Grassroots Coaching

All in wrestling at corners, it has to stop!

Corners have become chaos. The rules of the game have gone out of the window, with players very often turning their back on the ball and wrestling each other. Referees wag their fingers, the players blame each other and then continue where they left off.

Defenders are taking no notice of the ball, in fact they are turning their back on the ball so they can hold onto their opponent to stop them getting to the ball.

Attackers are no better, with attackers designated as blockers, just like in American football, where they have no interest in trying to win the ball, their job is to block a specific defender  to try and free the run of a fellow attacker. Very often this involves putting their arms out and physically stopping the defender making a run or grabbing them by the shirt or any other part of their anatomy to stop them.

Example of all in wresting at corners. Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic (left) and John Terry were held in headlocks by Manchester United defenders Chris Smalling (left – who has no idea where the ball is) and Marcos Rojo


Ivanovic appeals for a penalty as he lies on the ground with Smalling on top of him and still not looking at the ball

FIFA Laws of the Game 2014-15 say:

Direct free kick

A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent
  • tackles an opponent

A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following three offences:

  • holds an opponent
  • spits at an opponent
  • handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

A direct free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

Penalty kick

A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above ten offences is committed by a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.

It seems there are very specific laws on what is a direct free kick / penalty and is covered by “Holding an opponent”  but the officials seem very reluctant to uphold the laws of the game. As a result, they have now made a rod for their own back and players know they can get away with breaking the laws of the game, with no punishment

As a player who was coached to mark from crosses and set pieces, by ensuring that I could always see the player I was marking and the ball and then to attack the ball and to get to it before my opponent, I am totally mystified by the way many players now mark at set pieces, such as corners. Players seem to have the freedom to turn their back on where the ball is being delivered from, grab hold of opponents, in many cases, in moves that the old wrestler Big Daddy would have been proud of, throw them to the ground and still not be penalised by the referee. It makes a complete mockery of the rules of the game, spoils it from the fans point of view and very often takes away the advantage the attacking team have from the corner or free kick.

Imagine if this was allowed to happen anywhere else on the pitch in general play. It would be one way to stop Sterling , Rooney or Harry Kane. Just grab hold of them when the ball is no where near and throw them to the ground. That would nullify great movement and pace. Of course that can’t happen, so why is allowed to happen from corners and free kicks?

There is a simple solution. There should be an edict that says any team that does this in a game will be punished under the laws of the game by a penalty or direct free kick being awarded for a foul. Because, make no mistake that is what is being committed.  A foul in the penalty area.

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