball? : Yes, it certainly is. This movement can be described as “protective handball”.
- the distance between the player and the ball: perhaps 1 or 2 metres, no real time to react.

Of course, a difficult situation. Probably, Brych brings forward the argument that the distance was simply too small to put the hands away and to react in an adequate way. In this specific case, I have to admit that I am still not 100 % sure; even after having seen this situation several times, one simply cannot say 100 % pro, 100 % against purpose. But what Law 12 does, is exactly this: the referee has to decide with a hundred percent certainty.
These aspects are finally not enough for a referee. Especially after situations like in Paris in 2010, when Hansson oversaw the handball which was seen by the whole world, so-called “experts” argue the case for a distincter rule. If that happened, it would not help the disappointed Irish.
To my mind, we absolutely need a more defined rule, honestly speaking, I have no real suggestion for that. But I am sure that one may not withdraw the phrase “deliberate act”.

Some situations (a game)
Underneath, you may find six photos with situations when the ball was obviously handled. Just as a small game, I ask you to send me your decisions per mail. What would you have done if you had been the referee ? The prize is nothing material. The winner gets the opportunity to write a text (about whatever you want) which will be then published on my blog. I will talk about that with Carlos, I am quite sure that will agree with this suggestion and that the winner’s text can appear on his blog (in Spanish translation) as well. The entry deadline is Sunday, July 31, 13:00 UTC (mail to footballrefereeing.blogspot@gmx.de).
The winner will be chosen with regard to the accuracy of the decision and the way of giving reasons for it. The winner will be published on Saturday.

These are the situations (photo of situation 3 was taken a few seconds after a free-kick was played):

1)                                                                 2)


3)                                                                                         4)




  1. As it can be that the perspective of situation deceives the original situation a bit: the distance was 9 m 15 as it was a free-kick played by Hannover's Bruggink (10)

  2. The game will be solved on September 1st as we all are too busy with u20 at the moment.

  3. Anonymous24/3/13 04:43

    Is a ball struck by elbow considered to be handling a ball
    wat part of hand should never touch the ball (above elbow,below elbow,fist,shoulders)


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