For all of you “newbies” to soccer, when watching a game, you may be thinking that almost anything goes. This is soccer, after all. However, there are rules that must be followed and when an offending player commits an offence, his team must be penalized.
In the NFL, when a player takes a penalty, the Referee announces the penalty to everyone. He will announce what the sanction is and who he is about. For example, he will say something like “Hold, number 74, Offense.” This tells everyone that the 74th on Offense committed a holding penalty. In the NFL, you can run, but you can’t hide. When a player commits a penalty, the Referee (or one of the other Officials who detected the infraction) throws a yellow “FLAG” (actually a weighted handkerchief) into the air. So any time you’re watching a game on TV and see or hear the word “FLAG”, you’ll know that a player took a penalty. While there are a number of different penalties that players can commit, I will only mention the most common ones. Are here:
– False Start: This occurs when an attacking player (usually an offensive lineman) moves or flinches before the ball breaks. This is usually a fairly easy penalty to spot. It usually occurs because a player is trying to jump over his opponent before play begins and inadvertently moves before the snap. The false start costs the offense five yards.
– Holding – this occurs when a player holds his opponent illegally. While it may seem like holding happens on almost every play, Officers must pick and choose their battles. Usually, unless it’s pretty obvious, the Officials will let this slide. Holding costs a team ten yards if on offense, and five yards and an automatic first down if on defense.
– Offside: Usually occurs on defense, but an offensive player can also be offside. Offsides occur when a player (other than the snap) has any part of his body in or beyond the neutral zone when the snap is made. The neutral zone is the area between the lines of scrimmage (or the length of the ball when it is on the ground at the start of a play). Offsides cost the team five yards.
– Invasion: This penalty is similar to offside in that a player enters the neutral zone before the snap, but in this penalty they make contact with an opposing player. The penalty on this is five yards.
So when you watch the game, look for these common penalties. Very soon, you will call them before the Officers.