“Collina’s heirs” peter out: Why Stuttgart’s goal counts despite handball

“Collina’s heirs” peter out
Why Stuttgart’s goal counts despite handball

By Alex Feuerherdt

1. FC Köln, VfB Stuttgart and Bayer 04 Leverkusen each score a goal after a handball. The Stuttgart goal still counts, unlike the Cologne and Leverkusen players. In all cases the referees interpret the handball rule correctly.

When the rumble goes in the Cologne stadium, everyone is ready to go through the city and a collective “Alaaf” starts, then the city’s leading football club has just scored a goal. In the game against VfL Bochum (2: 1) 1. FC Köln did that for the first time after a quarter of an hour, but the obligatory goal music only briefly put the fans of the Rhinelander into a carnival mood. Because the video assistant, who is only a few kilometers away from the “Effzeh” arena, acted as a party brake: he informed referee Benjamin Cortus that goal scorer Dejan Ljubicic had touched the ball with his hand shortly before the goal. The referee then canceled the goal.

That he was doing the right thing was beyond dispute. Because in the rules it is clearly stated: If a player either scores a goal with his hand or arm or touches the ball with his hand or arm and hits the goal immediately afterwards, then this hit may not be recognized. Not even if the handball in question was completely unintentional or even inevitable. As with Ljubicic, for whom the ball had jumped uncontrollably to the normally held forearm in a duel with Bella Kotchap, shortly before he shot the ball into the Bochum goal.

Referee Cortus hadn’t noticed the handball, so the VAR intervened. Since it was a so-called factual decision, there was no need for an on-field review: because in this case touching the ball with the arm could be proven beyond doubt and the player in question scored a goal immediately afterwards, the criminal liability of the handball was automatically established. Without this connection, the handball would not have been objectionable. This distinction has a philosophical background: The rulers of the International Football Association Board (Ifab) argue that it is unacceptable in football if the hand was directly involved in scoring a goal – even if it was unintentional.

What distinguishes the hand games from Ljubicic and Mavropanos

The decisive factor is the word “immediate” – and that’s why things were ultimately different in a seemingly similar scene in the game between VfB Stuttgart and SC Freiburg (2: 3). Shortly before the break, Konstantinos Mavropanos scored the goal for the hosts to make it 1: 3, the ball had also jumped to his arm in a duel. And like in Cologne’s Ljubicic, his arm posture was due to a normal sequence of movements at this moment, so there was no unnatural increase in the body area. Mavropanos also scored afterwards – in contrast to Ljubicic, however, not directly after the handball, but only after a one-two with his teammate Hamadi Al Ghaddioui.

Accidental ball contact with the arm did not immediately precede the goal being scored, and so the hit counted. If, on the other hand, Mavropanos had shot and hit the ball on Freiburg’s housing immediately after the handball, the goal would have been canceled. Here the Ifab has deliberately set a limit so that hits do not have to be denied, although an accidental, i.e. normally not punishable, handball was not directly related to the goal scoring.

The VAR must intervene in Aranguiz’s handball

Handball, on the other hand, which is punishable under all circumstances and which occurs in the formation of a goal, must of course be punished in any case, if necessary with the help of the video assistant. This is what happened in the match between FC Augsburg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen (1: 4) shortly before the break: After the guests had scored for the third time in this game, the VAR stepped in and recommended an on-field to referee Benjamin Brand -Review. Because during the conquest of the ball, with which Leverkusen’s attack phase began in front of this goal, Charles Aranguiz had led his right arm clearly to the ball unnoticed by the referee and thus clearly committed a punishable handball.

The referee then only spent a few seconds in front of the monitor before correctly deciding to cancel Moussa Diaby’s goal. The issue here was not whether the handball happened just before the goal was scored – that was definitely not the case. Rather, the handball was in itself a criminal offense because, from a regulatory point of view, it was done on purpose and took place at the beginning of an attack phase that resulted in a goal. It was to be treated in the same way as a foul play by the attacking team in the run-up to a hit. And that is why the VAR intervened quite rightly.

Recognizing and implementing these regulatory differentiations during handball in practice on the field is without question a demanding task for the referees. And all the more so as it still takes getting used to that a completely unintentional handball, which is otherwise not punished, has to be punished under a certain condition. How much it can be about details was shown on this match day as if under a magnifying glass. The fact that the referees made the right decision in all cases, sometimes in conjunction with their video assistants, is therefore worthy of all honor.