Dark Arts: Why Willy Boly’s Late Equaliser Against Newcastle Should Have Been Disallowed


Every football fan appreciates a thunderous header that screams into the net – especially when it’s late on in a match, and a strike off the old noggin steals a point, or even all three. However, often there’s a dark side to some of these headers that goes unnoticed, or worse gets applauded.

A lot of them are fouls.

Yeah I said it! Now this may be the post-match rage coming through following ​Wolves‘ late equaliser against ​Newcastle on Monday night, but this isn’t the first instance where the attacker gained an unfair advantage to score a goal.

What I mean by ‘unfair advantage’, more often than not, is the attacker climbing all over the back and shoulders of the defender or keeper, essentially preventing them from jumping to full height or even getting off the ground at all. Or, as certainly appeared to be the case last night, wrapping your arms around the goalkeeper’s face. How the hell are you supposed to catch a ball when you can’t see the bloody thing?

Willy Boly,Martin Dubravka

Now, understand that I’m fully aware that a lot of times, there are no fouls. The attacker is simply stronger, rises highest, and doesn’t use any unfair leverage and produces a sublime finish. But often, that’s not the case.

And, despite what some of my colleagues might argue, when you have a 14-stone defender jumping on to your back with his hands in your face, you as a goalkeeper are going to have a hard time catching the ball. 

But don’t just take it from me – here are the rules concerning when an indirect free kick should be awarded as it pertains to fouls on the goalkeeper, from the ​Football Association:

“A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball when:

  • the ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save
  • holding the ball in the outstretched open hand
  • bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air

A goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hands.”

Of course, there all the arguments saying that the defender/goalkeeper ‘must be stronger’ in the air. Sure, but how strong can you be when you’re carrying a grown-ass man on your back?

Fussball: 1. BL 03/04, Alemannia Aachen-Energie Cottbus

Now, there are plenty of instances where defenders are called for fouls when there aren’t none, and that puts referees in a tricky position.

With the action happening so quickly, and so much going on in the box – not to mention the added pressure of trying to determine if it’s a goal or not in the dying embers of a match – one can forgive the officials for making a mistake. However, goalkeepers are typically ‘protected’ when challenged by an attacker, sometimes even for the faintest of contacts. 

If it was David de Gea playing for Manchester United or Alisson for Liverpool in goal on Monday night instead of Martin Dubravka for Newcastle, perhaps the ref would have put the whistle to his lips. 

My bitching won’t change anything, of course, but I don’t give a damn. Just wait till your team loses a match to such a ‘header’, then tell me how it feels.



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