Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Yes, It WAS Handball!

The following incident occurred during the Community Shield match between Manchester City and Manchester United on Sunday 7 August 2011. The final score was 2—3.

In the 94th minute, with the score deadlocked at 2—2, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney hooked the ball clear from the United penalty area. Here are the following freeze frames that led to Nani's winning goal:

An inevitable appeal for handball

Whenever the ball bounces up around players' waists and torsos, there is always the inevitable appeal for handball ... "Hands!" or "Handball!".

So, unsurprisingly there was a call for handball by Manchester City. From a Referee's perspective, the following should be considered:

1) Is the Referee positioned well enough to view the incident?
2) What has the Referee actually seen (and NOT what does the Referee think he saw or what does the Referee think the players' saw)
3) What is the reaction of the players contesting the ball?

Due to the nature of such breakaways, the Referee (Phil Dowd) is hard pushed to be in a good position. He certainly cannot see between the players and has no line of sight of the ball.

The Referee therefore cannot see any foul play (if any), and must either rely on his ARs to inform him of any incidents or allow play to continue.

Fortunately, the reaction of the defender (Vincent Kompany, blue) who lost out in the challenge for the loose ball tells everyone the story. Kompany continues to chase back and makes a last-ditch effort at attempting to stop Nani (red) from scoring.

Here are the freeze frames from a camera view that happened to have the optimum angle of the incident:

Fortunate for Nani (red), hard luck for Kompany (blue)

From the camera view, yes it was handball ... but it was Manchester City's Kompany who touched the ball with his hand and caused it to deflect down invitingly into the path of Nani. Although Nani's hands are up, the ball actually hits Nani's right knee and bounces up into Kompany's right arm, which is then knocked straight down for Nani to run on to.

Referees are not perfect. They can only do the best that they can in the heat of the moment. Referees do not have the luxury of checking multiple camera views; instead they have to make split-second decisions and then move on. Only after the match, can they reflect upon their performance and use that knowledge and experience to referee their next match.

Best of luck to all Referees out there who are preparing for their new season (and also to those who are in the midst of their current season). Keep up the great work.

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