LAWS OF THE GAME
Any game is defined by its rules. If you do not know the rules how can you understand the game, why particular tactics are used and not others? In soccer, the rules are called the "Laws of the Game."
You also have to know the duties of the referee. One of the prime duties of the referee is game management. The best referee is NOT an enforcer of the Laws of the Game, he is a manager of the game using the Laws of the Game to manage play. The referee sets the tone of the match by what he will allow and not allow. The players in turn should learn quickly what the referee considers a foul. The result is the game should proceed with few stoppages or interruption in play with the outcome of the match resulting from the ability of the players. Referees can influence the outcome of the game by their calls. When this happens, even when it is a consequence of the referee doing the correct action at a particular moment, it is a sign that the referee has failed in his primary responsibility of managing the game in such a way as to allow the players to control the play and outcome.
So what are these Laws that you need to know? There are seventeen of them. A easy place to find them is at the FIFA web site: http://www.fifa.com/en/index.html We will look at the three most important to the player.
The place to start is Law 5, which describes the powers of the Referee. Over and over throughout the Laws you will see language that defers to the Referee's opinion. Consider how Law 5 directs a referee to handle injuries:
In over thirty years of playing I have never seen a referee change a call because a parent thought the referee was abusing the discretion given to the Referee in Law 5.
The penal fouls are found in Law 12. In reading Law 12 you should note that kicking, striking, tripping, charging and pushing are only fouls if, in the opinion of the referee, the conduct was excessive, careless or reckless. Soccer is a contact sport. It is a game where there will be physical force and the players' courage will be tested and rewarded.
Different referees have different ideas of what is excessive, careless or reckless. For some, if a player falls down the opponent committed a foul. Other referees are far more observant and demanding.
Law 12 provides:
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following six offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:
You should have also noticed that in these instances intent does not apply, except in one case, in determining whether a foul happened. Something that is reckless or careless implies that the law breaker was not acting intentionally.
Intent matters in one case - handballs. Law 12 provides that it is only foul if done "deliberately." Too many people (and Referees) think any contact with the ball is a "HAND BALL, REF!" Not so.
The USSF, to give some consistency to the game, has written a book entitled Advise to Referees. Here is how they advise Referees to call a ball making contact with the arm or hand:
12.9 DELIBERATE HANDLING
The offense known as "handling the ball" involves deliberate contact with the ball by a player's hand or arm (including fingertips, upper arm, or outer shoulder). "Deliberate contact" means that the player could have avoided the touch but chose not to, that the player's arms were not in a normal playing position at the time, or that the player deliberately continued an initially accidental contact for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage. Moving hands or arms instinctively to protect the body when suddenly faced with a fast approaching ball does not constitute deliberate contact unless there is subsequent action to direct the ball once contact is made. Likewise, placing hands or arms to protect the body at a free kick or similar restart is not likely to produce an infringement unless there is subsequent action to direct or control the ball. The fact that a player may benefit from the ball contacting the hand does not transform the otherwise accidental event into an infringement. A player infringes theLaw regarding handling the ball even if direct contact is avoided by holding something in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.).
A player is not in an offside position if
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:
Finally, you cannot be off side on: