As in all ball sports, there are times during a game when the ball is considered to be “live” or “not live,” otherwise known as the ball being “in play” or “out of play.” In soccer, whether or not the ball is “live” or “not live” is determined by a number of different rules as expressed in the FIFA Laws of the Game. The following treatment goes well beyond Law 9, “The Ball In and Out of Play,” which essentially states when the ball is in bounds or out of bounds over the perimeter lines. All young players need to be taught when a ball is live or not live. These are summarized below:
To start the game or the second half, or after a goal has been scored, the ball is not live until a proper kickoff has been performed. For a kickoff, each team must be in its own half of the field and all players of the team not taking the kickoff must also be at least ten yards away from the ball (outside of the center circle). After the referee has indicated that the kickoff may take place, the ball is only live after the kicker has touched the ball forward. Only after the ball has been kicked may the defenders move inside the circle or into the other half of the field. Similarly, only after the ball has been kicked may the offensive players go into the other half of the field.
When the ball is live, it may only be legally picked up or handled by the Goalkeepers within their own penalty area. When the ball is not live, it may be picked up and handled by anyone.
The ball is not live at the instant the referee starts blowing his whistle or otherwise indicates that a foul or misconduct has occurred, resulting in either a direct free kick or an indirect free kick. The ball is back live when the kicker for the non-offending team kicks the ball in any direction.
For a “dropped ball” performed by the referee, the ball is live only after it has touched the ground after being released.
The ball is not live at the instant the whole of the ball goes completely over a touch-line (sideline) or a goal-line (end line), either on the ground or in the air. A ball may not curve back in and still be live.
When the whole of the ball goes out of bounds over a sideline, it is put back into play with a throw-in. If none of the ball enters the field of play upon being thrown, whether on the ground or in the air, then the ball remains not live and the throw-in is retaken. If any of the ball enters the field of play, either on the ground or in the air, and then goes back out of bounds over the sideline without touching anyone, then the ball was live, and then not live, and a throw-in is taken by the other team.
When the whole of the ball goes out of play completely over the defenders’ end line when last touched by a defender, it is put back into play with a corner kick. The ball is live when kicked from inside the corner arc.
When the whole of the ball goes completely over the defenders’ end line when last touched by an offensive player, it is put back into play with a goal kick. The kick may be taken from anywhere inside the goal area. The ball is live on a goal kick only after it goes directly out of the penalty area.
A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal-line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar. The ball is live until a goal is acknowledged by the referee. The ball is not live when a goal is acknowledged.
When a penalty kick is taken, the ball is live as soon as it is kicked.
The ball is live if it remains within the field after rebounding off the goalposts, the crossbar, the corner flag posts, or the referee.
At the end of any period of playing time, the ball is not live at the instant the referee starts to blow his whistle, no matter what the position of the ball.
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