More about ‘handball’ in football and about what football can learn from handball

In the last couple of weeks, both John Ryan and I wrote about some twists to the unfortunate story where France appeared to qualify for the football World Cup at the expense of Ireland, following an undetected ‘handball’ in a critical moment. We noted the connections to some issues regarding handball, such as the usage of technology. Find our articles here:

Now this issue and another one from the football qualifying have blossomed and have gained a direct to connection to handball. First, it is a bit laughable but not surprising, that suddenly FIFA President Blaetter has become a great friend of the UEFA idea to use extra ‘goal line judges’, something that he had previously ridiculed. Now this idea will suddenly be discussed for the 2010 World Cup. See one of the news stories on this:

But some of you may also have observed that the qualifying fight (literally) between Egypt and Algeria, in the end won by the Algerians, had led to something close to a state of war between the two countries. And lo and behold: rather than letting sports serve as a way of patching things up, sports events are now being used as a weapon in the fight. As recently announced, see posting on the IHF web site, the draw was made for the men’s and women’s African Championship to be held precisely in Egypt in February. Now the Egyptians wanted at least a postponement, especially as Algeria is one of the participating countries, but the African Confederation refused this request and instead ordered that the event be held elsewhere! See news reports:

John, and other self-proclaimed football haters, stop reading here! Going back to football rules and regulations while I am at it, I cannot refrain, as an old football referee, to make fun of two areas where old-fashioned thinking in football has left them with rules that fail to pick up on simple and successful ideas in handball!

I am talking about the well-known situation in football where a player’s injury causes the game to be stopped even though there was no foul or other reason for a stoppage. How does one then resume the game? Well, one ‘forces’ a team to kick the ball out-of-bounds, after which the opponents voluntarily, and accompanied by thunderous applauds, throw the ball in to the opponents to restore the order. Such eminent sportsmanship!? No, utter nonsense! Introduce the handball principle whereby the team that was in possession gets to restart with a free-throw. Of course, a direct free-kick in football can be somewhat more dangerous and advantageous in football, but an [u]indirect[/u] free-kick is surely a safe and innocent way of getting underway again. But, no, says, FIFA, ‘it is unconscionable’ to use a free-kick when there has been no rules violation. Does this ‘terrible breach of principles’ bother us in handball? Certainly not: the restart with a free-throw is perfectly natural and simple.

Another area where football can learn from us: when the referee whistles for a free-throw against the team with the ball, a handball player knows he has to drop the ball immediately and move away from it. Or else he is out for 2 minutes. There were some faint protests against this ‘bureaucratic’ rule when it was introduced many years ago, but now people are happy about the discipline that it has achieved, precisely the discipline that is so totally lacking in football in the corresponding situation. Players routinely kick or throw the ball away some distance, to get more time to set up before the opponents can take the free-kick. Of course it is a violation, but the established praxis is for the referees, also at the elite level, to close their eyes and accept this unsportsmanlike and irritating feature. So do not tell me that ‘little’ handball cannot be a forerunner in dealing with rules situation. And many football fans (and referees!) envy us for this firm rule. Too bad only that the mighty FIFA is too important to follow our good lead…