There are few more poignant sights in football than the goalkeeper that has just conceded a goal, and most goalkeepers will experience this on average once a match, if not more. It’s a small wonder that more of them don’t go insane with the existential angst of it all. Covered in the dirt that acts as a visual metaphor for the futility of their attempt to keep the ball out of their goal, they will turn and trudge back towards the goal, maybe lifting the net to pick the ball out and kicking the ball disconsolately yet angrily back towards the halfway line and standing, hands on their hips, replaying what has just happened over in their mind.
Sometimes, though they just have to laugh at it all. Just occasionally, something happens that is so ridiculous that all they can do is laugh at it all. At a recent German amateur match between TSV Wimsheim and TSV Grunsbach, such an incident occurred. A goal kick to Grunsbach might not have seemed like the obvious route to a goal for their opposition, but the clue was in the fact that they had an outfield player taking a goal kick and that the ball was being held in place by the goalkeeper. What happened next was proof that sometimes taking a short goal kick is the best option.
Should the goal, however, have stood? The answer to this question is, according to the laws of the game, no. Hidden away in the dustiest corner of the rule book lies the answer to the question.
A goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team.
So, had the wind been blowing in the opposite direction and carried the ball the entire length of the pitch and over the Wimsheim goalkeeper, a goal would have been awarded. As it was over their own goal line, though, a goal should not have been awarded. What should the referee have awarded, though? This is a matter of some conjecture, and what matters is whether the ball cleared the edge of the penalty area before looping back and in. Theoretically, if the ball hadn’t cleared the edge of the penalty area, the referee should have simply made them take the kick again – this is the rule if a player touches a goal kick that hasn’t left the penalty area and it obviously doesn’t make any difference whether the ball is in the air or on the ground – but, from the video, the ball quite clearly does leave the penalty area.
According to FIFA’s laws of game (Law 16, in case you wish to look it up for yourselves), the referee should have given a corner because a player has effectively kicked the ball out over his own goal line. The fact that the ball has gone into his own goal is irrelevant because, as quoted above, “a goal may be scored directly from a goal kick, but only against the opposing team”. In some respects, however, it is pleasing that the referee called it incorrectly and gave the goal. What would have been the fun in awarding a corner and denying the world one of the oddest goals of the season? It should also be pointed out, though, that the Wimsheim players celebrating the goal as if one of them had scored themselves is a bit rich. Their players didn’t have a great deal to do with it.
Still, at least on this occasion the goalkeeper didn’t end up on his backside, looking rueful and ruminating over which of his defenders he should blame for the goal being conceded. It should also be pointed out that it is somewhat surprising that this game was being played in the first place. At a more professional level, it would have been postponed. As we well know, however, professional football usually takes itself too seriously. If the Premier League’s plans for playing their end of season play-offs had involved playing the matches on the top of Scafell Pike in the middle of a force nine westerly, they would have garnered considerably more support for the idea than they actually did in the end.