Where & When Can A Goalkeeper Use Their Hands? | 2024

The goalkeeper position in soccer is considered one of the hardest roles on the field.

Unlike other players who can easily blend into the game, goalkeepers face a unique problem. They can’t hide when things aren’t going well.

Although goalkeepers can use their hands, there are some rules that limit when they can do so.

Sometimes goalies are not allowed to use their hands, and this happens in certain situations. They have to adapt to these situations to stay competitive.

In the past, goalkeepers used to stay close to their goal area. But in modern soccer, they need to be more flexible and move around freely, even outside their penalty area.

This puts them in uncomfortable situations where they can’t use their hands.

This article will help you understand why goalkeepers sometimes get booked and how they can avoid them.

With this knowledge, the next time you see your goalkeeper getting in trouble, you’ll understand the challenges they face and the changes they need to make to overcome them effectively.

Where Goalkeepers Can’t Use Their Hands

Outside the Penalty Area

Where & When Can A Goalkeeper Use Their Hands?

Inside their penalty area highlighted in blue in the image above, goalkeepers can use their hands to control and pass the ball.

But once they step out of this area, they can no longer use their hands, which means they lose this important ability to help their team.

Moving out into the outfield requires goalkeepers to be extra alert and learn different techniques to continue contributing to their team’s defense.

Where & When Can A Goalkeeper Use Their Hands?

The Opponent’s Penalty Area

Goalies can confidently use their hands within their own penalty area, but things change when they enter the opponent’s penalty area.

Inside the opposing team’s penalty area, goalkeepers are not allowed to use their hands.

Because of this restriction, they have to depend on their agility, positioning, and footwork to handle potential scoring chances or get involved in offensive plays.

Throw-Ins from Your Own Team

During a match, when a teammate performs a throw-in, goalkeepers are not allowed to use their hands temporarily.

When the ball is thrown toward them, goalkeepers need to quickly analyze the situation and use their footwork or body positioning to control or redirect the ball.

This challenging demand requires them to be precise and make quick decisions, ensuring that they can continue contributing to the team’s ball possession without any interruption.

Backpass to the Goalkeeper

In certain instances, teammates may deliberately pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, relying on their superior ball-handling skills to reset the play.

However, a recent rule change now restricts the goalkeeper from using their hands if the ball has been deliberately played to them by a teammate’s foot.

Consequently, goalkeepers must adapt by using their feet or alternative techniques to maintain control and initiate the team’s next move.

Back pass rule

This rule is known as the “back pass rule”. Introduced by FIFA (the governing body of world soccer) in 1992.

The back-pass rule states that ”an indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, touches the ball with the hand/arm after it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate.“

The Six-Second Rule

To keep the game going smoothly, goalies must follow the six-second rule, which means they can’t hold onto the ball for more than six seconds.

This rule prevents goalies from wasting too much time and disrupting the flow of the match.

Within this time limit, goalies need to decide whether to pass the ball to a teammate, kick it upfield, or release it before the time runs out.

This requires them to think quickly and make accurate decisions.

Where Goalies Can Use Their Hands To Pick The Ball

Every player on the field has their own abilities and limitations that define their roles.

Among them, the man between the stick is special because they are the only player allowed to use their hands to interact with the ball.

While other players can only use their feet, legs, head, and torso, goalies have the freedom to strategically use their hands to impact the game.

However, this advantage comes with certain restrictions.

There are rules that dictate where on the field goalies can effectively use their hands.

The Keeper’s Domain – Within Their Penalty Area

As mentioned before, goalies can only handle the ball within a specific area called the penalty area.

This area is also commonly referred to as the penalty box or the 18-yard box.

These terms all refer to the same rectangular space located at both ends of the soccer field.

Inside this designated area, goalies are allowed to use their hands or arms to control the ball.

It’s important to note that goalies cannot handle the ball outside of this area under any circumstances.

Similarly, it is strictly prohibited for any player, regardless of their position, to handle the ball within or outside the penalty area.

Also, it’s crucial to understand that goalies are only allowed to handle the ball within the area corresponding to the end of the field their team is defending.

These restrictions ensure a fair balance between teams and preserve the integrity of the game.

When a Goalie Can Pick up the Ball

To understand when a goalkeeper can use their hands in their area, we need to look at what happens before they get the ball.

The timing of when a goalie can grab the ball depends on what happens before.

A goalkeeper can use their hands to touch or pick up the ball in the following situations:

  1. The ball is inside their penalty area.
  2. The ball hasn’t been passed directly to them by a teammate through a back pass or a throw-in.
  3. The goalkeeper hasn’t just let go of the ball from their hands.

To provide further clarification, let’s focus on the situations where a goalie is not allowed to use their hands.

There are four specific instances:

  1. If a teammate intentionally kicks the ball back to them.
  2. When the goalies receive the ball directly from a teammate’s throw-in.
  3. If the goalie holds onto the ball for six seconds without passing or releasing it.
  4. If the goalie has already held the ball for six seconds, let it go, and no other player has touched it.

Final Whistle

Being a goalie is harder than it may seem.

It’s not just about stopping the ball. This day, they have to do more than that.

They need to create chances and follow special rules made for them. They also have to control their defense and avoid breaking the rules to prevent penalties and being sent off.

Unlike other players who can make mistakes without serious consequences, if a goalie touches the ball outside their area, they are immediately sent off by the referee.

They have limited time to control the ball, and if a teammate makes a bad pass back to them, it can be a disaster.