Indirect free kick and why you need to raise your arm

The indirect free kick is an important part of football, but not raising your arm can cause serious problems. In the Euro u19 game between Portugal and the Czech Republic the referee forgets to raise his arm. Usually no big deal, but it is when a team scores directly. An interesting case study.

It’s the group stage during the youth European Championships. Portugal plays against the Czech Republic team. It’s exciting, because it is only 2-1 in favour of Portugal. In the 90th minute the Czech team receives a free kick at the halfway-line.

Analyse the clip for yourself. What do you see during the video? How does the referee act? How do players react?

Analyse your games based on facts

If you analyse your own games, always stick to the facts first.

In the video you can’t see the foul, but lets assume it is an indirect free kick. The fact is: the referee doesn’t rais his hand in the air.

Indirect free kick without raised hand by ref

The player kicks the ball, but nobody touches it before it enters the goal. The referee points towards the halfway-line so it seems like he allows the goal. Czech players cheer and celebrate the equalizer, but then the referee changes his mind.

Maybe his assistant referee or fourth official gives advice. That is not clear from a video with highlights. You’ll see in the clip that players realise the referee disallows the goal. He signals with his arm it is an indirect free kick and you can’t score directly from it.

That is true, but what is the correct restart?

Referee Palabiyik signals for an indirect free kick

Scored from an indirect free kick

The Laws of the Game explains the procedure of an indirect free kick. “The referee indicates an indirect free kick by raising the arm above the head. This signal is maintained until the kick has been taken and the ball touches another player or goes out of play.”

And also: “If an indirect free kick is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded.”

So far, so good. But here comes the tricky bit.

“An indirect free kick must be retaken if the referee fails to signal that the kick is indirect and the ball is kicked directly into the goal.” So if the referee does not raise his arm and the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken.

Deliberate handling or not (case study)

Deliberate handling or not? That is always an interesting discussion for tv pundits and players, but also for referees. What are the criteria for a deliberate handball?

KNVB has made an interesting video with lots of examples, but I’d like you to do some homework first.

Get a pen and paper. Write down as many things you know about deliberate handling, because that will help you discover the rules the best.

Difficult isn’t it? How many bullet points do you have?

Now check out the video of non-deliberate handling. Below the video you’ll get the explanation by the Laws of the Game.

Laws of the Game on deliberate handling

According to the KNVB all these examples are non-deliberate handling. But why? Check out what criteria are mentioned in the Laws of the Game on page 96.

“Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered:

  • 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 offence
  • touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.)
    is an offence
  • hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) is an offence”

How many of these bullet points did you write down before watching the video? I hope you like these small exercises that will keep your LOTG knowledge on par. Want to test that on a weekly basis? Check out the LOTG Quizzes.

No deliberate handling according to Danny Makkelie

Touching the ball twice at penalty kick: allowed or not?

Kieran Dowell touching the ball twice at penalty kick this weekend. In the cup match against Arsenal. How would you handle in situations like this?

And during last season a similar situationLeicester City got a penalty kick against Manchester City and Mahrez is the taker. He kicks the ball, but slips. The goalie protests right away and referee Robert Madley makes a quick decision. He disallows the goal, because it’s not allowed to kick the ball again before a team-mate or opponent has touched the ball.

Below another example plus an further explanation based on the Laws of the Game.

Robert Madley

And have a look at the situation below.

 Bacca also touching the ball twice at penalty kick

There’s also a similar situation in the Serie A earlier this season. In the game between Sassuolo and AC Milan Bacca touches the ball twice, but I needed a few replays to see that. At first glance it’s difficult to see what exactly happens.

Bacca touching the ball twice at penalty kick

But for the players on the pitch it was very clear. They immediately asked the referee if he had seen what they saw. Bacca’s left food slipped, so he could not take a proper kick. He shoots with his right foot, but can’t prevent it from touching his left foot as well before anyone else touches it. That extra touch gives the ball an extra spin, which puts it over the goalie, who is not able to touch the ball.

Arbiter Café on Twitter got me a clip that I could embed on the blog. Much appreciated. Please have a look and see if you can spot Bacca touching the ball twice at penalty kick. Below the video you’ll find an explanation based on the Laws of the Game.

Difficult to spot, right? Only the replays will give you a clear view of what happened.

Explanation with Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game (page 95 and 96) are clear: “The kicker must not play the ball again until it has touched another player. (…) If, after the penalty kick has been taken, the kicker touches the ball again before it has touched another player: an indirect free kick (or direct free kick for deliberate hand ball) is awarded.”


Referees have to focus on a lot of things during a penalty kick. They don’t want players or the goalie to move too quickly, but in the end not many referees whistle when it happens. Just wanted to know from you if referees should get more strict on encroachment. Vote in this Twitter poll.

Want to read more? Check all case studies on my blog.

Offside when defender leaves field of play (case study)

A new case study: “Offside when defender leaves field of play”. CSKA think they score a goal, but does it count?

A screenshot from the situation. To give some extra info: the player in black right in front of the goalie touches the ball.

What is your call?

Offside situatuation where defender leaves the field of play

I hope you made that call right now. The video clips on YouTube and other websites are vague or can’t be embedded. The pic is much better, but I will show you the full situation now. What’s your verdict? (Explanation below)

And, still the same verdict?

Defender leaves field of play: what do the LOTG say?

The Laws of the Game are very clear on how to handle in these situations, but did you know this?

“A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play or until the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is  outside their penalty area.”

And the LOTG also add. “If the player left the field of play deliberately, the player must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.” In this situation the yellow card doesn’t apply, because Blind went out of play in action.

Clue about defender leaving the field of play

Wait and see technique in offside situations by the assistant referee

The wait and see technique is well-known in football. Assistant referees should not raise their flag too soon, but wait how play continues. I recently saw two great offside examples to show how it works.

The first example is from a 2017-2018 Champions League game. Feyenoord plays at home against Manchester City and the referee is Szymon Marciniak. But I’d like to mention his assistant referee Tomasz Listkiewicz. I’ll analyse the situation below the video clip.

How important waiting is

The situation as it happened. Manchester City takes a corner kick and the ball does not get away. A Feyenoord defender blocks a shot from outside the box, but it’s not sufficient. There is a second shot on goal. As you can see, at the moment of the pass there is an attacker in offside position.

Wait and see technique at shot from Manchester City

Feyenoord goalie Jones saves this second shot and the striker in offside position is not yet active in play.  The Laws of the Game say the following about this. A player is interfering with an opponent by:

  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has (1) rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent or (2) been deliberately saved by any opponent

That is what happens here if the player in offside position gains the advantage. But is that the fact here?

Wait and see technique in LOTG

The Laws of the Game (LOTG) also mention the fact assistant referees need to see how play develops. The rulebook says: “The AR must use the “wait and see technique” to allow play to continue and not raise the flag when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from the advantage; it is therefore very important for the AR to make eye contact with the referee.”

And that is exactly what happens here. Although the player is in offside position, he is not active in play and does not interfere with an opponent. The assistant referee waits until someone touches the ball and that is an attacker who is not in offside position at the moment of the shot on goal.

So correct goal.

Great teamwork by the match officials and good use of the wait and see technique. I’d love to hear how they communicate in situations like this, because that makes it even more interesting. It gives us an even better idea how these calls are made.

Below another example.

Assistant referee Tomasz Listkiewicz.

 Situation in The Netherlands

The following situation is in The Netherlands, but it’s slightly different. You’ll see that striker Van Wolfswinkel is in offside position at the moment of the pass and he runs towards the ball. What would you decide in this situation? (start at 1m56s)

At the moment of the pass Van Wolfswinkel is clearly in offside position. But remember: being in an offside position is not a foul.

Van Wolfswinkel in offside position.

Interfering with play or an opponent

And then something interesting happens. Van Wolfswinkel (red circle in pic below) runs towards the ball, but does not touch it. And that is the crucial detail to make the correct decision, because that’s important to determine if someone is interfering with play or an opponent.

The player does not touch the ball, therefore he is not interfering with play. The LOTG mention that interfering with play means you’re “playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate.”

Players interfere with an opponent by:

  • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
  • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

Van Wolfswinkel is running towards the ball, but that does not meet the criteria above. His actions don’t have an impact on the opponent.

But he is the player who scores. What is in the LOTG about gaining advantage?

Van Wolfswinkel running towards the ball.

Gaining an advantage

I want to tell you something about gaining an advantage. But we forget one important thing. Is the other player in offside position? In the video you can see lines on the pitch. I’ve marked it purple below and you see the secondlast defender’s shoe is closer the goal-line.

Offside situation at moment of the pass

Gaining an advantage only applies when the ball rebounds from an opponent, crosbar,goalpost or match official. Or when a defender deliberately saves the ball. That’s not the case here. As a result, there  is a new situation at the moment the right winger receives the ball. When the right winger passes the ball back to Van Wolfswinkel, he is behind the ball. Correct goal and great wait and see technique there.

Do you remember any interesting situations like this? Let me know.

Why ball direction is irrelevant (offside case study)

The relevancy of ball direction at offside situations. I never thought it was a big issue, but I was wrong. In matchdays, I post screenshots on my social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As Watford scores the 3-3 equaliser against Liverpool, I share a screenshot from television. The idea: can you see if the attacker in offside position is closer to the backline then the ball or the secondlast defender. But I got a lot of comments on the fact it is a backpass. In this offside case study I explain why the the ball direction is irrelevant.

Please answer for yourself if the player is in offside position. A little exercise now: summarize the offside criteria for yourself. Write them down before you scroll down to the video and explanation.

Ball direction in offside situation

A close offside call

Yes, it’s very difficult to spot, because it is so close. And in the real game it happens at high speed, which makes it almost impossible for the AR to call. To begin with it’s good to know that “it is not an offence to be in an offside position”.

The criteria to be in offside position are:

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent

The second-last opponent is too far away to make him onside. Then the position of the ball is relevant, which means not the toes of the player who passes the ball. It’s a very close call. My idea is that he is in offside position, but love to see a 3D model of the situation. Let’s assume he is offside, but is it an offence?

The ball direction is backwards

Let’s get into detail what actually happens after the moment of the shot/pass by Watford 11. The ball goes backwards, touches a Liverpool player, Liverpool goalie Mignolet and the bar. Then Watford attacker Britos, who was probably in offside position, scores. An analysis below the video.

Analysis offside situation

The first thing: the ball goes backwards. Lots of referees replied on the social channels that it therefore can’t be offside. That surprises me, because it’s a wrong assumption. Not the ball direction is relevant, but the position of the players.

Because the Liverpool player is so close to the situation, he can’t respond properly. This not a save or deliberate play, but a deflection.

Interfering with an opponent

As the goalie touches the ball, the attacker has not played the ball yet. But the question is if he’s interfering with an opponent.

The Laws of the game say that players are interfering with an opponent by:

  • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  •  clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
  •  making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

In this situation the attacker interferes with play and he impacts the ability of the goalkeeper to play the ball.


In this situation the goal should have been disallowed if the attacker is in offside position, because he interferes with the goalkeeper. Please keep in mind the player might be centimeters offside, so it’s something which is very difficult to spot during the game at full speed.

But most of all, I wrote this case study to explain that ball direction is not relevant.

If you see an interesting situation on the pitch, please let me know via

How to deal with encroachment at penalty kicks

How to deal with encroachment at penalty kicks? An interesting situation in the game between Newcastle and Burton. This case study is written as educational story to show referees how to handle in particular situations based on the Laws of the Game.

The situation. Newcastle has been awarded a penalty kick. Matt Richie takes it and scores, but the referee disallows the goal. Is it correct? And how does play need to be restarted? Have a look at the situation yourself first.

The Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game explain how a referee needs to handle. “If a player of both teams infringes the Laws of the Game, the kick is retaken.” And there’s a little addition: “unless a player commits a more serious offence (e.g. illegal feinting).” That’s not the case here, because the Newcastle player is not feinting to kick the ball after completing his the run-up.

Offence or not?

So no feinting, but do both teams make an offence?

Have you seen how many players entered the penalty area too early? It’s (almost) everybody who was visible on the tv screen.

Encroachment at penalty kicks

Correct decision for encroachment at penalty kicks

The correct decision would be to disallow the goal and order a retake of the penalty kick.

Personal question

In Uefa and Fifa games referees will tolerate a lot with encroaching players at penalty kicks. But how strict are you with encroachment at penalty kicks?

Share your thoughts below or vote on the Twitter poll.