Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

I teach entry-level classes and frequently get situations about how the referee messed up and the player got a card for doing nothing. Let’s analyze one question a father-son duo asked to show you how to evaluate a game or a tough decision.

The player (the son, A9) said he was chasing a 50-50 ball. Goalkeeper B1 got the ball first and A9 bumped into B1. A9’s father, who seemed trustworthy, described it as not violent.

The referee called a foul and showed A9 a yellow card. That seemed interesting. I asked some questions. A9 seemed like one who liked to stir up things and had been doing some trash talking.

The teams had a strong rivalry and past hard feelings. I don’t know if the referee knew about that or, more likely, got some bad vibes early in the match. Apparently the teams made no effort to hide the animosity.

I asked about what went on earlier in the game. A10 had scored a goal after some contact with B1. Additionally, B1 was trash talking. That certainly could have persuaded the referee that there was some malice in A9’s challenge.

The challenge itself was an issue. A9 felt that he had a right to the ball. True, but once B1 picked up the ball that was not true. There was a foul, because A9 challenged B1 illegally.

I then wanted to find out about the temperature level of the game. The father assured me it was heating up by the minute. With what I knew about the game so far, it seemed sure the game needed a card.

I would have been in a mode of “the next player who gives me a good excuse to give a card will have one.” He gets sacrificed for the good of the game. There are games where talk and calling fouls will not get the job done.

Teams tend to be protective of their goalkeepers and after any substantial contact such as that, I would call a foul. If I felt that it was just a case of A9 being a hair late, I would tell A9 to be careful after calling the foul. That tends to cool things off. Didn’t seem to be the case here.

The last part of the discussion concerned some retaliation by B1. He gave A9 a solid shove after the initial contact. I saw two possibilities as to why the referee took no action.

First, the referee did not see it. He was apparently following directly behind the play and A9’s body probably left him unsighted. The referee would have been better off to take an angle so he could see between the players and have been a bit farther away.

I did not like the other possibility, but I know some referees think that way. That is, “I will let him get away with the retaliation because he had it coming.” That sort of thinking gets you in trouble in the long run.

I think I convinced the father that the referee took a reasonable course of action — given the circumstances. A9 needs to grow up a bit to reach that conclusion.

Break down your own games that way. Get to the why. Dig deep. Analyze. Ask. Probe.

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