HANDBALL OR DELIBERATE HANDLING?
May 17, 2012
Handball, defined by many as, "contact between the hand and the ball"
is not a foul, never has been, and referees are instructed not to call
it a foul. Deliberate handling of the ball is a foul and referees are
instructed to call it as such. So what is the difference you might ask?
Let me give some examples of "handballs" that are not fouls:
1. Players are standing in a wall with their hands placed across their
chest or in front of the groin area to protect themselves. The ball is
kicked into their arms or hands. While the ball has made contact with
the hands or arms, this is not deliberate handling of the ball and is
not a foul.
2. A hard shot, taken 3-5 yards away from a player , streaks toward the
player’s head. In a flinch reaction, the player throws his hands up to
protect his face and, in the process, strikes the ball. This is not
deliberate handling of the ball. It is an involuntary reaction that is
guaranteed to happen no matter how good the player is. This is not a
3. A player dribbles the ball on one of our "smooth as satin" fields
when the ball hits a rock or clump of grass and bounces up. The ball
strikes the player in the hand. This is not deliberate handling of the
ball. And it doesn’t even matter if an advantage is gained. Consider
4. A striker shoots on goal. The keeper catches it. The striker turns
and begins running up field vigorously pumping her arms. The keeper
gets off a low line drive punt that arrives at the striker just as she
swings her arm backwards. Her elbow strikes the ball driving it
backwards into the goal. Did the player gain an advantage? Certainly,
she scored a goal. Did she deliberately handle the ball? Not hardly.
She was running with her back to the ball and didn’t even see it.
Unless the referee sees the team practicing this play before the game,
it is not a foul!!! Proper restart is a kick-off after the goal.
All of these are examples of what may be called "handball" by some but
clearly they are not deliberate and must not be called fouls. Well, you
might ask, if these are not fouls, what are?
The following are examples of deliberate handling of the ball that must
1. A shot is about to go into the goal and a fullback deliberately puts
out her hand to stop the ball from going in the goal. This is a
deliberate handling of the ball and is a foul.
2. A long pass is about to go over the head of a defender who leaps in
the air and bats the ball down. This is a deliberate handling of the
ball and is a foul.
3. A player fighting for a ball falls down. To prevent the other player
from breaking free with the ball, the player reaches out and grabs the
ball(this is not the same as making accidental contact after falling
down)Clearly a deliberate act. Clearly a foul.
4. A player goes to trap the ball on her chest but traps it with her
arms instead. This is deliberate handling of the ball. She may not have
meant to do it, but she deliberately placed her arms where they
contacted the ball. Foul.
5. In contrast to the second example above of a non-foul, a player puts
up his hands to prevent being hit with a long through pass that travels
20 –30 yards in the air. This is a foul because the player has lots of
time and lots of choices. He could head the ball, chest trap the ball,
or even get out of the way. Putting the hands up is deliberately
choosing to handle the ball. This is a foul.
6. Finally, there are the deliberate handling of the ball by the better
players who miraculously deflect the ball down to their feet when the
referee is shielded. Since referees almost never see these anyway, it
is probably not a good example. Should, however, any of us see a player
deliberately deflecting the ball with his/her hands or arms, this is a
It seems that the first "rule" anyone learns about soccer is that you
can’t use your hands and that if you strike the ball with your hands it
is a foul! Unfortunately, while this is partially true, it is not
correct. It is a foul only if, in the opinion of the referee, the
player deliberately handled the ball. Too many "handball" fouls are
being called when no foul occurred. The game, which is meant to flow,
is needlessly being stopped and free kicks are being awarded when they
To all referees:
Do not call "handball" and award a free kick or penalty kick to the
other team. "Handball" it is not a foul. The correct foul is
"deliberate handling of the ball." More importantly, call the foul only
if you are convinced that it was a deliberate handling of the ball. All
the accidental strikings of the hand or arm by the ball are not
deliberate and are not to be called unless the player then takes
advantage of the contact to deliberately direct the ball to a desirable
Ignore all help from others who call out "Handball ref"! A suggestion:
When you see an alleged "handball," call out loudly to let everyone
know you saw it but are not fooled and will not be goaded into calling
a foul. "No foul!" or "Not deliberate!" or the aforementioned "Give me
a break, willya!" work great.
To all the parents, coaches, and players who want to help the referees:
Please don’t yell "handball" at the referee. He/she is being told not
to call handball fouls and to ignore your help. If you feel you must
help the referee, then please yell "deliberate handling of the ball,
ref!" if you are convinced this is what happened.