• Daniel Squizzato

      As a kid, Squizz spent a lot of time playing soccer, writing and getting overly excited about frivolous things. Not much has changed: he still plays (badly), he still writes (having been published in outlets such as Maclean's and The Globe & Mail) and still has plenty of irrational passion (just wait until the next time the men's national team plays against Honduras).

    • Grant Surridge

      Grant has no soccer playing career to speak of, and probably hasn't been following Canadian soccer as long as you have, but he does spend vast amounts of time reading about soccer online. A proud, self-loathing ex-Winnipeger, Grant also supports Chelsea FC. He writes about the Canadian mens' national team, as well as Canada's rivals in Central America and the Caribbean.
    • Don't Fight The Laws: THE CALL

      I used to do this semi-regular feature, in which I'd answer questions from readers about the Laws of the Game and their application in real-life situations. The questions trailed off a bit, my interest waned a bit, and the feature seemed to have disappeared.

      But there was one call -- THE CALL -- in Monday's Olympic semifinal that absolutely needs clarification, not just because it befuddled 99% of the viewing audience, but because incorrect explanations were subsequently provided by various media sources.

      By way of background, I've been a certified referee for over 12 years, and while I've never gone beyond local competitive and recreational games, suffice to say I've developed a pretty good working relationship with the FIFA Laws of the Game in that time.

      So, without further ado, the question I'll ask myself on behalf of everyone who scratched their heads while watching the game: What, exactly, was the call the ref made when the USA was awarded an indirect free kick inside Canada's penalty area late in the second half? And if an infringement occurred, was the referee correct to award that indirect free kick?

      The Olympics have a funny way of making everyone in the world an expert on the intricacies of sports that they'd never seen or heard of before the Olympics began. Soccer, of course, is no different. Within minutes of Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen's contentious decision, social media erupted with alternate explanations as to how she should have handled the situation. Many explanations bore no resemblance to anything written in the Laws of the Game; but hey, Twitter is no place for fact-checking.

      Now, whatever Pedersen's failings in the game as a whole, whatever poor decisions she may have made (including the penalty kick awarded to the USA immediately following the indirect free kick) and whatever undue influence she may have had over the outcome of the hard-fought contest, one thing must be made clear. And as an unabashedly hyper-partisan Canadian fan, it pains me somewhat to admit this, but in the interest of the facts, it needs to be said.

      By the letter of the law -- certainly not the spirit, and certainly not according to the standard set by nearly every other professional game officiated at any level, including Pedersen herself in that very same game, but by the absolute, black-and-white, as-it's-written letter of the FIFA Laws of the Game -- the call was entirely correct.

      According to Law 12, the goalkeeper must release the ball from their hands within six seconds of taking control of it. Pretty straightforward. The keeper is considered to still be in control of the ball while bouncing it, so the six seconds continue to tick (and an attacker is not permitted to steal the ball away from them) in this case. In the event that the keeper doesn't release the ball within six seconds, the opposing team is awarded an indirect free kick from the spot where the infringement occurred.

      Now, no highlight package I've been able to find includes the entirety of Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod's time handling the ball in this instance. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that after corralling the ball off a USA corner kick and going to ground, she did indeed control it for longer than six seconds. Let's also take as read the fact that the referee -- in an absolutist, by-the-book sense -- was within her right to award the indirect free kick to the USA.

      This is where we tread into dangerous, subjective territory -- the "spirit" of the law, if you will. The six-second rule exists, as you'd imagine, to discourage goalkeepers from wasting time when their team is ahead. After all, if this rule or some variation didn't exist, a goalkeeper could theoretically just hold onto the ball for 40 minutes, with the opponents unable to do much about it, short of drop-kicking them in the chest. So within the "spirit of the law", the referee needs to be under the impression that the keeper is attempting to unfairly waste time by maintaining possession for more than six seconds.

      Is that what McLeod was doing in this case? She didn't think so. Canadian head coach John Herdman didn't think so. But Pedersen did.

      Beyond that, we have other factors that go into any referee's decision (even though, in an absolutist, by-the-book interpretation of the world, they're not supposed to): circumstances and precedent. All sports fans know that what gets called in the first minute of a game isn't the same as what's going to get called in the last minute of a game. Referees, being human, are inexorably influenced by the context of the game, the crowd and any other number of factors. And I don't use the word "influenced" here to suggest any sort of malfeasance; rather, I'm saying that to expect human referees to operate as rule-processing automatons simply isn't realistic.

      In this regard, fans generally expect that officials will, to some extent, "swallow their whistles" late in games, or in games of massive significance. We're often told that no one wants referees to have an impact on the outcome of the game -- this line of thinking is, of course, ridiculous. Referees always have an impact on the outcome of any game; what people mean is that when everything is on the line, they'd rather see the referee not make a call than make one.

      That applies exponentially so in this case, when we consider the issue of precedent. The next time you're watching a game, at any level, count the seconds that either goalkeeper controls the ball with their hands. Chances are, you'll get past six on multiple occasions. But you're not going to see those goalkeepers punished, even if their team is winning. The fact of the matter is, the rule is so rarely enforced that many long-time fans of the game admitted on Monday that they didn't even know it existed.

      But then, ignorance of any law is no defence, ultimately. Which is why, by the way, I'd like to take a moment to dispel a couple of myths that are circulating about the rule:
      • Myth: The referee was compelled to warn McLeod about time-wasting before enforcing the six-second rule. Nowhere in the Laws of the Game is it stated that the referee is under any obligation to do this. From a game-management standpoint, it's in their best interest to do so, perhaps, but it is not required.
      • Myth: The punishment should have been a yellow card, and McLeod should have retained possession of the ball. If McLeod had been taking a goal kick, and had been wasting time before taking it, the referee would have been within her right to show a yellow card for unsporting behaviour, whereupon McLeod would then still take the goal kick. But this is a different situation, one that's explicitly spelled out in the Laws of the Game.


      None of any of this is any consolation to players and fans still seething at the call, and at Pedersen's performance in general. While human officials have their flaws, one of the ostensible benefits is that they are capable of applying the rules of a sport in such a way that takes into consideration such issues as the spirit of the rule, the circumstances of the game and precedent. Suffice to say, that did not take place in this case.

      If nothing else, this incident proved that it is entirely possible for a referee's decision to simultaneously be technically correct and dead wrong.

      .
      Comments 60 Comments
      1. kj52's Avatar
        kj52 -
        This has already been pointed out after the game yesterday by a poster on the Voyageurs thread who is a very senior referee. He basically stated the same, although more succinctly, and also affirmed that it is almost never called (he also had a few words about the penalty as well). I imagine that the referee will be getting a very poor assessment based on her performance yesterday, it's just too bad that FIFA, as it has done in the past, insists on using referees who may or may not be qualified for important games. It would be interesting to know a little more about this referee's past history and qualifications as she seemed completely out of her depth.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        I hate to say it but this is one of the reasons why we always get these things happen to our national teams. We always take a step back and try and be rational, which is excellent by the way but in this sport it gets nothing done. The CSA and the Canadian Olympic authorities should be raising all hell last night and this morning until something happens or the point gets across. We are tired of being taken advantage of. You are killing the growth of the sport in our country. Those Women put in an Olympic sized effort in the biggest game of their lives and they weren't undone in the end by their own skill, or a lack of heart they were done in by something that is supposed to stop injustices from happening.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Just imagine if that was called against any of the big teams in the semi final of the World Cup
      1. jonovision's Avatar
        jonovision -
        The CSA should have had their video guy cutting together a package after the game of every time Solo or McLeod exceeded the 6-second limit without being punished, and sending that in to FIFA. The call was unforgivable.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by jonovision View Post
        The CSA should have had their video guy cutting together a package after the game of every time Solo or McLeod exceeded the 6-second limit without being punished, and sending that in to FIFA. The call was unforgivable.
        Absolutely agree with you.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Squizz you made me hate you for a few minutes!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Erin McLeod was warned at halftime about holding the ball too long and delaying by the AR. She was "on the clock" so to speak and no one should be surprised that the call was made.
      1. David Bailey's Avatar
        David Bailey -
        Quote Originally Posted by jonovision View Post
        The CSA should have had their video guy cutting together a package after the game of every time Solo or McLeod exceeded the 6-second limit without being punished, and sending that in to FIFA. The call was unforgivable.
        Yup. Go for it Max!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Simple way to see if the 'LAWS' were applied correctly:

        1) Go back and review the match - take out the stopwatch and use it EVERY time either goalie had the ball in her hands. You will find that BOTH goalies held the ball longer for 6 seconds on a regular basis. These are apparently LAWS of the game, and must be applied universally, in each instance.

        2) According to the LAWS of the game - the handball simply... wasn't. No attempt was made the play the ball with the hand/arm - which is what is required under the rules for a handball to result. Players have the right to protect themselves from the ball - considering the arm was essentially against the chest - women soccer players are TAUGHT by referees to hold their arms against their chest in such instances (same way you find men covering themselves in a freekick wall).

        Either you apply rules/laws universally or you don't. The 6-second rule while on the 'books' is NEVER called in professional soccer that way.

        Don't cover up for the incompetence of FIFA refereeing.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by jonovision View Post
        The CSA should have had their video guy cutting together a package after the game of every time Solo or McLeod exceeded the 6-second limit without being punished, and sending that in to FIFA. The call was unforgivable.
        I thought the same thing as I watched the replay on TSN late last night... it happened so many times with BOTH keepers that I stopped - and to boot it occurred by both keepers McLeod & Solo in EXTRA TIME ... after the warning.

        FIFA wouldn't have acknowledged the error though - their corruption level is just about as bad as the IOC... (Remember Sale & Peltier in '02?)
      1. unregistered's Avatar
        unregistered -
        The simple fact of the matter is MONEY$$$$. A US in the final is worth a lot more than the Canadians in the final. The ref isn't going to let Canada win unless they can win decisively. The money team ALWAYS gets the benefit of a really bad call late in the game.
      1. elmateo's Avatar
        elmateo -
        Realized I read the wrong name... Pederson has been doing U20 world cups. As best as I can see.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        The ref was clearly in over her head. The call was ridiculous to make as everyone who has watched even one professional game can attest. What most viewers who don't watch a lot of games should understand is that some refs will actually make a marginal call later in the game after blowing a call or two (and realizing it) from earlier in the game. I believe that both the 6 second call and the unintentional hand ball PK were to make up for some missed calls earlier. That game really could have and probably should have seen a lot more PK's for both sides. The Rapinoe hand ball just a few minutes earlier, players being thrown to the ground without the ball being even remotely close to where contact is occuring, and some all out muggings going on in the penalty area. Up until these two bogus calls were made I thought this ref just didn't want to make a call that could lead to a goal. She should have at least tried to remain consistent, if you're not going to make the hard calls, don't make them for the whole game.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        I watched the replay last night, and starting timing McLeod when she landed on the ground with the ball. The camera didn't show her release the ball in the live feed, but showed the ball in the air near midfield, which was 11 seconds. This includes the time she was on the ground, and the ball in the air. Allowing for air time of 2 seconds, the ref would have started counting McLeod when she was on the ground, and based on where the free kick was placed, likely in possession for 7-8 seconds when call was made. Was this premeditated??
        As a ref, I'll admit I have made a mistake or two in a game, but upon realizing such, I make sure not to compound it with another. Awarding the PK was the exact opposite. She doubled the shit pile, and made it worse. IF FIFA puts this ref in another international, heads should roll.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        McLeod had been warned. According to the Globe and Mail, the British team had also complained about McLeod's delaying tactics. McLeod didn't just hold past 6 seconds, she habitually held for 15 sec or more, filled with fake distributions and hand waving to her players to clear the defensive zone. Solo could not be accused of the same. McLeod's violations of the rule were repeated and flagrant. That she eventually got called for it should be a surprise to no one.

        As for the granting of the penalty kick, the indirect kick hit two, if not three, Canadian arms after being struck, the last of which was Nault's LEFT arm, the one that was NOT by her side.

        Lastly, how on Earth was Tancredi still on the field after committing seven fouls and receiving a yellow card?

        But the most disheartening decision of all was made by the LEADERS of the Canadian team (Sinclair, Tancredi, McLeod) to NOT participate in the post-game handshakes.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        As for rarely seeing a keeper called for delaying, the mens Korean keeper, Bumyoung Lee, was carded for it just two days earlier.
      1. adrenaline11's Avatar
        adrenaline11 -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        As for rarely seeing a keeper called for delaying, the mens Korean keeper, Bumyoung Lee, was carded for it just two days earlier.
        That was a goal kick. That one is more common.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Let's put it this way... one of Canada's most decorated international GKs (Craig Forrest) has NEVER seen that rule applied that way in all his years in the game.

        That tells you something.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        But the most disheartening decision of all was made by the LEADERS of the Canadian team (Sinclair, Tancredi, McLeod) to NOT participate in the post-game handshakes.
        Not surprising to see this behavior from Tancredi or McLeod, but I've lost a lot of respect for Sinclair. I would expect her to look back and regret that decision.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        What about the call when Canada's player stomped on Carly's hand? That was clear it was a foul that should have recieved a red card!!!
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