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Foot on the line or off it, poser on penalty rule

Dortmund fans took to social media to question the effectiveness of the Video Assistant Referee

By Angshuman Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 19.09.19, 3:38 AM
  • Updated 19.09.19, 10:06 AM
  • 3 mins read
Barcelona's goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen talks to the media before the Group F Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Barcelona in Dortmund, Germany, on Monday AP

The new rule for penalty kicks, namely that one of the keeper’s feet must be on the line at the point the ball is struck, has come under the scanner with questions being raised about its implementation after Tuesday’s Champions League game between Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona.

German international Marc-André ter Stegen was clearly Barcelona’s player of the match pulling off some superb saves under the goal to thwart the home team and ensure a draw — both sides kept a clean slate. This included a fine diving save to block a penalty from Dortmund’s Marco Reus in the 56th minute, the spot kick awarded for Nelson Semedo treading on Sancho’s foot in the box.

But questions are now being raised on whether Ter Stegen fell foul of the new rule. From video footage, it appears that Ter Stegen’s feet were off the line when Reus struck the spot kick.

Dortmund fans took to social media to question the effectiveness of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Strangely, Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan, who spent a fairly lengthy amount of time explaining the new rules before the penalty was taken, did not consider reviewing the decision.

While the rule is clear, doubts are being raised over its application after several high-level incidents of keepers being clearly off the line at the point the ball is kicked.

“It was evident that Ter Stegen was at least a yard off his line,” said former Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood, who is one of the panellists with Sony Pictures Sports Network for the ongoing Champions League.

“This, despite the fact that the referee’s assistant stands on the goal-line and can pick it up quite easily. Also the referee could have taken extra precaution to catch the Barcelona goalkeeper moving off his line. I think he concentrated too much on the encroachment part and wasn’t keeping his eye on the goalkeeper. That’s the reason why you need more officials to make sure that the goalkeeper is not off the line,” he told The Telegraph.

The amended rules say the goalkeeper must not be moving or touching the goalposts, and must have at least part of one foot on or in line with the goal-line. “Allowing the goalkeeper to have only one foot touching the goal line (or, if jumping, in line with the goal line) when the penalty kick is taken is a more practical approach as it is easier to identify if both feet are not on the line,” goes the explanation proffered by the Zurich-based International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body that determines the laws of football. Football’s world governing body Fifa is a member of the IFAB. “As the kicker can ‘stutter’ in the run, it is reasonable that the goalkeeper can take one step in anticipation of the kick.”

About the new rule, he said: “It’s not really a new rule. It’s just that it has never been enforced before. We have seen in the past goalkeepers are off the line to narrow the angle down. But now the rule is being enforced and the penalty will be retaken if a goalkeeper is seen moving off the line before the ball is is taken,” he said.

India and Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is not too worried about the new rule. “To keep one foot on the line and try to save a penalty, it sounds like a lot of thought has gone behind this. I think it is something that the goalkeepers can work on. It is not difficult. I practise it almost every second day with Sunil (Chhetri) bhai,” Gurpreet said from Bangalore.

But doesn’t it take away the advantage of narrowing down the angle? “Look, we never had an advantage. You are giving the striker a free shot at goal without any defenders in front of the goal,” he added.

Agrees Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper Subrata Paul. “This rule was always there. But we used to do some trickery. Now you cannot to that. If you ask me, the sooner a goalkeeper adapts to the rule, the better it is for his team,” Paul said from Jamshedpur.

Is he practising keeping at least one foot inside the line? “I never practise saving penalties. Penalty saves are all about anticipation and it doesn’t come through practice. It’s something you have it in yourself,” he said.