Two Bites of the Apple
by Brian Goodlander
Most of us are very familiar with the biblical story of Adam and Eve, who where banished from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, the apple. The forbidden fruit in refereeing a soccer match is to provide an unfair advantage to a player who has already committed a foul. We, as referees and keepers of justice and safety, can not allow these players to get two bites of the apple. If we do, we risk loss of control of a match, ejection of players who should have never been placed in that position, or player injury.
A primary example of two bites of the apple can be found in the use or misuse of advantage. Advantage is probably the best call in all of soccer officiating. A player works hard, gets fouled but still maintains possession and continues to work the ball towards the goal. However, if we do not completely allow the advantage to be realized, if we have a quick whistle, we can provide the offender with two bites of the apple.
For example, the red team is attacking the blue team and the striker is working the ball towards the goal. The blue defender sticks out a leg to trip the player without an opportunity to play the ball. The red striker trips and stumbles over the blue defenders leg. Wait! There a number of scenarios that can develop from this simple situation that can really test your officiating skills.
Scenario 1 - If the striker falls to the turf and is dispossessed by the defense, no advantage was gained. Call the foul on the blue and provide red with a free kick. If you don’t call the foul and allow the free kick, the defender gets two bites of the apple because he first got away with a foul play and his team gained possession of the ball as a result of his unfair play.
Scenario 2 - If the striker stumbles but regains his balance and continues his drive or passes a ball to a fellow red player, allow the advantage. Yell out “Play On!”, signal appropriately and allow play to continue. If you are quick on the draw and blow the whistle without allowing the advantage to be realized, you have again given the defense two bites. Not only did the defense stop play but they also got the opportunity to reset their defense and mark players that may have been available for a legitimate shot on goal.
Scenario 3 - If instead of maintaining possession, the stumbling striker is able to make an attempt to pass the ball to a fellow red player. However, his off-balanced shot is a hospital ball that is intercepted by a quick reacting blue sweeper. Stop play. Call the foul and allow a red free kick. If you have already called advantage, revoke it. The advantage was not realized due to the foul. Allowing the play to continue would allow the original defender to foul the striker and the blue defense to gain possession of the ball.
Scenario 4 - This time the striker regains his balance takes a few steps and fires a line shot towards the goal which hits the crossbar and out of touch. Allow the advantage. Restart play with a goal kick. If you call the ball back because the advantage was not realized, you are giving the offensive team two bites of the forbidden fruit. You have already provided the team with one bite by allowing the advantage. The player got off a legitimate goal attempt without further interference from the original foul,. Bringing the ball back for a free kick would result in a second bite.
Scenario 5 - Let’s add one more wrinkle to this situation. The player is fouled in the top of the penalty area, regains control and fires a shot on goal which is saved by keeper. Call the foul! An obvious call in the penalty must be called. There is no advantage in the penalty area for the offense. Why? Because, what better advantage is there than a penalty kick? If you don’t call the foul, the defense has gotten away with a serious foul and stopped a goal-scoring opportunity. Two big bites of that apple. If you call the foul, the message is sent that this behavior will not be allowed, the offense feels vindicated, and you maintain control of the match. Truly a win:win:win situation. You, the referee, get not two but three bites of that sweet, delectable fruit.
Proper use of the advantage call is critical to successful game management. Providing any one team with more than one bite of the proverbial apple will lead to loss of control, retaliatory fouls, and the degradation of the spirit of the game. Just as importantly, this degradation will lessen the experience for you and your fellow referees.