by Erik Imler

Setting the scene:

U12 boys tournament final.

A tackle occurs against the away team in the penalty box.

The center referee whistles a foul and points to the penalty spot.

The away team kicker takes one step towards the ball, pauses momentarily, before continuing his approach to the ball.

He takes the kick, scores and the center referee signals a goal.

The assistant referee at the opposite end of the field, raises her flag. The center referee approaches her for a brief discussion. The center referee then consults with the other assistant referee.

Following two quick conversations, the center referee disallows the goal and awards and indirect kick for the home team.

The video clip above shows the run-up pause seen so often in international soccer.

The referee’s decision did not seem correct but I was uncertain.  The goal would have made it a one goal game. With the reversal of decision, the game remained a 2 goal difference. The away team scored with a few minutes remaining but were unable to score again to draw the game level before the final whistle.

Final score – Home team 3  Away Team 2.

Following the game, the referees told me the call was directly from the FIFA rule book.


Here is what The International Football Association Board Laws of the Game 2016/17 states (Law 14-The Penalty Kick)…

Once the referee has signalled for a penalty kick to be taken, the kick must be taken. If, before the ball is in play, one of the following occurs:
  • the ball enters the goal, the kick is retaken
  • the ball does not enter the goal, the referee stops play and restarts with an indirect free kick
For the following, play will be stopped and restarted with an
indirect free kick, regardless of whether or not a goal is scored:
  • a penalty kick is kicked backwards
  • a team-mate of the identified kicker takes the kick; the referee cautions the player who took the kick
  • feinting to kick the ball once the kicker has completed the run-up (feinting in the run-up is permitted); the referee cautions the kicker

NOTE: the kicker was never cautioned for feinting in the run-up.

This website is filled with commentary and stories of the need to make the game better.

  • Players
  • Coaches
  • Parents
  • Administrators
  • Referees

The referees are a major part of the big picture. They have to call the game correctly.

In this particular case, the referees got it wrong.

While quite a number of players and spectators would like to blame the officials for directly influencing the final result, we must understand that the referees at the U12 level are, in many cases, relatively inexperienced and learning on the job…a difficult job to say the least.

But, in order to make our game better, everyone listed above has to do their part to make a more attractive game to enjoy.


About Erik Imler

A Retired Professional Player, NCAA Champion (1989,1991,1992), and 1992 U.S. Olympic Team (Barcelona, Spain)who is dis-satisfied with the status quo of youth soccer development in the United States and motivated to create a youth program that addresses the most prominent technical deficiencies in many youth players - passing & receiving.

  • I have long felt this issue has been ignored when we discuss soccer development in the US. I have been extremely frustrated over the years when coaching Youth Academy teams as to consistency of calls from weekend to weekend. As a coach, you need to ability to teach your players what is and isn’t a foul, what is and isn’t a violation. When you come across a referee that wants to make a call every time there is the slightest amount of contact you potentially lose progress you have made with your players.

  • Chris-since the incident I have spoken to the player about simplifying his approach to the ball. I made it clear that although the referee made the incorrect call, there is no need to risk it the next time. Step up and bury it in the corner….no questions asked.

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