Goalkeeper cheating -- yet again

By Paul Gardner

Are these guys for real, or what?

A penalty kick. A regular occurrence in soccer. Any experienced referee will have had plenty of them to deal with. He should then, surely, know what the rules say.

The goalkeeper is not allowed to move forward, off his line, until the kicker has made contact with the ball. Similarly, the other players must wait until the kicker strikes the ball before they can enter the penalty area (including the D).

We’re at the top level of the sport, here. A European Championship game between Spain and Croatia. Dutch referee Björn Kuipers has awarded Spain a penalty kick. And this is what we get. A total collapse of the refereeing responsibility.

Take a look at the picture. No minute attention to detail is necessary. The rule-breaking is immediately obvious. But not, apparently, to referee Kuipers. He does not spot the encroachment, which is blatant. Nor can he see that the Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic is nearly three yards off his line.

To add to this appalling officiating, we have that guy standing on the goal line -- one of the Additional Assistant Referees used by UEFA. As it happens, the rulebook very specifically spells out one of the AAR’s function at a penalty kick: to indicate whether “the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the ball is kicked.” Is this guy asleep, then?

It is generally accepted that goalkeepers will be allowed one step forward -- on the grounds that it is impossible to tell when that first movement is made -- whether at the exact moment that the kicker strikes the ball, or immediately before or after. Fair enough.

But this picture shows the situation well before the ball has been struck -- with the keeper Subasic already yards off his line. There is absolutely no excuse for the AAR not to have detected the illegal movement. But, to be fair to the AAR, there’s one thing we don’t know. The AAR doesn’t have a flag or a whistle; he communicates by radio with the referee -- and we don’t know anything about that. Maybe he did tell Kuipers. But that seems unlikely -- why would the referee ignore that information?

So, not for the first time in a major UEFA competition, goalkeeper cheating goes unpunished, and the course of the tournament may well have been affected.

Why is it so easy for goalkeepers to get away with such obvious cheating? A clue -- a solid clue -- comes from listening to the TV commentators. These are guys who are supposed to know the rules of the game. This commentator - he’s not worth identifying - merely remarks that Subasic “gets away with stepping out in front, but every goalkeeper does that.”

So no big deal, then. Far from being excoriated for cheating, the goalkeeper is now a hero. As the other, equally pathetic, TV commentator had it, “the man of the moment.”

Indeed, this goalkeeper cheating seems now to be an acceptable part of the game. In this game, the Spanish players and bench must have been aware that they were getting shafted, big time. Yet they accepted the injustice. They should not have done -- in fact they had every right to raise merry hell. Instead, they kept quite, apparently not aware of just how bad the referee’s decision had been.

I applaud their restraint, not least because I deplore players questioning decisions, or mobbing referees … but what is it going to take to get FIFA or UEFA or the referees themselves to make sure their own rules are complied with?

This was utterly poor refereeing. Abysmal. Referee Kuipers should have ordered the kick to be retaken. Goalkeeper Subasic should have been yellow-carded. This is not to say that Spain would have scored at their second attempt -- maybe yes, maybe not. This is not about who wins the game.

The point is much more fundamental than that. It is to ask what the hell kind of sport soccer can be when it can feel comfortable turning a blind eye on players who flagrantly breach its rules, when it condones deliberate cheating?

36 comments about "Goalkeeper cheating -- yet again".
  1. Ramon Creager, June 22, 2016 at 8:21 a.m.

    This is like one of those diagrams you find in a referee handbook. "The player from the attacking team fails to score. You: a) retake the kick b) allow play to go on"

  2. Claus Fischer replied, June 23, 2016 at 4:50 p.m.

    Precisely. A nearly identical sketch of this very scenario is in every printed copy of the Laws of the Game in living memory.

  3. Robert Parr, June 22, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

    Paul, I have to agree 100% with you on this. Encroachment by the field players is just totally unnecessary and dumb...except for the fact that referees seem totally willing to permit it. And I have yet to see an AAR contribute anything meaningful to any game, ever. I certainly trust technology to "make the call" much more--a camera and computer aren't biased by the crowd, players, coaches, or circumstances. Maybe the encroachment on PKs will finally stop once the Video Assistant Referee starts having kicks re-taken every time this happens? Surely, this is a perfect moment for automatic video review...

  4. Thomas Sullivan, June 22, 2016 at 11:59 a.m.

    Hi Paul,

    Can you do a panel conversation about refereeing with senior management responsible for this? I would love to hear them defend this and what they are doing to ensure improvements to quality of enforcement of the rules.

  5. Kelly Quinn, June 22, 2016 at 12:05 p.m.

    Time & again I have wondered the same thing. Perhaps now is the time to set reply in motion in soccer!

  6. Michael Saunders, June 22, 2016 at 12:15 p.m.

    Paul: This was more obvious than Scurry's save during the WC final in 1999. What makes this one worse is as you say the end line official being present. Frankly there is no excuse !!

  7. Brian Something, June 22, 2016 at 12:40 p.m.

    Diving is the only form of cheating in soccer. It should be punishable by a life ban. All other forms of cheating are hunky dory.

  8. Ric Fonseca, June 22, 2016 at 1:26 p.m.

    Where is Dr. Joe Machnik's "professional input" when it is needed? Jeepers, I heard it on several occasions during the most recent Copa broadcast but it was only given short shrift. Oh, but wait, if that was the case, maybe Dr. Joe ought not work the games--- a la football, now MLB and the NBA...

  9. Daniel Clifton, June 22, 2016 at 2:24 p.m.

    This is so easy to enforce. I don't understand why the rule isn't enforced.

  10. Barry Thomas replied, June 22, 2016 at 3:18 p.m.

    Off-setting penalties? LOL

  11. John Soares, June 22, 2016 at 3:26 p.m.

    I agree with Paul's take EXCEPT for the word cheating. When any other player commits a foul he is not called a cheater. He is however whistled for a foul/free kick and perhaps a card. Why not treat goalies the same. Make the call if repeated give a card...period. If anyone show be guilty of major screw up (Paul touch on this) it's the referees.

  12. Carl Walther, June 22, 2016 at 3:50 p.m.

    Far too many refs take the easy way out and don't call offenses. They're lazy and don't want to face criticism for a call. A lot of them should just sit in the stands. Easier for them.

  13. Richard Brown, June 22, 2016 at 4 p.m.

    Carl a lot of officials move so little and late in a game it is like they are sitting in the stands.

    We had one in our men's league he was terrible. The MLS when it first started too him. He was later released and he is back in our league.

    He knew he was a bad official. He was so bad he did not park his car in our parking lot. He parked across the high way on the other side of the belt parkway. Our field was the Verranzo sports complex.

    Someone from our club saw where he parked. After another bad game he ran to his car. Someone got in their car drove to where his car was parked, and set fire to it.

  14. Richard Brown, June 22, 2016 at 4:12 p.m.

    This is a true story an official in the premiership said he never saw any keeper leave his line to soon on a pk. Meaning he would just never call it.

    It started to get called in the women game with Briana scurry on the US national team. She would go way out pks. Also a keeper an Argentina men's team did the same thing. I think he replaced Nery Pompidue it was Goycochea.

    After those two officials started to watch the keeper movement

  15. ROBERT BOND, June 22, 2016 at 4:40 p.m.

    my kid keeps-we had a good laugh......

  16. feliks fuksman, June 22, 2016 at 5:52 p.m.

    Good article Paul; the referee should have been in a better position (maybe it would prevent some of the encroachment on top of the box) and retake the kick w/ a yellow card. Moreover you are right about some of the TV commentators, they are very bad.

  17. Claus Fischer replied, June 23, 2016 at 4:48 p.m.

    I am looking forward to the TV broadcast network that will figure out that many fans only wish for the crowd noise, i.e. no comments/commentators at all. (For all matches shown)

  18. Kelly Ross, June 22, 2016 at 8:45 p.m.

    Unless and until competition authorities, players, captains, managers, commentators and spectatorrs/fans accept a referee, ordering a retake of a penalty kick due to goalkeeper entroachment or defensive players entroaching into the penalty area prior to the ball being struck, then the cheating will continue and continue to be accepted.

    What would the response have been by the Croatian side had the referee ordered the kick to be retaken, in spite of the fact that the referee would have been enforcing the law as written and well within the LOTG? No doubt, more disruptions by Croatian fans in the stands and by the team delegation on the field. Not the referee's concern of course, but that would have been a tremendouslhy awful spectacle on the field, no doubt.

    Attempts to clean up the game by the International Football Association Board has to be strongly supported by the governing associations, competition authoriries, referee associations and all other interested parties of the game. Most importantly, the referee who does correctly enforce that aspect of the law, MUST be supported by all concerrned parties.

    To assume that the commentaors know the laws/rules of the game is to give them way too much credit. Some are soccer intelligent, but the color commentary by those covering UEFA and Copa Centenario matches this year (a.k.a former US National team players) exposes that players (and former players) really don't know the laws/rules and that they really should't give an opinion on such matters. But, that IS my opinion, right?

    I guarantee, once proper enforcement becomes the norm, rather than the exception, infractions will diminish and we can then move on to the next ill of the woirld's most beautiful game.

  19. Stevie G, June 22, 2016 at 8:59 p.m.

    A week into the Euros and this is the best we can come up with?

  20. Kelly Ross replied, June 22, 2016 at 9:03 p.m.

    @Stevie G: Either that or talk about the US presidential election. Pick your pile of poo Magoo ....

  21. beautiful game, June 22, 2016 at 9:45 p.m.

    This is one of numerous blatant infractions that go unpunished...the culture of refereeing has become complacent to players violating the laws of the game.

  22. Claus Fischer replied, June 23, 2016 at 4:46 p.m.

    The lousy and lazy refereeing just is a refection of everything else all around us in our lives today. Standards of excellence no longer exist in just about every walk of life/endeavor/undertaking. This same match featured Croat captain Darijo Srna doing a blatantly obvious false throw in at about the 87th minute as he attempts to heave the ball into teammates just on the edge of the Spain penalty area. A more obvious, blatant errant throw-in would be hard to even script. Was Srno called on it? No. He was well within sight of Dutch matrch official Bjorn Kuipers (no obstructed view) and the Dutch linesman supporting Kuipers was only several yards off Srna's shoulder.

  23. Richard Brown, June 22, 2016 at 11:43 p.m.

    When I was a player and we got a pk I would say watch their keeper he always comes off his line too soon. But when we let in a pk I would throw one of our opponents in the area and say he came in the area too soon. I think that is when I knew I would be a coach one day.

  24. Leia Ambra, June 23, 2016 at 2:48 a.m.

    Did the kicker score? If he did, the encroachment does not matter.

  25. Claus Fischer replied, June 23, 2016 at 4:11 p.m.

    This should be well examined no matter if a goal was scored or not. But to your question, Spain's penalty taker here Sergio Ramos did NOT score. He took it poorly. More attention has been given in this PK situation to Luca Modric (Ramos' Real Madrid teammate) telling Croatia's captain Darijo Srna how Ramos likes to take them, then Srna going to the Croatian goalkeeper prior to Ramos' kick with the 'insights' as to how Ramos would/might take the PK. While that is all interesting, the glaring errors on the part of the Dutch match official should be headlines. (The sad thing is that this Dutch match official is about as experienced and seasoned as one will ever encounter.)

  26. Kent James, June 23, 2016 at 9:16 a.m.

    While I certainly agree with PG's assessment, I'm surprised he failed to mention the equally blatant encroachment by half the Croatian team, which would also require that they retake the kick. Some referee decisions are difficult, some are pretty simple. It would be nice if the referees would enforce the simple ones (such as delaying the restart of a free kick) that are black and white. Now for the encroachment of the Croatian players above, I'm okay with a non-call if they don't interfere (clearing a rebound, e.g.), but the rules should say that. Either enforce the rule, or change the rule to fit reality.

  27. Claus Fischer replied, June 23, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.

    Mr. James, Mr. Paul Gardner did mention it in his article. It is right in his first seventeen lines of the article. Phrases/sentences number six and sixteen. The rules do not allow for any encroachment by a player or players from either side. Encroachment is only ignored/not called if the violator(s) get no advantage despite their infringement. Otherwise the laws of the game do not allow for any subjective decision-making as to "interfere or not interfere."

  28. Doug Broadie, June 23, 2016 at 11:18 a.m.

    I agree with most everything said here. Both the keeper off the line and the players encroaching should have been a re-kick. Ref blew it BIG Time.
    I have another question for Paul. I checked the new laws of the game and encroachment is still in the laws. As Phil Shane states, the last time he saw it called was 1998. Plenty of PK's that have been called should have been obstruction and an indirect given.

  29. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, July 1, 2016 at 2:32 p.m.

    I saw it recently in an MLS game (Red Bulls/Toronto) - the kick had to be retaken due to encroachment and the second attempt was saved. I also recall the same thing being called against Red Bulls in the 2012 playoffs. Henry encroached on a PK by Kenny Cooper which he scored. Cooper then missed the retaken kick and Red Bulls lost.

  30. Ahmet Guvener, June 23, 2016 at 11:31 a.m.

    Unfortunately in the last couple of years there had been a drastic change in the understanding of good officiating. It used to be that the referees were expected to apply the letter and spirit of the LOTG. Now at the top level they are asked to apply common sense and ask themselves "what football wants?" in that specific situation. It seems that "football/soccer" wants the above incident to be played on. I do not agree but that is what FIFA and UEFA wants from their top referees. What football wants mean what does the average spectator expect from a specific position. Kuipers will get another game.

  31. Claus Fischer, June 23, 2016 at 4:26 p.m.

    Dutch match official Kuipers is as experienced a man as one will ever see. He's got over 16 years at very high levels of refereeing. How he missed this is beyond belief. I think the greater issue is why he decided not to see the obvious encroachment of the two Croatian players well within his eyesight and the over two yards off the line (before ball kicked) by the Croatian GK. Kuipers sees these things. Why he immediately does not whistle for a second PK - that's the real question. Yes, this goes to the heart of it all: The integrity of the game. (Or is it really this: Does Kuipers know that Ramos is purposely going to fluff it for an easy one for the GK? Yes, I think he might.)

  32. Claus Fischer, June 23, 2016 at 4:38 p.m.

    Hat tip to Mr. Gardner for making this his article focus of the week and for SA staff for publishing it for us to read. Every tournament now features this at least once, usually multiple times. GKs and penalties. Anyone recall the utter farce Dutch GK Tim Krul made of the PKs to decide The Netherlands' quarterfinals win over Costa Rica during World Cup 2014? Brand new 16 and 17 year old referees in training get drilled over and over on this very PK/penalty box control scenario. Young referees get to whistle these infractions in real life (encroachment by players inside the box; GKs jumping off the line early) as younger referees do young/youth matches with over-exuberant youth players who don't yet know the rules or just cannot keep their energy and enthusiasm down. So every referee has seen and whistled this very scenario as described by Mr. Gardner and expertly captured in just this one color photograph. No referee has an excuse when it comes to slipshod control over this very elementary PK-taking situation. Something is rotten in Denmark when Kuipers (allegedly) acts as if he does not see these infractions.

  33. Mark Headley, June 24, 2016 at 5:54 a.m.

    Bravo PG, as usual! FIFA, UEFA, pile on yet more disgrace -- perhaps indulging pernicious backlash against Spain's, Barca's beautiful football. I feel foolish for continuing to watch. Much as Messi, others dazzle. How about the shameful silence, inaction over Guzan's thuggish assault on Argentina's Levezzi?

  34. beautiful game, June 24, 2016 at 2:05 p.m.

    FIFA needs to reinvent itself; sooner then later. The game has become a circus of rule breakers and its non-enforcement.

  35. R2 Dad, June 26, 2016 at 2:57 a.m.

    Not appalling, but it's got to be pretty bad for Collina to publicly admonish the performance. Props to PG for calling out FIFA on this.

  36. Scot Sutherland, June 28, 2016 at 3:12 p.m.

    PG, I essentially agree with this article. However, I would like to point out that enforcement of laws is not the same as making the laws. If every nudge or nick or touch on a player is called, there would be nothing but set pieces. Every corner kick would end in a PK. So referees must enforce the laws in a way that makes the game fair for both teams without destroying the beauty of the game. The kick should have been retaken, no question. Both encroachment and goalkeeper violation occurred. However it the goalkeeper were to encroach and the goal is scored, it should stand, essentially giving the kicker a freebie. If encroachment occurs and the offending team does not benefit the call should stand. That would help some by giving those that follow the law second chances.

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