Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Understanding Handball in Soccer

Soccer is a unique sport where players are forbidden from touching the ball with their hands, setting it apart from other sports. To play the game properly, it’s crucial to comprehend what constitutes a handball.

A handball in soccer occurs when the ball makes illegal contact with a player’s arm or hand. This rule holds significant importance during matches and greatly influences the flow of the game.

What Defines a Handball in Soccer?

A handball can occur when any part of the arm, from the fingertips to the shoulder, is involved in contact with the ball. If a player uses their fingers, arm, upper boundary of the arm, or bottom of the armpit to handle the ball, it is considered a handball. However, if the ball unintentionally hits a player’s fingers, arm, or shoulder, it is not deemed a handball since there was no intentional contact.

Rules Governing Handballs in Soccer

According to the laws of the game, a handball refers to the hand or arm. The following scenarios constitute a handball offense:

  • Creating an obvious goal-scoring opportunity after the ball touches a player’s or teammate’s hand or arm
  • Intentionally touching the ball with the hand or arm
  • Handling the ball with the hand or arm above shoulder level
  • Scoring a goal using the arm or hand, whether immediate or following contact with a teammate’s arm or hand
  • Using the arm or hand to make the body appear larger when touching the ball
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In summary, deliberately touching the ball with the hand or arm, including moving the hand or arm towards the ball, results in a handball offense.

Changes to Handball Rule

Over the years, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has made several adjustments to the handball rules. Currently, handballs are categorized as either intentional or unintentional. Previously, a handball was considered either a punishable offense or left to the discretion of the referee. Determining whether a handball is intentional can be challenging as a player’s true intentions are often unclear. As of the March 2021 rule changes, if a player intentionally handballs in the build-up to a goal, the goal will not be allowed. A video assistant referee (VAR) will review the incident to determine intent.

Leg Contact and Handballs

If the ball first makes contact with a player’s leg and they cannot redirect their hand or arm to avoid the ball, it is not deemed a handball. The speed of the ball is considered in this scenario.

Handball in the Box and Red Cards

A red card may be given for a handball offense in the box if it prevents a clear goal-scoring opportunity. A player may also receive a red card if they accumulate two yellow cards for handball offenses. The referee’s discretion determines whether a yellow card is issued for a handball worse than a standard offense. Cristiano Ronaldo, a renowned soccer player, has received 11 red cards throughout his career, including one while playing for Manchester City in the Premier League.

Consequences of a Handball

The consequences of a handball offense are as follows:

  • A regular handball foul typically results in a free penalty kick or a penalty being awarded
  • If the handball is deemed worse than a standard offense, the player may receive a yellow card
  • Preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity or receiving two yellow cards for handball may lead to a red card
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Direct Free Kick or Indirect Free Kick?

In soccer, there are two types of kicks: direct and indirect. An indirect free kick requires another player to touch the ball before a shot can be taken on goal. On the other hand, a direct free kick allows the player to take a straight shot. A handball is considered a direct free kick offense.


What actions are prohibited in handball?

In handball, players are not allowed to push, trip, charge, hold, or hit other players. During training sessions focused on attacking or footwork drills, it’s essential to keep handball rules in mind to avoid penalties during a game.

What are common mistakes in handball?

Common mistakes in handball include dribbling with a stiff wrist, excessive focus on the ball, falling while dribbling, and dribbling in front of the body.

What is the penalty for a handball in soccer?

Typically, a handball violation results in a free kick for the opposing team from the same spot as the handball. However, if a defensive player’s contact with the ball occurs inside their penalty area, the opposing team is awarded a penalty kick.

What offensive skills are crucial in handball?

Effective passing and punting are essential offensive skills in handball as they contribute to ball possession and goal-scoring opportunities. Careless passes can result in the opposing team gaining control of the ball and potentially scoring.

Does covering your face with your hands prevent a handball?

If a player protects their face and the ball unintentionally hits their hands, it is not considered a handball. However, players should be cautious when using their hands to shield their face, as extending their arms outward may be seen as an unnatural position. To avoid penalties, tuck your arms into your body while covering your face.

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Understanding the rules surrounding handballs in soccer is essential for players and fans alike. A handball occurs when a player intentionally uses their fingers or arm to touch the ball. While the rules can seem complex, they are straightforward once grasped. To develop your skills, consider utilizing the Open Goaaal 3-in-1 soccer trainer during practice, enhancing your abilities ahead of your next game.