Indirect Free Kicks

Published on May 2, 2014


The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find this series helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.  This month’s article will focus on indirect free kicks.

The NCAA Rule Book, Rule 13, 13.1.1 provides the definition for an indirect free kick.  “An indirect free kick is one from which a goal cannot be scored unless the ball has been touched by a player other than the kicker before going into the goal. ”  The NFHS Rule Book in Rule 13 Indicates that “”indirect” from which a goal may not be scored unless the ball is touched or played by another player of either team.”  Both definitions are similar and between them there is a clear definition for all officials.

Indirect free kicks are awarded for specific fouls which include:  a player fairly charging an opponent when neither is within playing distance of the ball, a player not in possession of the ball obstructs an opponent who is attempting to play the ball, a player kicks or attempts to kick the ball while it is in possession of the goalkeeper interfering with the goalkeeper in any manner until he/she releases the ball, and dangerous play.  In addition an indirect free kick is awarded when the goalkeeper commits anyone of several infringements including: taking more than six seconds before releasing the ball for play, illegally handles the ball while in his/her own penalty area after once relinquishing possession of the ball, the goalkeeper touches the ball with his/her hands after it is deliberately kicked by a teammate to him/her, the goalkeeper touches the ball with his/her hands when receiving it directly from a throw-in by a teammate.   Other reasons for awarding a free kick include:  a player playing the ball a second time before it has been touched or played by another player at the kickoff, throw-in, free kick, corner kick, goal kick, or penalty kick.  Indirect free kicks are also awarded for restarts after the issuance of certain offences that result in a caution.  Some examples: entering or leaving the field without permission, illegal coaching from the sidelines, dissent, unsporting behavior, and inappropriate language, to restart the game after offside has been called.  The NCAA Rule Book and the NFHS Rule Book have different indirect free kick restarts after an injury.  The only time an indirect free kick is awarded after an injury in an intercollegiate game is if the goalkeeper was injured while in possession of the ball.  In an interscholastic game if any player was in possession of the ball and the game is stopped for an injury the team in possession restarts the game with an indirect free kick.

When observing fouls, the referee must determine if the infraction is clearly an indirect free kick violation or not.  For example obstruction is defined as a player blocking an opponent from obtaining the ball.  The referee must determine if the player is blocking or committing a more serious infraction.  For example, if the player’s arms are extended the foul would be holding, a direct free kick, not obstruction.  Another example is judging dangerous play.  A player is guilty of dangerous play if the player lifts his/her leg too high near an opponent.  The referee must judge several items during this situation.  How high is too high?  Was the opponent’s head leaned forward, etc.  If the head is down low, the dangerous play may be on that player not on the one lifting the leg.  A third example would be when the ball is heading for the goal line and a defender is shielding it.  The referee must judge whether the defender is shielding the ball or obstructing the attacker from obtaining possession of the ball.  If the defender continues to look back and move in the direction of the attacker it may in fact be obstruction rather than shielding.  The referee must make the decision.

Obstructing the goalkeeper on corner kicks is a difficult play to observe and call correctly.  The referee must be in position to see the play and observe whether the attacker took up a position in front of the goalkeeper prior to the kick.  Did the attacker move in normal course of play as the kick is taken or did the attacker deliberately attempt to obstruct the goalkeeper?  The referee must make this decision.

Goalkeeper infractions are fairly obvious with the exception of the six second requirement.  The six seconds should not start until the goalkeeper is clearly in possession of the ball and has control of his/her body movements.  Once the goalkeeper satisfies these two requirements the six second time limit should commence.  If the goalkeeper is about to release the ball and six seconds expire the referee should not make the call.  Remember the spirit of the game.

Lastly, here is a play that could cause a problem for the referee team.  A corner kick is awarded during a highly contested game.  An attacker takes up a position in front of the goalkeeper and the goalkeeper is nudging the attacker to get him/her out of the way.  Attackers and defenders are struggling with each other to gain an advantage.  The score is tied and it is near the end of regulation.  This description clearly demonstrates that the referee team has a lot to observe and potentially deal with incidents.  The kicker takes the kick and players begin the action to gain possession of the ball.  The goalkeeper works hard to move around the attacker to gain a better opportunity to save any shots.  The ball hits the goal post and several players converge on it.  The player to reach it first is the individual who took the corner kick.  The ball is shot into the goal and the horn sounds to end the game.  What does the referee do?  The proper decision is no goal since the player taking the kick touched it a second time before anyone else.  If the clock had not expired the restart would have been an indirect free kick.  This play clearly demonstrates the need for the referee team to be always ready for any situation and knowledgeable of all the rules.

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