The goal kick is a regular part of any soccer game. I’ve seen thousands over the years. Traditionally it is the goalkeeper than takes the goal kick, but does it have to be? Could a defender take a goal kick instead?
A defender can take a goal kick. The rules of soccer explicitly state that any player from the defending team can take a goal kick. This rule would include any defender currently on the field for the defending team.
There are a variety of reasons why a defender may take a goal kick. Let’s have a look at what those reasons are and find out precisely what the rules say about defenders taking goal kicks.
What the Rules Say About Goal Kicks
Seeing a defender take a goal kick is not a common sight during a soccer game. But according to the rules of soccer, there is no restriction on a defender taking a goal kick.
FIFA (the governing body for soccer worldwide) is part of an organization called the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The IFAB is responsible for determining the laws of the game of soccer. Every professional soccer game that takes place worldwide must comply with the rules of soccer as set out by the IFAB.
The complete “Laws of the Game” is a lengthy document. To help you understand the rules, I’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide to the rules of soccer. You can find this guide here if you’re interested.
Law 16 in the “Laws of the Game” of soccer is the part of the rules that deals with goal kicks. This rule makes it clear what the procedure should be.
The rules for a goal kick are as follows:
“ – The ball must be stationary and is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
– The ball is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves
– Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play“IFAB Laws of the Game
As you can see, the rules don’t specify which player has to take a goal kick.
Any player can take a goal kick. The rules of soccer only say that “a player from the defending team” must take the goal kick. By referring to “a player from the defending team,” the rules open up the opportunity for any of the team players to take the kick.
It doesn’t have to be a defender that takes the kick, but it could be.
Why a Defender Would Take a Goal Kick
Just because a defender can take a goal kick doesn’t necessarily mean they should. There’s a good reason it is rare to see defender’s take goal kicks.
From professional soccer down to youth soccer, you will almost always see the goalie take a goal kick in any soccer game.
The reason for this is in part because that is what the goalie has always done. But there are several other reasons also.
- The goalie is positioned closest to the goal. The goal kick is taken immediately in front of the defending team’s goal in the area of the field where the goalie is positioned. If there is a kick to be taken from here, it makes sense that the goalkeeper would take it.
- The outfield players can receive the ball. If the goalie takes the goal kick, then all the outfield players on a team are in the ideal position to receive the ball. If an outfield player is taking the kick, there will be fewer players to receive the ball.
- The goalie has trained to take a goal kick. Because the goalkeeper is the player that takes a goal kick 99% of the time, they prepare specifically for this. This training makes them highly capable of taking an effective goal kick.
However, despite these reasons that favor a goalie taking a goal kick, there are times when it may make more sense for a defender to take the kick.
Some of these reasons are:
- Injury to the goalie. It may be that the team’s goalie has an injury that is small enough that they can continue playing but hinders their ability to kick the ball effectively. In this situation, it may be preferable for a defender to take the
- The defender has a stronger kick. It may be that there is a defender on a team that has a stronger kick than the goalkeeper. In a situation where the team wants to get the ball as far down the field as possible, the defender may take the goal kick.
- The defender has a more accurate kick. It may also be the case that a defender has a more precise kick than the goalie. To increase the ball’s chances of reaching a player on the same team, a defender may take a goal kick.
- Tactical reasons. There might be occasions where it could give the defending team an advantage if a defender took the goal kick. This will depend on the individual team and what they are trying to achieve from the goal kick.
If a defender does take a goal kick, they should make sure they don’t make such a mess of it, as this defender did in the video below!
There is reason to believe that it may become more common to see defenders taking goal kicks over the next few years.
This is due to the recent change to the rules that the IFAB made.
Recent Goal Kick Rule Change
The goal kick rule changed on June 1, 2019. Before the rule was changed, the ball was not in play until after it had left the penalty box. After the rule change, the ball is in play as soon as it is kicked and clearly moves. [source]
This significantly reduces the distance the ball has to travel from the goal kick before it is considered back in play.
This change to the goal kick rules also means that some teams may now consider it tactically advantageous to let a defender take a goal kick.
Have a look at this video below of Spanish team Barcelona taking advantage of the new goal kick rule.
As you can see in the video allowing the defender to take the goal kick can allow the team more space and options to distribute the ball.
In the past, the player taking the goal kick had to pass the ball over a significant distance to bring the ball back in play. But now that the ball is in play as soon as it is kicked, the defending team is given more opportunities to use the ball through a series of shorter passes.
This should increase a team’s ability to keep possession of the ball.
As you’ve seen, there is nothing in the rules that prevents a defender from taking a goal kick in a game of soccer. Although it doesn’t happen very often, there are occasions where it could be advantageous to a team to have a defender take the kick.
Having a defender take a goal kick could also be a tactic that teams increasingly use teams due to the recent change in soccer rules.
For more information about defenders in soccer, have a look at one of my other articles below.