The handball rule is obsolete

While I continue to abhor diving in soccer, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that the handball is an infraction that is falling into desuetude. There have just been too many goals scored off handballs for it to be an accident or a matter of the game going too fast or referees being too inattentive. The closest analogue I can think of is the traveling rule in basketball. At a certain point, referees just stopped enforcing it except in the most blatant and egregious cases.

The same thing seems to have happend with the handball in soccer. As long as a plausible case can be made that it was incidental, everyone – the refs, the other team, the fans, the league, FIFA — is willing to look the other way and not make a fuss. And as in basketball, I suggest the rationale is the same: to enforce the letter of the rule gives too much of an advantage to the defence, and restricts the creativity of the offence.

Fabiano probably summed up the current mindset of the sport yesterday, when he admitted that he’d twice used his hands before scoring against Cote d’Ivoire:

Well that is true, it seems as though the ball hit my hand,” said Fabiano. “It seems the ball hit my hand and the second time it hit my shoulder.

“But in order to make the goal more beautiful, there had to be a doubtful element. It was a spectacular goal and I believe it was not a voluntary handball. It was a legitimate goal and it was one of the most beautiful goals that I’ve scored in my career. Where better to score such a goal than at the World Cup?”

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