The corner flag is a fundamental part of a football match, although not everyone knows exactly what the function of this element on the pitch is. In each corner of the football pitch there is a corner flag, which has a very simple but essential function for the correct development of the game.
Many football fans tend to question their usefulness, as sometimes even the footballers themselves are uncomfortable when they have to take a corner kick at the corner flag, but they are absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of a match. The function of this key element of the field of play is to be a reference point so that the referee can clearly distinguish whether the ball has gone out from the side of the pitch or from the back of the pitch, i.e. it helps him to distinguish throw-ins from goal kicks and corner kicks.
The FIFA Regulations clearly state the shape of the corner flag: a non-pointed pole with a flag at least one and a half metres high must be placed at each corner of the field of play. In addition, optional flags may also be placed at each end of the halfway line at a distance of at least one metre outwards from the touch line. There must therefore be four corner flags on the field of play, although two further flags may optionally be placed, giving a total of six corner flags on the field of play.
Other uses of the corner flag
Sometimes the corner flag can be of great use to a player, as it can be used to support him so that the ball does not go out of play, or even so that he can pass an opponent by using this element to make a wall. All this is regulated by FIFA: the ball is considered to be out of play when it has completely crossed a goal line or touch line, either in the air or on the ground, and also when the referee stops play.
Therefore, in all other circumstances the ball is in play, including when it rebounds from the corner flags and goalposts and crossbar, provided it remains inside the field of play, as well as when it rebounds from an assistant referee or the referee inside the field of play. However, it should be noted that corner flags that are not fixed are now used in professional football grounds, i.e. they tilt and return to their place after the ball has been kicked.
Anecdotes with corner flags in the spotlight
Sometimes the corner flag becomes more than just a reference point for many footballers. For example, Malmö’s Tobias Tigjani Sana used this element of the pitch against the Göteborg fans after they threw a flare at him. Kevin de Bruyne ate the corner flag when trying to take a short corner, and almost ended up eating the ground as well.
Former FC Barcelona and Brazil player Ronaldinho also had serious problems taking a corner kick in a 2002 World Cup match against Turkey. The wind only moved the corner flag, causing it to get in the way.
Aaron Ramsey took the fabric of the corner flag with his crotch during a match, and although he tried to put it back in place, he tired before he managed to do so. Mario Balotelli had one of the funniest moments with a corner flag in his hands during Euro 2016 in France. Robinho almost poked Kaká’s eye out with the corner flag because of the recoil of the flag after being hit.
In the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores U20 in Uruguay, a most unusual occurrence took place: When the referee blew the final whistle of the match between River Plate of Uruguay and Independiente del Valle of Ecuador, all the players of the Uruguayan team ran to attack Angelo Preciado, one of the players of the Ecuadorian team, who had the ingenious idea of going to one of the corners of the football pitch and grabbing the corner flag, which he used as a tool to defend himself and chase away his opponents.
It seems that the player from the Ecuadorian team made fun of his opponents when the match was over, which ended up getting on their nerves. This is undoubtedly an anecdote with the corner flag as the protagonist which, like those mentioned above, will remain for posterity.