Penalty Kick: The Controversial Sanction

This is due to the fact that it could be decisive for the outcome of an encounter especially in a low scoring game.


The word penalty is simply defined as punishment for breaking the rule or law. However in football, it is a free kick on the goal defended only by the goalkeeper, awarded when a defensive player has committed a foul in the penalty area. The offence might be a rough tackle or a touch of the ball with the hand inside the 18-metre box. A penalty could also be awarded to demarcate two football sides of equal strength in case in parity at the end of regular time of play in a cup match.

However, this rule which is the 14th law of the International Football Association Board, IFAB is the source of conflict in football matches across the globe given that its outcome could be decisive on the outcome of the encounter since. More so, since the law allows a certain margin of appreciation to the discretion of referees, the victims usually cry foul when a referee awards a penalty against them. Some fans suspect referees of corruption especially when the infringement is not very evident nor the gravity of the offence.

The tension emanates from the fact that penalties are considered easy to score, why some people call a goal scored from the penalty spot, a woman’s goal. But history has proven that a penalty is not synonymous to a goal as even some of the world’s best players have lost penalties. Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup that would have made Ghana the first African country to qualify for the semi finals. Roberto Baggio also missed the last kick that ended up giving Brazil the World Cup in the first World Cup final that was ever decided on penalty kicks.

The most memorable penalty loss for Cameroon was that of Pierre Wome Nlend in the last qualifiers match against Egypt for the 2006 World in Germany. The penalty lost by Wome cost Cameroon its participation at the World Cup and provoke social unrest as the player was targeted prompting his premature retirement from the national selection.

Cameroon has also got a long history of penalties unjustly awarded or refused them especially at the final round of the World cup. This was the case in 1990 when England was unjustly awarded a penalty after Thomas Nkono regularly intercepted the ball from the feet of Gary Linekar. That penalty turned out to be the turning point of the match leading to Cameroon’s eventual eviction for the world soccer showpiece.

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