Case Study: A Two-Footed Tackle. Or Was It?

Case Study # 3-2013
Date 18 Jan 2013
Competition Barclays Premier League
Fixture/Result Arsenal 1 – 2 Manchester City
Referee/Badge Mike Dean, FIFA
At Issue Was Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany wrongly sent off for serious foul play?

In the 75th minute of this match, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere had possession of the ball and was attacking near the Man City penalty area. Man City defender and captain Vincent Kompany challenged Wilshere with a head on slide tackle, bringing Wilshere down in a dramatic heap in the process.

Referee Dean, who was no more than 3 or 4 yards from play, adjudged Kompany guilty of using excessive force in his challenge on Wilshere, and sent off Kompany for serious foul play. Dean is then seen explaining to other Man City players that Kompany had committed a two-footed tackle, which guidance from FIFA indicates should be considered serious foul play, resulting in a send off.

The FIFA publication “Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” defines serious foul play as:

[box]A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.

A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred inside the offender’s penalty area).


So called “two-footed tackles” – those where the tackling player shows the bottom of his/her boots to an opponent – are generally considered serious foul play.  It is clear from Referee Dean’s explanation that he considered Kompany’s challenge to be two-footed.  And at full speed, it is easy to see why.

Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that Kompany did not show the bottom of his boots to his opponent, and furthermore may have made only limited contact with him.  Of course, we can only see this with the benefit of multiple camera angles and several minutes of review.  Referee Dean had to make his decision based on a play lasting about 1 second.

The learning point here is that serious foul play  – like so many other decisions – can be difficult to discern.  For those of us at the lower levels of the game, constant study and attention to details will help prepare us to deal with these situations when they occur.

Epilogue:  Kompany’s red card was overturned on appeal.  It might be argued that justice was served for Kompany, but what about the larger implications of overturning a referee’s decision?

3 responses to “Case Study: A Two-Footed Tackle. Or Was It?”

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