It’s time to stop kicking the ball out of play

October 2, 2008

Lionel Messi

Barcelona’s equalising goal against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday sparked a real old furore because it stemmed from a Barca throw-in after the home side had apparently kicked the ball out of play because one of their players was injured.

The truth is, with players so apt to diving and other theatrics these days, the “player down” excuse for stopping the game should be defunct, as it thankfully now appears to be in England where only the referee decides when the game should be stopped.

Shakhtar can point to a situation in 1999 when an FA Cup match between Arsenal and Sheffield United was replayed after Arsenal scored a goal in similar circumstances.

But times have moved on and the “unwritten rule” has been routinely abused.

True, maybe one in 10 injuries really need urgent attention (a head injury or a horrific leg break when the gravity is immediately obvious), but the sight of a player rolling around on the ground in mock agony one minute, then miraculously bounding down the wing once the game has restarted, is cheating.

Injuries on the pitch should be dealt with by the referee and his assistants should they feel it is serious enough to stop the game. Better still, why not allow the physio on to the pitch to assess the injured player while the game continues, as they do in rugby?

Then if it really is serious, stop the game and have a drop ball.

It would put an end to “tactical” injuries and stop sides bending the rules to suit themselves. Shakhtar blame Barcelona for the incident, but they were the ones who conceded cheap possession and expected the ball back on a plate. Their player was not properly injured, so their argument is flawed.

On-field injuries are part of football, part of the fabric of the match and players should be prepared to deal with them. Should a tennis player slip and hurt his ankle during a rally, his or her opponent would be perfectly entitled to win the point before the umpire checks on the well-being of the player.

Once footballers know that rolling around exaggerating an injury will gain no advantage for their side, they will be more inclined to stay on their feet in the first place.

PHOTO: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi reacts after scoring a goal against Shakhtar Donetsk during their Champions League match in Donetsk Oct. 1, 2008. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich


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It’s a difficult one – i remember the Arsenal game all too well, and the fact it was replayed added to the (albeit waning) magic of the FA Cup. A similar situation in a lower-league game around the same time (may have been a reserve match) led to the opposing team being allowed to walk the ball into the net!

Incidentally, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, the Premier League officials were instructed recently, as were the clubs and players, that the ball should not be put out of play, as the referee will stop the game if he thinks an “injury” warrants it. Of course, it still happens, but less.

The sad thing is that players these days are too much into acting. Take a look at George Best running and how he stayed on his feet even when swipes were being taken at his legs. He showed it is actually easy for a player to stay on his feet, if he wanted to. Then again, football was a real game back then, and the modern sports entertainment version of the English top-flight is dying.

Posted by The Sloper | Report as abusive

Yeah, I agree with the article that this kind of game is pure cheating.

My team was playing last weekend, and it was a semi-important game. For the first half, the game had no goals.

On the second half, the other team, since a tie would be Great for them, started having the ball kicked out of bounds and the ref stopping the game almost every five minutes.

I was mad because it happened at least 8 times and the ref said nothing!

I don’t thins kind of game should be allowed.


Posted by Jose | Report as abusive

Totally agree. Due to players feigning injuries, kicking the ball out of play has become almost as annoying as players diving itself.

Unless it is an obvious injury, play should continue.

Posted by Hans Moman | Report as abusive

I have to disagree, partially. Sometimes the pain after a crunching tackle can be relatively brief but agonising even if there is no injury and anyone who has played semi-serious football for a sustained period of time knows what I am talking about.

Posted by Red Devil | Report as abusive

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Posted by It’s time to stop kicking the ball out of play : Soccer News | Report as abusive

Us referees are desparate for players to carry on with the game until the whistle blows. The laws state an injury has to be “serious” before the ref stops play. 99 times out of 100 injuries are either non-existent or light. Players can wait 30 seconds before getting treatment. Physios on the pitch while play is active are a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately footballers are not able to handle it was well as rugby players. Within a week they’d be claiming they were tripped by the physio or that he sprayed stuff in their eyes.

Posted by Simon Haydon | Report as abusive