December 20, 2013

Late Challenges by Goalkeepers

Imagine a sliding tackle by a player in the midfield that is aimed at gaining possession of the ball in a fair manner but that is mistimed so that the opponent is obviously touched first - a compelling case, the referee has to award a direct free-kick in favour of the fouled player. Now imagine a goalkeeper coming out of his goal during a free-kick or corner kickin order to punch the high ball out of his penalty area. Instead of the ball, he however touches the opposite forward first. Is that still a compelling case? No, because there appear to exist different rules for goalkeepers.

Sometimes, goalkeepers don't touch the ball only (c)

This scenery circumscribed above is usually called "late challenge". Mostly, they can be categorized as careless tackles not mandatorily requiring a caution. Several situations at the highest level of football show that goalkeepers seem to savour a particular status, being kind of exception to the rule. Have a look at the following situations having occurred during the past months.

I. FC Augsburg - FC Bayern München (DFB Pokal, referee Felix Zwayer)


II. Steaua Bucuresti - FC Schalke 04 (UEFA Champions League, referee Bas Nijhuis)

Since UEFA is forbidding to upload videos of their competitions for educational purpose, please follow this link to find the respective match situation. It occured in match minute 68/69.

III. Bayer Leverkusen - Manchester United (UEFA Champions League, referee Svein Moen)

Since UEFA is forbidding to upload videos of their competitions for educational purpose, please follow this link to find the respective match situation. It occured in match minute 48.

IV. Borussia Dortmund - Arsenal London (UEFA Champions League, referee Björn Kuipers)

For this match situation, there is no video available. It was quite similar to the incidents given above. It was described like that by our blog observer: "Penalty appeal by away team. After a free-kick (foul) and a failed attempt by #1 (BVB) to play the ball, the GK fell on #6 (ARS) with a lot of force and without making an attempt to avoid his opponent. This situation is a penalty kick which wasn’t evaluated as such by the referee. AAR1 didn’t help him."

So in a nutshell: it seems to be an established phenomenon to grant goalkeepers an exceptional status in terms of late challenges. Personally, I have never seen a penalty whistled for such fouls by goalkeepers. And the question should be, why not? In all cases, the referees concerned did not even make a gesture to indicate that no foul has occurred. Thus, it is questionable whether they had any form of awareness for what had happened at all. In three of the four cases, the situations happened in the immediate and free line of sight of additional assistant referees. The system of additional assistant referees implies that they are referees themselves. Therefore, it is no surprise at all that they do not assist their teammate as it should be. Without any doubt, these situations go very quick; in most cases, there are fractions of a second between the contact with the opponent and the ball moving away which might arouse the impression that the goalkeeper had well cleared the ball. 
What referees on this level should become aware of is that goalkeepers are not moving in a holy area. They may not be allowed to do everything just because they are doing so in their goal area. Referees should ask their additional assistant referees, if available, to pay attention to such infringements. Awarding penalty kicks as consequences of such fouls might lead to astonishment. But they would be the correct decisions.


  1. There seems to be a difference between the actions with the ball on the ground and the ones with ball in the air. To explain what I mean: when keepers try to make a save but they hit the opponent on the ground, it is a clear and easy penalty to detect for referees.
    When the ball is in the air, keepers are allowed to hit and push the opponents, prior to reach the ball. Most of the referees don't whistle this kind of penalty. Why?

    1. Last month Szymon Marciniak whistled a penalty for an analogous infringement. I was proud that finally one referee was able to detect and WHISTLE it :) Sometimes it seems that the best referees have no guts to make unpopular decisions. And it's really bad.

      The same with a dangerous play inside the box. It's almost always ignored...

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    1. Shocking injury in Romanian Ligue 1, please don't open the video if you are sensitive.

      Referee: Adrian Comănescu

      In my opinion, if you give a YC for that, you should stop refereeing forever.
      Not excusable.

    2. Comanescu indeed changed his mind and sent off the offender with a RC after the medical treatment.


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