February 2002: The Penalty Area...
The letter said: "denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity". This clear definition of the role of a fullback was in this case used to describe why my team faced a penalty shot and had to play a man short , and why I was suspended. The reason for this seemingly incongruent interpretation of the role of a defender was that the infraction happened in the penalty area.
When you enter the penalty area you leave all fairness behind. On the rest of the field, any of the ten fouls listed in the FIFA Rules of the Game are meet with a consistent response regardless of whether you are attacking or defending. In the penalty area, any foul by a defender (except for minor interference) leads to a penalty shot and a near certain goal for the attacking team. Any foul on a defender leads to a free kick some 100 plus yards from the other teams net, gee thanks.
Given that the forwards have been given sweeping rights and privileges in the penalty area, you would hope that these rules would be applied with some consideration for the defenders. This does not appear to be the case. For example, in almost every case, if any part of a fullback's arm touches a ball, penalty shot. The rule says the contact must be intentional to be a foul. Given the near certainty of a goal on a penalty shot, I would not play with a fullback that touched a ball in the penalty area on purpose . I think I could successfully argue that handballs in the penalty area are almost always un-intentional, not the reverse.
All this said, I am prepared to run around in that mystical box with my
hands tucked in my shorts and the virtual certainty that any contact will lead to a goal, if one concession is allowed. If a fullback is fouled in
the penalty area, the ball should be moved to at least half. Or, better
yet, march it all the way down to the penalty area 100 yards downfield.