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Sportsmanship Upon Injury



Occasionally at the higher levels, there comes a time in a soccer match where a player is or may be injured, demonstrated by the player going down and staying on the ground, but the referee allows play to continue. Failure to stop play by the referee may be due to either the application of the advantage rule or because he simply does not see the injured player. As a result, it may be up to the players themselves to address the situation with an act of sportsmanship by kicking the ball over the sideline in order to stop play.  This action is considered to be one of the “Unwritten Rules” of soccer.  The Unwritten Rules of Soccer

If there is no clear attack or immediate threat on goal, a player of either team may choose to stop play, by kicking the ball out of bounds over the touchline, so that assistance may be rendered to the injured player. Once the injured player has been attended to, the referee is then obligated to restart the match with a throw-in, to be taken by the team that did not kick the ball out. The sportsmanship, or “the courtesy,” is then shown by the thrower throwing the ball to a player on the team that had previously kicked it out.  In effect, the team taking the throw-in is giving the ball back to the team that had had possession in the first place.

In general, the throw-in should be delivered mostly “backward,” down the sideline, to the opponent’s back defender. Accordingly, the opponent should set up in advance to properly receive this throw-in. It is absolutely imperative that neither team takes advantage of having been shown this courtesy. To do so invalidates the sportsmanship and otherwise makes the other team furious.  As such, the team taking the throw-in must never throw to themselves and the team receiving the throw-in must wait for the thrower to get back into position before starting their attack.  If the throw goes to a midfielder, the midfielder should first pass the ball back to one of their defenders.

A similar demonstration of sportsmanship can be made when the referee stops play for an injury occurring while the ball is live.  In this case, the referee is obligated to resume play with a drop ball at the location of the ball when the whistle was blown.  If there had been a clear case of possession at the time of the whistle, rather than contesting for the drop ball, the player on the team that did not have possession can simply let the opponent receive the drop ball.  This is known as an “uncontested drop ball.”  Again, a team receiving this courtesy must never take advantage of it and should send the ball backward before resuming their attack.

Any undefined soccer words, terms, or phrases may be found in The ULTIMATE SOCCER DICTIONARY of American Terms available at

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John Harves®

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