Scott returns with his scatalogical sense of humor. Literally. But this time he may actually have a point:
The first part of the title is, of course, a reference to the popular joke as to why you should eat feces – because clearly the world’s population of flies can’t be wrong about its nutritional and gustatory value. An ironic aphorism if there ever was one, the joke, nevertheless, perfectly describes the general population’s (homo sapiens, not diptera) understanding and attitude toward the handball rule in soccer. The second part of the title offers an excellent opportunity to illustrate my point and vent years of frustration with refs, players, coaches, fans and soccer parents — collectively “Nitwits” — who not only misunderstand the rule but also perpetuate and exacerbate myths that gain increasing credibility in some nightmarish version of the telephone game. Where to start?
Perhaps with the official IFAB/FIFA Laws of the Game - Law 12 addresses handling the ball by stating, in relevant part:
Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the
ball with the hand or arm.
The following must be considered:
• the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
• the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
• the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
The key word is “DELIBERATE!" In all the Laws of the Game, it is the only infraction that must be deliberate. By way of interpretation, for the aforementioned Nitwits, that means that just because the ball hits a hand or arm, it is not necessarily a handball foul. The contact must be intentional in order to be a foul. To emphasize, it doesn’t matter how advantageous it was for me that it hit my arm or hand, if I didn’t do it deliberately then it is not a foul. “But it prevented a shot on goal!” Doesn’t matter if it wasn’t deliberate. “But it prevented a cross into the box!” Doesn’t matter if it wasn’t deliberate.
So, how do we know if the handling was deliberate? Unfortunately, only the player him/herself knows for certain, but the Laws offer some helpful tips for consideration. The first two considerations are obvious and logical. The direction my hand is moving and the distance it is from the ball when it is struck are good clues as to my intent. Where I start to froth at the mouth a bit is that last little nugget of help which has been bastardized repeatedly and beyond recognition. Here we go…