The Globe -- Bethlehem
Friday, April 2, 1926
A Swing Along Athletic Row

More Protection For a Goalie
"Football rules are changed to protect players and meet modern demands and still not detract from the thrill of the game, so shy not soccer rules?" writes a Philadelphia fan in contending that the goalie can readily be the victim of injury without any punishment to be meted out by the referee. This fan's plea for greater protection to the goalie follows:

"The present practice of crippling goal tenders under warranty of "rushing the ball" is a vicious practice.

"As soon as a goalie picks up the ball it is in play, even if the goal tender is lying prone on the ground. Given at this juncture a tight game and a heartless forward, injury can result and the referee has little power at present to fix the responsibility.

"There was a time when the six-yard line afforded real protection to the goal tender by tacit agreement of all players, but today it needs to be written into the rule book. A penalty kick for touching a goal tender on any pretext, inside the six-yard area, would make for better sportsmanship.

"The other rule which would add zest to the game, were it slightly amended, is that concerning what is known as "holding off." That is whenever a ball is kicked toward the goal line, and an attacking player follows it to stop it near goal, the defending back is at present permitted to place his body between the ball and the oncoming player, even "charge" him, although the player has not yet touched the ball.

"This is bad soccer because the fundamental principle of play is for the payer to use his sill on the ball and not on the man. Should the referee rule that the defender must play the ball and only obstruct while the opponent actually plays the ball, many a delay would be avoided and many a display of real soccer talent would result.

"Soccer being fundamentally a game of skill, every move to keep it on that plane adds another thrill in watching the topnotchers play."

A goalie does sometimes find himself in a rather dangerous predicament, lying prone on the ground amid a torrid scrimmage but there is a certain sense of sportsmanship imbuing the players that affords him protection to a certain degree. It would be only a cad to deliberately aim a kick that might cause a severe injury. We grant that under the stress of the going, a kick might be unintentional. However, if the referee is wide awake can come to the rescue and usually does. As for the six-yard protection, there are many goals scored after a partial save, in which the goalie knocks down the ball in front of him and the aggressive forward finishes the shot. Such a rule as the Philadelphia fan suggests would eliminate much of the aggressive play witnessed in front of the goal mouth. As for charging, there are certain restrictions. It must be legitimate, and usually is in the close up area, for fear of a penalty. The legitimate charging contributes just enough body contact to appease the craving of the fan and does detract from clever and scientific manipulation of the ball, granting that this is the basis of the sport. That would apply likewise to the goalie whose big event is the clean handling and quick clearance. To restrict the aggressive forward to the six-yard area, would eliminate the goalie from any hazard whatever. For the present, the offside rule, has been a change that has meant volumes to the game from the spectator's viewpoint as well as the players, and that few if any more revisions should be made.

Efficient Officials Can Avert Danger
No game was harder fought than the New York Giants-Bethlehem Steel semi-final in Brooklyn several weeks back. In that game, an occasion occurred where Bill Highfield in saving was lying prone on the ground and with the ball in his grasp. New York wanted a goal badly, for Bethlehem was leading two goals to one. For a time there was some torrid scrimmage in the immediate vicinity of Highfield, but the referee finally came to the rescue. One couldn't say that Highfield emerged entirely unscathed, but he wasn't injured to any dangerous extent. And there was plenty of opportunity for New Yorkers to lay their boot to the defenseless goalie, but the spirit of sportsmanship that possesses all real athletes prevailed.

Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club