Untold Fouls, by Walter Broeckx
Since the tackle on Theo Walcott by Ridgewell in the Birmingham game there is some debate going on about what is allowed when a player tackles and what is not allowed.
I’m going to try to give an overview on how a ref should handle the different cases that can happen on a pitch. This is based upon the rules and also on the instructions we get every season from our FA.
First of all I like to point out that what will be called a tackle in this article occurs when a player throws himself in the direction of the ball or a player. If a players makes an interception by staying on his feet we have another situation but I’m going to leave that out my article. I’m afraid it will be long enough.
Let’s start with the easiest of things : the frontal tackle. We all know that kind of tackle. A defender goes in with one or two feet and throws himself to the ball/attacker that is running towards him. This is always a foul. It doesn’t matter if he gets the ball or not. The attacker has no chance of getting out of the way and he can only hope and pray that the defender doesn’t brake his legs.
For the past couple of years I have called this the Eduardo tackle. Apart from giving the foul you also have to give a card because a dangerous attack should always be punished with a card. When you jump in with two straight legs it should always be a red card. When you go in with one straight leg higher then the ball it is always red. When you go in with one straight leg on the ground and touch the ball first you can come away with a yellow card.
A little bit more difficult is the tackle from behind. The reason for punishing tackles from behind is that a few years back a lot of heavy injuries happened on the Achilles tendon of good players. Players could be waiting for the ball, and then suddenly a defender comes in sliding and hitting the Achilles tendon of the player who can’t get out of the way.
A tackle from behind is almost always a foul. The problem for a defender is that when he throws himself in he, normally, has two legs. With one leg he goes to the ball but the problem is his other leg. If a defender can make an interception with one leg and doesn’t touch the attacker with the other leg than play can go on. But if his second leg, as we call it in our jargon, touches the other player it just is a foul.
So when we get to learn our rules and they tell us to give a lot of attention on the second leg of the tackling player. It is mostly that leg that makes, or doesn’t make the foul. Touch him with the second leg and it is a foul. If you throw yourself in with 2 legs and hit the player it is off course always a foul.
To come back on the tackle on Theo the Birmingham player touched the ball but he had thrown himself in a way that he couldn’t stop his movement after touching the ball, and therefore would collide with Walcott. He came from behind the player so Theo couldn’t anticipate what was coming.
Ridgewell touched the ball with his right foot and with his left foot he took out Walcott. So a definite foul because a) the second leg making contact and b) it was dangerous as it came from behind.
He could have gone away with a yellow card but if you want to keep it tight a red card can be awarded. Not blowing a foul in this case was…not good refereeing as I will put it gently as I am in a good mood today.
And last but not least: the tackle from the side. The laws are less strict on this as it is regarded as less dangerous.
When a player makes a tackle from the side and only touches the ball it is no foul. Simple. When you make your tackle and you first play the ball and then you slide further and touch the other player it is no foul unless your challenge is violent and therefore dangerous.
But you must touch the ball first; this is very important. If you hit the man first and then slide further and touch the ball you see the defenders pointing at the ref to show him that hey touched the ball. This is nonsense off course. If you hit the player first it is always a foul. It doesn’t matter if you touch some ball later on.
And then you got the 50/50 tackles as I call them. Man and ball at the same time is a foul. I know in some parts of the world it is seen as the “manly” part of the game. “We are no pussy’s” and “it’s a man’s game” is often heard after a tackle like that. But it just is a foul.
Also with tackles from the side you have to look for the second leg coming out sometimes. It happens when a player looks to have cleanly hit the ball but then sticks out his other leg and makes contact. Sometimes defenders do this as a reflex. He makes sure that the attacker doesn’t get away even if he doesn’t hit the ball. That is also a foul.
Hope I have made some things clear but I must say that in real life it isn’t always as simple as you see it in written.
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Walter Broeckx is a passionate Arsenal follower since 1979 from Flanders, Belgium. Since a couple of years he is the main news reporter for the Arsenal fans in Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg where he tries to bring them a daily portion of Arsenal news. His passion for football goes so far that he even is a referee. In the real world he is married, has 4 children including some Gooners, and he works as a civil servant in a small town and provides building permissions.