It looks weird, but it’s le­gal

Lionel Messi caused a bit of a storm last week when he passed a penalty kick to a team-mate, but it was noth­ing new, writes S’Busiso Mse­leku The penalty pass

CityPress - - Sport -

Many foot­ball en­thu­si­asts were shocked when five-time World Foot­baller of the Year Lionel Messi coolly rolled the ball from the penalty spot for team-mate Luis Suárez to slot home in a 6-1 drub­bing of Celta Vigo. Some thought the goal should not stand. How­ever, afi­ciona­dos must have nod­ded in agree­ment, as the goal was le­git­i­mate. It was also not the first time this had been done. Bel­gian in­ter­na­tion­als Rik Cop­pens and An­dre Pi­eters are cred­ited with be­ing the first to try the move – in an in­ter­na­tional match against Ice­land in 1957.

Arse­nal team-mates Thierry Henry and Robert Pirès tried to re-en­act it in 2005, with calami­tous re­sults ( see graphic).

This week, Dutch leg­end Jo­han Cruyff, who scored a sim­i­lar goal in 1982, praised Messi.

“What Messi did was to en­joy him­self, and for the fans to en­joy them­selves. The lack of re­spect is not recog­nis­ing that Celta played a great game, and it was a tough game for Barça,” he told Cata­lan news­pa­per El Per­iódico.

A YouTube video that went vi­ral this week showed how Cruyff passed the ball to Ajax Am­s­ter­dam team-mate Jes­per Olsen, who had two touches be­fore dish­ing the ball back to Cruyff to score in a match against Hel­mond Sport in 1982.

Cruyff re­vealed the ref­eree had not been sure whether to al­low his goal.

“Ev­ery­one was very sur­prised,” he said. “The ref­eree came over and asked me ‘Is that le­gal?’ Of course it was le­gal. I passed the ball for­ward, he came run­ning in from out­side the area. Later, there was a lot of talk about it – the me­dia, the fans, ev­ery­one ask­ing if it counted.” And therein lies the rub! The key is in mov­ing the ball for­ward (and the penalty taker not touch­ing it twice be­fore some­one else does). Rule 14, which gov­erns the penalty kick, is quite clear about this.

An­swer­ing ques­tions about Messi’s kick on his web­site, ask­theref.com, Aus­tralian ref­eree Ja­son Wright, wrote: “There’s noth­ing stop­ping a player from do­ing that. How­ever, the ball must move for­wards, and the team-mate must not en­ter the penalty area un­til the ball is kicked.”

There have been changes to the penalty kick law in re­cent years, but they do not af­fect the im­por­tant el­e­ments that: The kick must send the ball for­ward; All team-mates must be out­side the penalty area and the D at the time of the kick; and

All play­ers, ex­cept the goal­keeper, must not be in front of the ball – that is, to the side of the penalty area.

Foot­ball has had its fair share of con­tro­ver­sies over the years. While some are caused by ref­er­ees get­ting it wrong, mostly it is the fans who are driven by emo­tion and a lack of knowl­edge about the laws of the game.

Among the big­gest con­tro­ver­sies were when play­ers headed the ball out of goal­keep­ers’ hands.

This hap­pened in the 1989/90 English Premier­ship sea­son when Not­ting­ham For­est’s Gary Crosby sneaked up from be­hind and headed the ball out of Manch­ester City goal­keeper Andy Dib­ble’s hand and scored. The goal stood, giv­ing Not­ting­ham For­est a fa­mous 1-0 vic­tory.

In the 1997/98 sea­son, Coven­try City striker Dion Dublin sneaked up be­hind New­cas­tle goal­keeper Shay Given – who was rolling the ball on the ground, pre­par­ing to kick it out­field – and scored.

Head­ing the ball out of a goal­keeper’s hand(s) is no longer per­mis­si­ble and is con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous play. Liverpool dis­cov­ered this in Oc­to­ber 2012, when Daniel Ag­ger tried it in a game against Anzhi Makhachkala, but the re­sul­tant goal was dis­al­lowed.

Penal­ties and off­side rules have proven to be the most con­tro­ver­sial and mis­un­der­stood.

A fort­night ago, Chelsea skip­per John Terry saw his goal-bound shot blocked by Manch­ester United de­fender Da­ley Blind’s arm, but ref­eree Michael Oliver waved away the Chelsea protests.

Re­tired ref­eree Er­rol Sweeney said the whis­tle man had been cor­rect: “The law says the hand has to be mov­ing to­wards the ball and not the ball to­wards the hand. It also says the refs must take into con­sid­er­a­tion the close­ness of the player to the ball and whether he could have had the op­por­tu­nity to get his hand out of the way. I think there is suf­fi­cient doubt there, so, in my opin­ion, no penalty,” he said.

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