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FIFA law no 9: What happens if the ball hits the referee?

A potential controversy was averted in the Germany-Italy Euro 2016 clash.

Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer almost cost his side the game 

A referee is a person who enforces the laws of the game during the course of a match. Football referees, in particular, get involved in the match throughout the course of the game; they run up and down and observe each and every single player moves with very keen eyes. Football being a contact sport and with the referee always in the thick of things, there is always a probability that he too becomes a player of sorts, although accidentally and unwillingly.

In the q-final match of UEFA Euro 2016 between Italy and Germany, there was a similar incident that happened in the 112th minute which could have turned disastrous for Die Mannschaft.

The incident occurred when Manuel Neuer’s misdirected clearance struck the Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai, which ended in the ball ballooning up towards the German box. To be fair to the referee he couldn’t have avoided being hit as at that particular time, he was facing the opposite direction to the ball so he could have a better view of the play in front of him.

Also read: Euro 2016: Manuel Neuer vs Gianluigi Buffon - The penalty shootout and its aftermath

The deflection could have turned dangerous had the ball ended up to one of the Azzurri strikers and it could have been even more controversial had the Azzurri managed to score. Although most of the times when the ball hits the referee it doesn’t much change the complexion of a match but as in this case, the deflection was a major one and could have easily changed the outcome of the match owing to the fact that it happened in the 112th minute of a Q.final in a major tournament. 

In FIFA’s rulebook, there is a particular law which deals with such a situation. The law is called as ‘Law 9: The Ball in and out of play’. The law says that if the ball bounces of the referee or the assistant referee inside the field of play the ball is still considered to be in play and not out of play. If the ball had thus landed to the feet of an Italian striker, he had every right as dictated by the law to continue playing.

The following are the exact extracts of the law:

Ball out of play: The ball is out of play when -

  • It has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air
  • Play has been stopped by the referee   

Ball in Play: The ball is in play at all other times, including when -

  • It rebounds off a goalpost, crossbar or corner flag and remains in the field of play
  • It rebounds off either the referee or an assistant referee when they are in the field of play

Questions do arise with this particular rule and whether the type of deflection major or minor should be considered?

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