Both incidents were ones that are common in soccer without referees calling fouls – despite that the FIFA rulebook defines them as fouls.
In the Bundesliga case, VfL Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels crushed midfielder Christian Gentner’s face by leaping into the VfB Stuttgart captain with a raised knee.
Huda launched himself toward the feet of an opponent in an attempt to reach the ball, and got slammed by his teammate, who was running alongside the attacker.
Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner, for more than 25 years, has warned that referees not applying the rules to goalkeepers will lead to dire consequences.
In a recent column, Gardner pointed out the anomaly of referees not calling “playing in a dangerous manner” on goalkeepers when a keeper launches himself at an opponent’s feet.
“He is putting his head quite close to ground level,” wrote Gardner. “It is a dangerous move, indeed a brave one, by the keeper. But it surely fits the rulebook’s definition of dangerous play, and a foul should be called against the goalkeeper. So why do referees never call it? …
"'Playing in a dangerous manner’ is nicely identified in the rulebook as action that “threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) ...”
Cleary, bringing the head to field level where other players are running or kicking meets the definition of “playing in a dangerous manner.”
Yet, referees have not been making that call. If they did, then goalkeepers would have stopped putting themselves into such a vulnerable position, and perhaps Indonesia would not be mourning its legendary goalkeeper, Choirul Huda.
Casteels challenge, which referee Guido Winkmann and VAR deemed fair, certainly meet the criteria of “jumps at” in careless or reckless manner or using excessive force.
For its part, the world’s governing bodies, especially FIFA, have not seemed to bother instructing their referees to start enforcing the rules that apply to all players to the goalkeepers.
In the case of incidents such as Casteels’ knee, 6 feet above the grass, slamming into Gentner’s face, the rationalizations have been to cite that the goalkeepers need to protect themselves.
Although the replays show that Gentner posed no threat to the goalkeeper, obviously goalkeepers need to be protected.
If the referees do not enforce the current rules (or are allowed to ignore them), a solution that would go far in protecting the field players and the goalkeepers, would be to limit the goalkeeper’s use of hands to inside the goal area, and prohibit players from challenging the goalkeeper within the goal area.
Once outside the goal area, the goalkeeper could defend as a field player would, under the same rules as all the players. And they would no longer be tempted to put themselves in the situation that cost Huda his life.