World Cup 2010World Cup Coverage 2010
By Eddie Robson, 2010-06-10

The Idiot's Guide to Soccer

Professional foul(PA)

A classic professional foul in the European Champions League

What's a Professional Foul?

In the closing stages of the 1966 World Cup semi-final between England and Portugal, England were 2-0 up when a Portuguese header beat Gordon Banks. The best Jack Charlton could do was tip it over with his hand. Charlton knew he was giving away a penalty, but at the time it was considered a defender's right to give his goalkeeper another chance to prevent a goal. He wasn't even booked.

Today Charlton would have been sent off and missed the final, and we can safely assume that he wouldn't have done it in the first place. The English FA came up with the rule in 1980 and FIFA adopted it for the 1990 World Cup. The rule states that if a player commits a foul which denies a clear goalscoring opportunity, they are to be sent off. The idea was to ensure that committing a foul should never be seen as a better option than playing by the rules of the game.

The main two types of professional foul are deliberately handling the ball to block a shot on goal and illegally tackling a player when they have only the goalkeeper to beat. The latter is seen more often in matches, and puts a lot of pressure on defenders: if their tackle fells the opposing player and they fail to touch the ball, they will be considered to have committed a foul. (It's impossible for referees to tell whether a foul was deliberate or just a mis-timed tackle, so the only way players can be considered innocent is if they make the tackle successfully.)

Sometimes a player commits a foul when he is not the last defender, but his intent is similar: for example, if he sees the opposition launching a quick counter-attack whilst most of his team-mates are still up the other end of the pitch, he might lunge in and give away a free-kick just to give his team-mates a chance to get back. These challenges don't necessarily prevent a clear goalscoring opportunity, but they are cynical and are usually punished with a yellow card. This is not known as the 'semi-professional foul' but it could be, couldn't it?

By Eddie Robson, 2010-06-10

The Idiot's Guide to Soccer

Professional foul(PA)

A classic professional foul in the European Champions League

What's a Professional Foul?

In the closing stages of the 1966 World Cup semi-final between England and Portugal, England were 2-0 up when a Portuguese header beat Gordon Banks. The best Jack Charlton could do was tip it over with his hand. Charlton knew he was giving away a penalty, but at the time it was considered a defender's right to give his goalkeeper another chance to prevent a goal. He wasn't even booked.

Today Charlton would have been sent off and missed the final, and we can safely assume that he wouldn't have done it in the first place. The English FA came up with the rule in 1980 and FIFA adopted it for the 1990 World Cup. The rule states that if a player commits a foul which denies a clear goalscoring opportunity, they are to be sent off. The idea was to ensure that committing a foul should never be seen as a better option than playing by the rules of the game.

The main two types of professional foul are deliberately handling the ball to block a shot on goal and illegally tackling a player when they have only the goalkeeper to beat. The latter is seen more often in matches, and puts a lot of pressure on defenders: if their tackle fells the opposing player and they fail to touch the ball, they will be considered to have committed a foul. (It's impossible for referees to tell whether a foul was deliberate or just a mis-timed tackle, so the only way players can be considered innocent is if they make the tackle successfully.)

Sometimes a player commits a foul when he is not the last defender, but his intent is similar: for example, if he sees the opposition launching a quick counter-attack whilst most of his team-mates are still up the other end of the pitch, he might lunge in and give away a free-kick just to give his team-mates a chance to get back. These challenges don't necessarily prevent a clear goalscoring opportunity, but they are cynical and are usually punished with a yellow card. This is not known as the 'semi-professional foul' but it could be, couldn't it?

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