I have just seen this snippet of the recent Argentina-Colombia match in which James (Colombia #10) deliberately pushes his own teammate Torres (Colombia #16) to get to the ball.


The referee's call in this particular case was clearly incorrect (he gave an free kick to Colombia because he believed that Biglia, Argentina #6, who didn't actually do anything, was the one to cause Torres to fall).

But what would the correct call have been? More generally, if you foul your own teammate, do the Rules of the Game allow the referee to award the opposite team a free kick? Can you even be yellow-carded or red-carded for such an action?

  • Cristiano ronaldo does it all the time... youtube.com/watch?v=0puZ0AWDrVg
    – yaakov
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 15:46
  • I flagged this comment because (i) you are not answering the question; and (ii) while I agree Ronaldo is not the cleanest player, this video shows him fouling opponents, not teammates.
    – Koldito
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 15:54
  • Really? Check out 1:25 and 1:40.
    – yaakov
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 15:57
  • Complain (i) still stands. Wrt complain (ii), 1:40 is not even a foul, it's a legit challenge for the ball. 1:25 is tricky, as one could argue it's a case of two teammates running into each other due to poor communication. Even if you construct it as a foul on Ronaldo's part, it hardly counts as "all the time".
    – Koldito
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 16:06
  • @Koldito (i) For your flag, Tricks is not answering the question (hence, the comment). (ii) It looks like the interaction referenced at 1:25 is constructive in some way, shape, or form (eg, "tricky" wrt fouling a teammate). "All the time" may be engaging in hyperbole, but even you suggest there's something constructive that can be taken out of what happened at 1:25 (again, as a comment and not an answer). For these reasons, I dismissed the flag.
    – user527
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 13:26

2 Answers 2


In general, you can't foul a member of your own team; almost every reference in the Laws of the Game refers to "an opponent" - in particular, see Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct, Direct free kick (page 37):

  • kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • jumps at an opponent
  • charges an opponent
  • strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • pushes an opponent
  • tackles an opponent

A player can be booked for "unsporting behaviour" (Law 12, Cautionable offences (page 39)) which is a general catch-all the referee can use for a lot of things not covered by anything specific and could in theory be used in this situation.

That all said, unless the team is trying to somehow gain an unfair advantage over the opposition by "tackling" their own teammates, this feels to me like something which the referee should just let happen - it's something for the team and their manager to sort out, not the referee.

  • most sports have an "unsportsmanlike conduct" rule, that are vague enough to be applied to unusual situations.
    – Keltari
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:25
  • For example if two team-mates have a full-on fistfight (more than one incident, perhaps, since if it's just one you'd hope the rest of the team would separate them quite quickly), the referee might decide that it's just dangerous to leave them on the field together. But I don't know whether or not the laws of the game really support sending them both off as a solution. Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 18:37
  • 1
    @SteveJessop Violent conduct is sanctioned when it's committed against any person, whether it be a teammate, opponent, spectator or referee (or anyone else). If players commit violent conduct against anyone, they must be sent-off. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 2:21
  • "The referee could conceivably argue that pushing your own teammate is "play[ing] in a dangerous manner" and award an indirect free kick to the opposition (Law 12, Indirect free kick (page 38))." - This is incorrect. On p. 123 it states that "Playing in a dangerous manner is defined as any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player himself). It is committed with an opponent nearby and prevents the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury." If this is removed, I will reverse my vote. Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 2:23

You can't foul a teammate, unless what you did actually led to some other fouls (e.g. pushing a teammate to trip an opponent). However if you start an argument/fight with your teammate, i.e. display "unsporting behavior", then you both could be punished by the referee with admonitions, yellow cards or red cards. This will probably still not grant the opponent a free kick, though.

An infamous example: Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer punching each other in a PL game in 2005 and both getting sent off, despite them being on the same team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7_ygd9k24w

  • 2
    If this occurs while the ball is still into play, and the ref has to stop the play for that, he shall award an indirect free kick to the opposite team. ;)
    – LeReferee
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 23:51

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