A controversial incident occurred here on the island of Ireland last week. It was in the north of our country in a place called Northern Ireland. This is the part of the island that is still under British jurisdiction.
It was the semifinal of their FA Cup between Crusaders FC and Larne FC.
The game ended 1-1 after extra time and so it was up to kicks from the penalty mark to decide who would go forward to the final, and this is where the controversy began.
And what controversy it was!
The Crusaders goalkeeper got a red card during the kicks, which sent manager/coach Stephen Baxter into hysterics.
What he didn’t say about the match officiating wasn’t worth saying, and all of it unnecessary and unwarranted.
Before the penalties started, the referee instructed both keepers as to the procedure and what they were allowed and not allowed to do.
Then before each keeper was to face the kicker, they were again told what the procedure was.
Goalkeepers are instructed to have one foot on the goal line between the post/uprights until the kick is taken.
There is a slight change in that it used to be that both feet had to be on the line.
Also, the keeper can move from side to side, but not forward as they would end up being less than the required 12 yards (11m) from the ball, which is on the penalty mark.
If the keeper moves off their line before the kick is taken and saves the kick, the referee issues a warning and has the kick retaken. If the kicker scores, even though the keeper is off his line, the goal stands – giving full advantage to the offended team.
If the keeper moves a second time as described above and saves, the referee issues a yellow card and the kick is again retaken.
If the goalie moves a third time, they are given a red card.
And that’s what happened at last week’s game, although not in successive attempts.
There was a double take with one player and a third with another.
Let me state here and now that the referee was 100% correct in his decision to issue a red card. The chaos created by the losing team manager was nothing short of disgraceful and a shame on the game.
At one time during this episode, Baxter appeared to signal to his players to walk off the pitch, which is completely wrong.
Baxter is clearly not up to date on the laws of the game. His words and actions, in my opinion, did nothing to calm an already volatile situation, and his interview with the press after the game should be scrutinised for possible defamation.
His comments were inflammatory and tantamount to calling for a riot.
Thankfully, mature heads persevered and calm was restored.
It’s important that managers, coaches and the players are kept abreast of changes to the laws of the game.
There are plenty of ex-referees available to give talks to teams and their staff. If this were done, perhaps we wouldn’t have such scenes as this one, which, thankfully, don’t happen too often.
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