What if… there would be a penalty for handball in the penalty area?
An attempt at a cautious approach to the problem: “If there is a handball in the penalty area, there will be a penalty kick? “Yes, sure, yes, once in a while, sure, according to the rules, too, but in practice?” So about a possible short dialogue? Please ask yourself how often you have had to listen to such situations and the associated discussions lately, or have them yourself. The range of arguments why there was none has also expanded enormously.
First of all, nevertheless, a short review of a kind of “historical development”, perhaps not to be taken quite so seriously or in any case not to guarantee authenticity. However, it could have happened approximately in such a way and perhaps one compares this with the own memories?
When the game “soccer” was invented, it was given a name at the same time. You play the ball with your foot. When the first ones started to play with the knee or the thigh, I’m sure they thought, “All right, let’s let it pass. It wasn’t the foot, but since it’s much harder to play the ball in a controlled way with the knee or thigh, we have no objection. Now it should have been called temporarily “leg ball”. Whereas shortly after someone might have put his backside in the way, turned away from a shot, and this happened rather accidentally? No, that couldn’t seriously be considered a violation of the rules? Rumbled ball, perhaps?
Surely a few smart guys had the idea to try it with the head. A targeted pass, even a goal attempt? Hard to imagine, but they tried. Okay, head, that’s fine, no problem. It’s also a little more interesting that way? The ball flies now and then, so why not? It’s an increased level of difficulty, sure, but that increases the variety. By the time you found belly, chest, back in the same category — you may, since it’s more difficult to do it with these body parts compared to the foot — the rules were almost complete without the thought of changing the name from “soccer” to “anything-but-arms-and-hands ball”. Still, the name would be closest to the realities. You can play with any part of your body except your arm and hand.
Now, when this understanding entered the rules and the sport, of course everyone playing the sport intended to play by the rules. You play a game according to its rules, isn’t that how it has to be? And how do you avoid breaking the rules in this way? “Play the ball with whatever you want. But not with your arm or hand, right?” “Okay, boss, I’ll remember that and I’ll pay attention.” How would one have to watch out for it not to happen? Better to stick to the rules, as should go without saying? You get your arm and hand out of the way when the ball is near. There was, so to speak, a sort of “etiquette reg l for every footballer: “Keep your arms to your body and nothing can happen to you, at least no hand play against the rules.”
When the rule-makers realized that every now and then a ball went to the arm or hand when it was on the body according to the rules (or: “according to the rules of etiquette”), the term “arm restrained” was coined. Punishment: none at all. This could not be avoided. It remained important that the intention was recognizable to get the arm out of the way.
Coming to the subject of penalties in general: if someone did not comply with the rule – sure, the case had to be recorded somewhere, even if further “unwanted” — the opponent was awarded a free kick. Finally, an important rule unit: if the handball took place in the penalty area, there is no choice: analogous to the foul play, there is also a penalty kick here.
Thus, the etiquette rule almost became a kind of rule for every defender and the coaches impressed upon every defender: “If it happens in the midfield – it doesn’t matter – but in the penalty area, you have to hold your arms to your body. We don’t want to risk a penalty under any circumstances. Do you understand?” “Got it, boss, got it, in the penalty area: arms to the body. Elsewhere, too, but not as important.”
Depending on age, everyone may remember as far back as they can. Or look at old pictures and games, if accessible. But one observation is guaranteed: there used to be much rarer discussions regarding handball in the penalty area. First of all still left open, to what this would be due, but an acknowledgement of this nevertheless presupposed for the following considerations? Can one agree with this? At least in the sense: a development in the direction of more frequent discussions.
If there are discussions now, then at least this much would be clear: there are contrary views about it. These contrary views are probably such that one positions oneself. So: one hears a discussion and feels inclined to one side. “He had the better arguments” or “I’ve been saying that all along, too”. However, if one’s own views do not find a throughput, then it becomes a constant annoyance. Maybe this concerns only 50% of the spectators, but, compared with the fact that there would be no discussion at all first, this would be round 50% too much.
Actually, it would be gratifying, desirable, if the rules could be written down and applied in such a way that there would be general consensus about them. Surely that must be a concern? Or would the rule makers want to claim that the rules are kept so unclear so that there can still be discussions at the regulars’ table? No, that would only be specious. You hear it often enough in the discussions. “I can’t hear it anymore, there must finally be clarity,” or, as Tuchel put it, “I’m out of the discussion.” That means roughly: do what you want, but I’m not contributing anymore because it’s too illogical and my view isn’t heard anyway.”
If you watch a soccer match today (August 20, 2017), a summary of several matches, the Sportschau, just so just watch soccer, then it is almost impossible that there is not a series of such “discussion-worthy scenes”. Namely those: Handball in the penalty area. Penalty, yes or no?
In this case, the agreement on it is quickly reached: “The arm (or hand) was on the ball.” The disagreement comes at the question, “Worthy of a penalty?” Whereby the referees agree with themselves quite quickly in the form of, “I won’t whistle.” Why this happens? Because they are sure that even if the missed whistle were a mistake, they would do better with it than if they whistled and it was deemed a mistake. In that respect, they have to be much less concerned with the application of the rules at that moment. “Path of least resistance” would be the general expression for this.
What the rule is, also Thomas Tuchel did not know more and also from here this is not to be made at all so much the topic. In the argumentation, the terms “widening of the body”, “unnatural arm position” or “unnatural movement”, then the argument “intentional” or “unintentional”, but also and above all the argument “from the short distance, he does not get away at all with the arm”, fall again and again.
Before these aspects are examined individually or more generally, it should at least be mentioned that the changes to the rule have by no means been to the advantage of the game. The many discussions are highly unpleasant – the at least 50% annoyed – and there can be no question of clarity, as is proven every day. The most astonishing thing, however, is that no one notices that the many scenes that are constantly being discussed did not exist in the past? The statement here is intuitive and not directly provable – how should one determine the number of “unpleasant discussions” or even “controversial scenes”? –, nevertheless, upon brief reflection, one will be able to agree with it. It is simply so.
If this is recognized: then would be to be derived nevertheless obviously from the fact that the defensive players would have adapted their behavior to the rules? So, in the past, the fear: “If the arm or the hand gets to the ball, then there is a penalty.” Today, something like this: “If arm or hand gets on the ball, the referee or even Dr. Merk will surely be able to explain to me later why I wouldn’t have done that on purpose after all.”
As a defender, you just can’t see a good reason anymore why you should bother to get your arms out of the way? So many predecessors have already gone unpunished – why should he then suddenly… with me?”
The arguments examined one by one: “body broadening.” Whenever this is advanced as an argument: the arm widens the body, no matter how far it is from it. There is only the earlier usual effortful putting on of the arm. This works and if the ball then goes against it, it remains as before: “Applied arm – no penalty kick.” As soon as the arm is away from the body, the body is widened and that is punishable.
The alleged “not unnatural posture” or “natural movement” is a pure invention. It didn’t exist in the past and it wouldn’t exist today if punished. You should see how quickly the defenders would have understood: if I do like this, there will be a penalty kick – so I refrain from doing it.
The most ridiculous of all arguments is: “from the distance he can’t get his arm away at all.” The only reason that he “can’t get it away” is that he has already gotten it there once. The question should really be: would he get it out of the way on purpose? The answer to that is: “Yes, it’s very easy to do. Namely, if you wouldn’t even move him to where possibly the ball will be in the next moment.” This, too, could be handled quite easily with the tried-and-true system: “In the penalty area, you keep your arms to your body. Got that?” “Yes, I already had, why are you asking again?”
Apart from that, two decisive arguments are missing, which one could actually come up with after all? The first is: “What was the direction of the ball at the moment the arm or hand touched it?” This aspect, which is also decisive, is practically completely disregarded. Because: if a cross would come into the penalty area, then it would perhaps provide for goal danger. If then a defender with artistic movement, which was allegedly neither intentional nor unnatural and also not body widening, keeps the ball with the arm from getting into the dangerous zone, then it is superfluous to think further about whether he could not have possibly held the arm somewhere else? He stopped a goal situation – then the question of all these other far-fetched arguments does not apply.
Exactly the same, or almost more so, would be the case with a direct shot on goal – as has also become increasingly common lately (and no one seems to notice, at the same time allied to the question of why this is so?). Why bother with whether the defender could now do something about it – apart from the fact that this has long been answered: yes, he could, if the “extended rule of etiquette” was observed. A shot aimed directly at the goal blocked with a forbidden part of the body: penalty kick and nothing else.
By the way, if you want to make another comparison for a moment: does anyone perhaps believe that a handball goalkeeper deflects any throw on purpose? It is practically impossible. It’s a very short distance and it’s high speed. You can argue with “reflexes”, maybe, sure, but intention is not behind it. He’s playing the jumping jack – hoping that somewhere one of the extended gleds will get the ball off. Defenders behave in a similar way. In this respect, one could always say: “that was not intentional. I didn’t know he was going to shoot exactly where my arm was right now, did I?”
But another almost more essential aspect is this one: who benefits if there is no penalty? First of all, the fan camps always divide themselves in such a way that it would balance whose needs it would directly meet more. Some want this, others that. Fifty to fifty. No matter whether one gives one or not. One half is happy, the other is angry. The question of the weight of the mistakes is purely theoretically also none. Because: a not recognized hit, which would be regular, has exactly the same weight as a mistake, which made a regular goal impossible. Again, it would hold the balance as far as the fan camps are concerned, but overall this made no difference. But this principally discussed elsewhere (in “the perception of wrong decisions”).
Since the fan camps are divided exactly fifty to fifty, there are always only these three losers in any decision against the penalty kick: the neutral spectator, the soccer itself and, unfortunately, the sense of justice. Basically it is to be excluded that a neutral spectator does not recognize here at least intuitively an imbalance.
Especially since one could always compare these situations: what if a striker in the penalty area, shortly before the goal is scored, the ball jumps to his arm once? Here there is 100% no mercy: that was handball, that was an offense, and he should be glad that he does not get additional yellow for it, because the “unintentional” is already disputed, but, please, in this case but mercy before right: only free kick. Why is there not leniency here? “There he could not help it, no unnatural movement, also no body widening. Then we let the goal count.” No, that is out of the question at all, that would be a kind of “catastrophic mistake”.
Or alternatively this scene: a striker skillfully takes the ball down with his chest, but touches it with his upper arm/shoulder area. Again, no mercy: that was an offense, that’s not the way to do it, free kick and if you’re lucky: no yellow, again. In both situations the striker would be suspected: “Yes, did you want to score a goal? That’s outrageous! Who wants to see that?”
Conclusion: it would be a very simple rule, which would have to be: if there is handball in the penalty area, there is a penalty. If one would decide it in such a way, then the questions would be basically no more, jokingly however nevertheless asked:
1) where were the defenders holding their arms?
2) How often would you see the scene?
3) How often would there be discussions about it?
4) Who would be harmed?
5) How many penalties would there be per game?
6) How many goal scenes would there be per game?
7) How many goals would there be per game?
To 1) On the body.
To 2) Rarely.
To 3) None.
To 4) Nobody. The “fifty-fifty” only divided the other way around.
Re 5) Not necessarily more, but if so, what’s the problem?
Re 6) Definitely more than now, and mostly of an enjoyable nature.
Re 7) Like 6).
And why not just do it that way?