Sportsmanship Upon Injury



Occasionally at the higher levels, there comes a time in a soccer match where a player is, or may be, injured, as 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 or part of “soccer etiquette.”  (See: 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. (This may include the goalkeeper intentionally punting the ball out at midfield.)  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 “showing the courtesy,” is then demonstrated 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.  The ball should then not be challenged until the receiving defender clearly has had an opportunity to take possession and resume play.

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 by the team with the injured player at the time of the whistle, the player receiving the drop ball can simply pass it backward to an opponent in the same way as if it had been a throw-in.  Again, a team receiving this courtesy must never take advantage of it and should send the ball backward before resuming their attack.

© Copyright, John C. Harves