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Calling all AYSO Referees! Here you will find questions that arise from our AYSO refereeing newsletter, The Whistle Stop.

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The Pass Back – Law 12

Question: Other than handling, the one law that coaches and parents seem to be most adamant about wanting the referee to call is the pass back to the goalkeeper. I saw that FIFA put out a good clarifying statement and situations about this on their social channels (Facebook) this month, which is probably worth sharing and commenting upon. But in general, especially considering 10U games where the goalkeepers are not trained, how would AYSO like to see these calls being made? Sometimes in a 10U game, I feel like I have to call them when there is literally only a keeper and a defender back there, even though neither likely knows or understands the rule. Thanks, Sympathetic in Southern Cali.

~ Warmest, Ron


Answer: The deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper from a teammate is indeed a tough one for younger players. The coach is likely rotating goalkeepers a lot and most players won’t know that a deliberate pass back is even not allowed.

This offense is one of four restrictions on the actions of the goalkeeper that are very rarely enforced at the 10U level. Law 12 states:

An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offenses:

  • Controls the ball with the hand/arm for more than six seconds before releasing it
  • Touches the ball with the hand/arm after releasing it and before it has touched another player
  • Touches the ball with the hand/arm, unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play, after:

o   It has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate

o   Receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate. 


As we consider our role as stewards of the game and our charge to keep the game safe, fair and fun, we must consider whether enforcing these offences at the 10U level is appropriate. In addition to the fact that most 10U goalkeepers (and possibly their coaches) don’t know about this part of Law 12, a restart of an indirect free kick in the penalty area is potentially dangerous to young players who don’t have much control on the ball and may result in a ball striking the head of a defender.

A better approach is to educate these young players and coaches about this part of the Laws of Game, and only call for an indirect free kick if the law is violated repeatedly. Here are a couple of ways to do this:

  • At the first break after the offense happens (substitution/halftime or end of the match) let the coach and keeper know that a deliberate pass back to the keeper is not allowed and what they should do differently in the future.
  • If you are comfortable with a more active intervention, blow the whistle, stop the game and say ‘Teaching Moment’ and instruct the keeper and coach on the spot. Restart with a dropped ball to the keeper with an instruction that they may pick the ball up.


Offside – Law 11

Question: I was watching a U-15 game.  A defender, let’s call them the blue team, played a ball forward to his attacker teammate that is in an off-side position on the attacking side of the midfield line.  However, the ball is headed with a grazing touch by the red team and then lands to the blue player that is in an off-side position.  The AR called it off-sides.  Is this considered to be offside?

As I watched the Spain and France Nations League final, the Spanish player attempted to play a ball and never made contact with the ball, the French player in an off-side position got to the ball and scored the winning goal.  Is this not the same thing?

~ Armando

Answer: Armando, thanks for the question.  Offside seems to give us an endless source of discussion.  We have all spent time with other referees explaining scenarios and then debating if a player is guilty of an offside offense or not. Law 11 tells us:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by
    a team-mate or
    • interfering with an opponent by:
    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by
    clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts
    on an opponent or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an
    opponent to play the ball or
    • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent
    when it has:
    • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or
    an opponent
    • been deliberately saved by any opponent


In the 15U match the Blue attacking player is in an offside position at the time that the team-mate plays the ball.  This is a potential offside situation but we still need active involvement in play for it to be an offside offense.  The ball is headed by a player on the Red team before it reaches the Blue attacker.  The defender’s action of heading the ball counts as a deliberate play so the Blue attacker receives the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate.  Law 11 also states:

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who
deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered

to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.


The assistant referee may have not have seen the “grazing touch” or may have thought that played poorly does not count and raised the flag incorrectly.  The Blue player is not guilty of offside in this scenario.

In the Nations League final, VAR ruled that Spanish defender Eric Garcia did make contact with the ball which made it a deliberate play. Mbappe received the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate and thus not offside.