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EducationPlay of the Week

Play of the Week 31: Fair Play

In the latest Play of the Week, we are discussing the responsibilities of the Referee, his crew and players to ensure justice and fair play.

The play in question is from the game between Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. Rapids midfielder Stefan Aigner plays the ball past Dallas’ Atiba Harris, who tries to avoid contact – this is the first part of fair play in this incident.

Aigner, who is anticipating contact, goes to ground to avoid Harris. Referee Silviu Petrescu is in good proximity, but we have spoken on many occasions in previous Plays of the Week about angle being more valuable to referees than proximity. From Petrescu’s position, this understandably looks like a foul challenge, and he consequently cautions Harris for stopping a promising attack. The law dictates:

Cautions for unsporting behavior

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior including if a player:

  • Commits a foul which interferes with or stops a promising attack, except where the referee awards a penalty kick for an offense which was an attempt to play the ball

As soon as Petrescu brandishes the yellow card to Harris, who looks bewildered, the second part of fair play occurs when Aigner tells the referee that he wasn’t fouled. Simultaneously 4th Official Nima Saghafi – who has a better viewing angle than Petrescu – also informs the referee over the communication kit that there was no contact, and it wasn’t a foul.

Read more: Nima Saghafi on his rise to the top of US Soccer

This is enough to convince Petrescu that the yellow card was not deserved and he communicates that he is retracting it. Saghafi also informs both Technical Areas that the yellow card has been retracted – this is good practice to avoid any potential confusion. This communication was important as Harris received a yellow card later in the game. The laws state:

Disciplinary action
The referee

  • Acts on the advice of other match officials regarding incidents that the referee has not seen

Delaying the restart of play to show a card

  • Once the referee has decided to caution or send off a player, play must not be restarted until the sanction has been administered

Therefore, as play had not restarted, Petrescu was able to retract the sanction and restart play with a dropped ball instead of the free kick.

In summary, this play shows many aspects of fair play:

  • Atiba Harris – For trying to avoid contact in the first place
  • Stefan Aigner – For informing the referee that he wasn’t fouled
  • Nima Saghafi – Superb assistance to the referee by seeing, recognizing and informing that no foul occurred
  • Silviu Petrescu – Ensuring fair play by retracting the yellow card

Quite often players and referees are criticized – players for unfair play, and referees for having no heart! On this occasion, the characters involved in the play deserve credit for ensuring that fair play and justice prevailed.

Well done!



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