Guaranteed to improve your English

The Proper Term for Deciding a World Cup Match

I love the World Cup. Every four years, nations come together for a truly global sporting event. Since billions of people follow the sport, it truly is a world series, and the winning nation can rightfully be called “world champion” (even if it was France).

How many other sports can be credited with starting a war (between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969) and achieving peace (Ivory Coast’s civil war in 2006)? Few others.

In this tournament, I feel very smart because anybody who asked me during the knockout phase who I liked, I told them Croatia. Luka Modric was a revelation — although if I followed European football a little closer, I would have known about him since he plays for Real Madrid, which just won the UEFA Champions League.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the tournament, even getting up early to watch those early-morning matches. The one thing I didn’t enjoy — and never do — is the tiebreak procedure.

I believe the format should follow hockey. If there is a tie after regulation, take your usual 15-minute break, then play 45 more minutes until somebody scores (you can add substitutions if you’d like). Keep doing this until somebody scores, as many 45-minute periods as it takes.

But if you’re going to use the current format, at least call it by its correct name: “Kicks from the Mark.”

The FIFA Laws of the Game make it very clear that is what the procedure is called. It is not called a “shootout” or a “penalty shootout,” as I heard Fox announcers call them over and over again. Only once did I hear somebody say it correctly (I think it was Rob Stone, but I’m not certain).

First, a “penalty kick” is only awarded if a foul punished with a direct free kick occurs in the penalty area. As the tiebreak procedure happens after play concludes, there are no fouls. The word “shootout” does not appear anywhere in the Laws of the Game.

However, players are taking kicks, and they are taking them from that mark 12 yards from the goal line. Hence, kicks from the mark.

The next World Cup is November 2022 in Qatar. Plenty of time to get it right next time.

Until next time! Use the right words!


July 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Announcer Shows His Soccer Ignorance

It might not seem like much to most people, but when I hear sports announcers/commentators use the wrong words, I wince, cringe and feel annoyance.

The latest case in point: Today’s FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer match between France and England (very boring, I might add, which was why I found myself listening to the announcers/commentators). Every time England would pass the ball from one sideline to the other sideline, the Fox Sports announcer Justin Kutcher would say, “And now, England switches fields.”

But they didn’t. The players stayed on that same artificial pitch in the stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick.

What they did was switch sides of the field. From left to right or right to left (or up and down on your TV set).

Field, in this case, means “an area constructed, equipped or marked for sports.” That’s where they played.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Kutcher is not a soccer announcer. He mostly calls college football, college basketball and Major League Baseball games.

But his partner, Aly Wagner, was a national team player. She should have known better.

Until next time! Use the right words!

June 9, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Know Your Soccer Defenders

The other day, as I officiated a soccer match, I heard a parent shout at his son, a forward, to go stand near the opposition’s last defender. I heard it over and over: “The last defender! The last defender, (name of child)!”

I knew the father wanted his son there because the son couldn’t be in an offside position if he stood with that defender.

Only one problem: the last defender is the goalkeeper. Stand there, and you’re in an offside position and will be called offside as soon as you are involved in the play, as soon as you interfere with play, or as soon as a teammate passes you the ball.

What the father meant to say was, “the second-to-last defender,” for Law 11 of the FIFA Laws of the Game (don’t you love how they’re laws and not rules?) specifically states:

“A player is in an offside position if: he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second to last opponent.” 

Furthermore, Law 11 says that a player is not in a offside position if “he is level with the last two opponents.”

The son never was called offside. He also didn’t score.

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

English Announcers Should Know Better

As I write this, the World Cup’s Round of 16 is complete, and five of the eight matches needed more than 90 minutes to determine the winner. Yet in each match, the announcers (and the ESPN graphics people) used the wrong terminology.

What they said: If a match is tied after 120 minutes, it is decided by penalty kicks.

What they should have said: If a match is tied after 120 minutes, it is decided by kicks from the penalty mark.

This is not semantics, and all football announcers should know better, but especially the English — their ancestors invented the game, after all.

The International Football Federation’s (FIFA) Laws of the Game is clear on this. Under Law 14, The Penalty Kick, “A penalty kick is awarded against a team which commits one of the ten offenses for which a direct free kick is awarded, inside its own penalty area and while the ball is in play.”

Under Procedures To Determine The Winner Of A Match, it lists 17 steps under the subheading “Kicks from the Penalty Mark.”

When deciding a match in this way, the ball is not in play. Time has ended.

I would prefer a different ending, one similar to hockey: If no one scores after 120 minutes, we play 45 minutes and next goal wins. If no one scores, then we have another 15-minute break followed by another 45 minutes, and so forth — but with one addition: Teams are allowed an additional substitute. If no one scores by the time all subs have been used, substituted players may re-enter.

We could debate this forever, and I recognize valid arguments opposing this method: Risk of injury, for example.

But we all need to agree that a match is not decided by penalties — unless you think that if you can’t win in 120 minutes, your penalty is to risk it through something as arbitrary as kicks from the penalty mark.

Until next time! Use the right words!

July 1, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Back of the Net = No Goal

It’s World Cup time! It’s one of my favorite times: consecutive high-level soccer (or football for most of the rest of the word) every day for more weeks — and then come the knockout rounds.

So far, this has been a high-scoring tournament. But speaking of scoring …

Listen to the English announcers long enough and you’ll probably hear someone say something about putting the ball “in the back of the net.” It’s a common saying; I even found myself using it when I researched old newspaper articles I wrote from 1990-2002.

There’s just one problem: It the ball hits the back of the net, it’s out of bounds.

The correct term is back of the goal. Under Law 1 of the International Football Federation (FIFA) Laws of the Game (yes, they’re laws, not rules), the goal has as opening of 8 yards wide by eight feet high. Behind and to the side is the net. Therefore, if the ball goes into the goal, the ball goes into net that’s facing the goal: the front of the net. The back of the net is out of play.

Incidentally, nowhere in the Laws of the Game or the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees does it mention a net.

John Alexander Brodie, a British civil engineer, invented the goal net in 1889.

Until next time! Use the right words!

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Your Soccer/Football Terminology

Soccer is one of the sports that I officiate. Like many sports, each governing body has its own rules (or, in the case of professional leagues everywhere, laws). And within those differing rules/laws are different terms for the same thing.

In football matches  played under the auspices of the International Football Federation (FIFA), there is a method of restarting the match called a dropped ball. However, in soccer games played under the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), it’s a drop ball.

I don’t know why the difference, I just know there is one.

There are many others: showing a red card is grounds for a send off (FIFA) or a disqualification (NFHS). It’s a match in FIFA but a game in high school. It’s overtime in high school but extra time elsewhere. And so on.

If I refereed in college, I would need to know a third set of rules. It can get confusing, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks to know the differences.

Until next time! Use the right words!


October 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For the Football Fan in All of Us

And by “football” I mean “soccer.”

(I’ll wait a moment to allow everyone who feels he/she was misled by the headline to click off.)

Now then. I referee youth soccer, which means I get to listen to parents, coaches and players yelling at me for the calls I made/didn’t make. But within their comments I can hear ignorance about the game’s proper terminology.

For example, handball. If you read the FIFA Laws of the Game, nowhere will you find that word. The correct term is handling the ball. “Handball” is either a contraction for “handling the ball” or a completely different sport. Or both.

Another example: offside. Forget for a moment that most people don’t understand the concept of a player being “in an offside position” or “offside.” These ignoramuses call it offsides. Again, that term doesn’t exist in the Laws of the Game. And when you think about it, “offsides” is impossible. There are only two sides on the field (or “pitch”), and a player can’t be offside on his/her own side of the field.

One more thing: When I make a call someone likes, I hear “Good call.” Technically, there is no such thing as a good call or bad call. I make calls based on the Laws of the Game. Therefore, it’s right or wrong call.

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When Soccer Players See Red

The high school soccer season typically kicks off in the fall, but where I live, it’s in the winter. It begins the Monday after Thanksgiving and concludes in March. This is my 10th season officiating, meaning I have the power to hand out yellow cards and red cards to players who disregard or willfully break rules.

I give red cards for a variety of reasons (but since this isn’t a soccer blog, I’ll spare you stories). When I do, I disqualify a player. Another way to describe that is to send off a player.

I am using the term as a verb, thus it’s two words. Hyphenate it (send-off) and it’s a noun.

I find it odd to refer to a red-carded player as a send-off, so I prefer “disqualified.” Regardless, a red cards means I have to write a disciplinary report, and the player gets suspended for some future matches…

Oh, wait. I forgot this isn’t a soccer blog.

Until next time! Use the right words!

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: