Probably a Stupid Football (Soccer) Question...

The World Cup has got me thinking a bit about football recently. This is going to sound like a completely random question (I must admit to knowing relatively little about “the beautiful game”, so shoot me down if I sound stupid), but…

What if, after kickoff, one side were to get possession, and stand in place with the ball until five or six of his teammates formed a tight circle around him. Then they advance (presumably quite slowly) across the field- the oppossing team can’t get at the centre player with the ball without getting through the outer ring, which they can’t do without coming in contact with them. Finally the group reaches somewhere near the goal, when they split up, run forward, and mob the goal to score (which should be quite easy, if you get close enough).

What are the (doubtless numerous) problems with this strategy? I’m assuming that, for a start, there’s some sort of limit on the number of players in the penalty area or similar, but I don’t know.

You’d fall foul of the offside rule as soon as you got beyond the last defender on the other side (apart from the goalie).

I would say that would be obstruction, and result in an indirect free kick.

You can’t impede an opposing player if you are not playing the ball, and the guards in this case would clearly be impeding he opposing player from getting to the ball, while not actually playing it themselves.

I thought the offside rule only meant you couldn’t pass to a player unless they had at least two defenders behind them? :confused:

IANAFR* but I’m sure this tactic would be judged as obstruction and the other team would get a free kick. You might try this in rugby but even there I expect it would be illegal.

There is no rule about how many players can be in any area of the pitch, the nearest is the offside rule which I will let someone else explain :wink:

Google to the rescue: Impeding
*IANA football referee

If the player with the ball didn’t pass to anyone, and the other players got behind the ball as to not gain an advantage from being in the offsides positions (shielding the keeper, etc.) it is not offsides.

yes - impeding. Used to be called obstruction. Also, if it were me I would be real tempted to start cautioning players for unsporting behavior, but that would be a tougher sell.

  • I used to be a referee

No it’s far more complicated than that. (scroll down to ‘offside’).

In case the link doesn’t work for you here’s a taste

Thanks for the link. From the linked page:

My emphasis. I realise I’m getting ridiculous here (but isn’t that what the SDMB is for?) but as I read this, as long as all the “protecting” players are within three feet of the ball, they can’t be penalised. Now, you couldn’t really do this without having the players form a scrum around the centre player (and no doubt the ref would still call it obstruction), but- am I reading this right?

Though the technical wording of the law would make it appear allowed, the law is usually not interpreted that way. Referees are instructed to call obstruction (impeding) even if a player is within 3ft if he is clearly not attempting to play the ball, especially if someone else is playing the ball.

An example, is 1 player is dribbling the ball and another on his team sets a ‘pick’ on the defender as they run by. Even if he is within 3 feet, he is clearly not playing the ball (the other guy is) and is called for impeding.

This is the way the rule is explained in any training courses and instruction I have been to, despite the specific wording. It kind of goes back to “play the ball, not the man” The guards in the OPs scenario would clearly not be “playing the ball” but the “man” instead.

Just wanted to add my agreement to what Fat Chance just said.

*also a former referee

Aww, I guess my Secret Weapon for English Football Dominance will have to go on the back burner.

Well, sort of. The goalkeeper and one other defender must be behind the offensive player before he gets involved in the play, or else that player is offside and the defending team gets the ball. In a situation like this it would be easy for all the defensemen to run right past the circle mob and put them all offside. Nevermind the obstruction call that they’d have gotten anyway, as others have noted.

No, but if this kind of play isn’t an easy setup for an offside trap, I don’t know what is.

Not a ref, and I’ve only ever done assistant ref once, but I’m pretty sure I’d be digging yellow cards out like I was mining for gold in that situation. Absolutely unsporting behavior if you ask me.

Another question

I saw a video of someone (a Brazilian, I think) who ran down the pitch playing the ball off his head as he ran. He only tapped it a couple of inches up each time, so the defense had no way to play the ball. They basically ran beside him and eventually fouled him.

Is there any way to defend this tactic within the rules?

Found it

That was one of the most fantastic soccer videos I’ve seen. The guy isn’t Brazilian; all the text in the video (and the website it advertises, airfutbol.com) is in Spanish. I don’t think you can really defend against that; you can’t put your hand up there, and you can’t knock it away with your head or foot because that’s too dangerous (you might miss and hit him in the head, and I’m sure the ref would call a foul even if you didn’t for dangerous play).

While it’s a helluva difficult thing to defend against, it’s also hardly going to be a reliable way of scoring goals. Even that guy only managed it for a few seconds, and when relatively unimpeded. And a goalkeeper could snatch it away without too much trouble.

I googled the name, and it turns out he is from Brazil and he’s only just turned 18! Should be in prime form for the next World Cup. That video was from the South American U17 championships.

[QUOTE=Happy Clam]

the oppossing team can’t get at the centre player with the ball without getting through the outer ring, which they can’t do without coming in contact with them. QUOTE]

Offside rule? Obstruction? Who cares?

Football is not a non-contact sport. The opposing team would simply crash (gently and in accordance with the rules of course) through the ring and take the ball off him!

Yes, absolutely so. The only time you can have a wall of friendly bodies between yourself and the opposition is either:[ul]at a line-out*, and even then the intervening cannot actively impede opponents trying to get at the ball-carrier, or [li]at a maul**, but the ball-carrier must remain bound on at all times - if he becomes detached even momentarily, then an offence colloquially known as “truck and trailer” (really just another form of offside) occurs if he rejoins the maul or attempts to use it as a shield[/ul][/li]

  • A kind of “aerial scrimmage” in which a ball that has left the field of play is returned to it between two lines of opposing players, with all uninvolved parties at least ten yards back except one designated player (usually the scrum-half) whose purpose is to serve as a link between the line-out and the outside players.

** An impromptu rough-and-tumble between the previous ball-carrier, a defender who has caught him but not “tackled” him in the literal sense that the ball-carrier but release the ball, and players from both sides wrestling for possession. It obeys most of the same laws as a scrummage except that the ball is being carried - including the unusual fact that a player in front of the new ball-carrier (once it has been transferred) is not breaking any laws by remaining in front of him, as long as he remains part of the maul. A maul may be marched up the field, but the defenders can pile in as much manpower as necessary to stop it, not being obliged to nab the ball-carrier himself (nor allowed to up-end him while the maul lasts).

Great video…

I’m sure that once he heads the ball, it is possible for a defender to challenge for it in the air - the difficulty would be timing the challenge so that it is clear that you are attempting to play the ball and not obstructing the opponent.

Grim