By Linus Mba
Part of the current Law (as it was until 30 June 2009 ) states among other issues that â€˜a defending player who deliberately steps over the goal line into his teamâ€™s goal, (which is technically outside the field of play) in an attempt to place an attacking player technically in the offside position is to be regarded as having behaved in an unsporting manner.
FIFA, in the refereesâ€™ guideline on the interpretation and application of this aspect of the law, directs that the offside decision which ordinarily would have been imposed on the attacking player(s) has to be waived as the circumstances of the offence infringes the spirit of the game.
It will tantamount to giving an advantage to an offending defender who has brought the game into disrepute by awarding a resultant offside indirect free kick from which his team obviously benefits.
While the defending player remains inside his goal and the attacking player scores, referees are empowered by IFAB to confirm the goal and the defending player cautioned with the issuance of the Yellow Card. If a goal is not scored, the match is re-started accordingly but the offending player must be cautioned with the Yellow Card immediately next time play is stopped.
Leaving the field without refereeâ€™s permission
Over the years players had found ways of circumventing this section of the offside law as they now launched their offside tricks along the touch line. A resolution passed at the meeting of IFAB on 28 February 2009 has decisively plugged the loophole as it were. The coverage is now not only the goal line but all parts of the field of play.
This amendment which took effect twenty four  days ago â€” 1st July 2009 â€” and it states as follows:
â€˜Any defending player leaving the field of play for any reason without the refereeâ€™s permission (not as purely tactical movement) shallÂ be considered to be to be on his goal line or touch line for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play.
â€˜If the player leaves the field of play deliberately, (the referee is the one empowered to â€˜accuratelyâ€™ mind the player) he must be cautioned (Yellow Card) when the ball is next out of playâ€™.
With 1st July 2009 as the effective date of the commencement of the FIFAâ€™s 2009 Amendments, the referees for the three Nigerian matches this weekend are expected to enforce these amendments.
To be effected in Nigeria coming season
The Nigeria Football League has rightly not yet authorized the enforcement of the amendments because FIFA allows national associations whose seasons were still running on 1st July to withhold such action until the season ended.Â But our various clubs should expect their implementation in our national competitions as the new season starts sometime in August 2009.
In addition to the players involved in the CAF Inter Club matches, national team players that are currently involved in international competitions need to be conscious of theses developments and avoid falling foul of these laws.
Other amendments are not difficult to manage. These relate to Law One â€” The Field of Play. It is no longer a question of whether competitive matches can be played on the artificial turf or not but IFAB has ordered that the surface of the turf which appear to be in vogue now must meet the requirements of the FIFA Quality Concept for Football Turf or the International Artificial Turf Standard unless special dispensation is given by FIFA.
Another amendment clarifies the procedure to determine the winner of a match â€¦Kicks from the Penalty Mark.
[Please note that it is not really PENALTY SHOOT OUT. It is not a penalty kick at all because no player is being punished for any match offence]. However as long as the concept is clearly understood, the use of the phrase â€˜Shoot Outâ€™ can only be accepted as short cut.
If we can recall, the guideline requires that the number of players to take the kicks must be equal, sometimes involving the reduction of the number of players for a team that finishes with greater number of players. The Amendment here states that any player thus excluded may not participate in the Kicks from the Penalty Mark.
The final amendment relates to activities in the Technical Area. The Amendment gives technical persons on the Bench more freedom of movement. In the past, only one person at a time was allowed to convey technical instructions to players. (This is still the position) Having done so, the official was expected to return to his standing or sitting position on the bench.
Now IFAB has loosened the knot a little bit. The coach or any other official is now at liberty to stand within the technical area as long as he likes provided he is the only one. He can, if he so desires, alternate with any other technical official on the bench at any time he wishes provided they are not two or more standing at the same time.
Referees Performance this Season
With the successful conclusion of the Federation Cup final match at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, on Sunday, July 12, 2009, between Sharks of Port Harcourt and Enyimba of Aba, the Nigeriaâ€™s 2008/2009 football season has officially come to an end.
It is now appropriate to assess the contributions of the referees to the various Nigerian competitions in the outgoing season. I received several calls after the matches from referees and non-referees commending the brilliant refereeing witnessed that evening from Ago Abubakar – the youngÂ lecturer from Yobe State; AbrahamÂ Zakowi from Abuja; Saheed T. Ayeni from Lagos [all FIFA referees] and Abdullahi Mohammed from Maiduguri who served as the reserve referee.
It will be uncharitable to describe refereeing of this match otherwise. Their performance cannot just be described as a flash in the pan; this has been the trend particularly in the Globacom Premier League this season.
Firm administrative and transparent referees selection had been put in place at the beginning of the league. Referees must meet certain preparatory conditions before presenting themselves for tests. The conditions for these tests have been spelt out by FIFA/CAF and the Nigeria Football Federation. The physical fitness aspect of the tests was conducted in the open field.
A referee who is not physically, medically and psychologically ready cannot be a good referee because he is essentially to follow actions on the field at the speed outside his control â€” no time for rest when he has to observe all match incidents at close quarters to assess them and make correct decisions within split seconds.
In spite of consistent blackmail of the selection process, the performance of the new generation of Nigerian referees in the Premier League and now the Federation Cup finals are concrete testimonies of good harvests ahead. What are these measures? These will be the subject of the next write-up for this column.