Can a Soccer Goalie Pick Up the Ball from a Throw-in?

Can a soccer goalie pick up ball from a throw in - header image

If you are the goalkeeper in your team, you will already know that some of the rules in soccer are different for you than they are for the outfield players. Being able to pick up the ball is one of them.

But when it comes to the rules around throw-ins, you may be confused about whether you can still use your hands in this situation.

Can a soccer goalie pick up the ball from a throw-in? A goalkeeper can only pick up, or catch, the ball from a throw-in if the throw-in is taken by a player from the other team. A goalkeeper cannot pick up, or catch, the ball directly from a throw-in if the throw-in is taken by a player on their own team.

So, it turns out that not even the goalkeeper can use their hands to touch the ball in this situation. And this isn’t the only situation either where this applies.

If you are a goalkeeper or just interested in soccer, it’s worth taking the time to fully understand these rules.

If you’re also interested in finding out the 8 rules that every soccer goalie needs to know, then click here to go to an article I recently wrote all about it.

Why a Goalie Cannot Pick up the Ball From a Throw-in

As with any sport, soccer is governed by specific rules that every player must follow.

When it comes to a throw-in, the rules are clear that the referee should consider it an offense if the goalie touches the ball with their hands after receiving it from a player on their own team.

Here’s the relevant rule word-for-word:

“An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area…touches the ball with the hand/arm unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play after… receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate.”

Laws of the Game of Soccer

If the throw-in was taken by a player from the opposing team, then there is no problem. But a throw-in taken by a teammate is off-limits from being handled by the goalie.

It Isn’t Always Necessary for a Goalie to Use Their Hands From a Throw-in

There are a number of moments in a game of soccer where it can be an advantage to make use of your team’s goalkeeper as an extra player.

Expecting a goalie only to be there to stop any shots on goal from the opposite team is underestimating the role they can play.

As a coach and a player, I have experienced that involving the goalie in a passing sequence has got my team out of a tight spot many times!

One of the roles a goalkeeper can perform is to be an extra person to pass the ball to during the game. This is why knowing what a goalkeeper can and can’t do from a direct pass, such as a throw-in, is so important.

For a complete understanding of the roles of a goalkeeper I recommend checking out my article – Soccer Goalie: Roles, Responsibilities, and How to Play.

When the ball is thrown directly to the goalkeeper from a throw-in, he or she will need to overcome their natural instinct to pick up the ball straight away. If they do forget and handle the ball, then the referee will award a free-kick to the other team.

A player will take this free-kick from the spot where the goalkeeper first handled the ball unless the offense occurs within the 6-yard box.

If this happens, the player will take the free-kick on the 6-yard line nearest to where the goalie handled the ball.

This would be an indirect free-kick rather than a direct free kick meaning the ball cannot go directly into the goal from the free-kick. It must be touched by another player first.

Interestingly though, although a goalkeeper can’t pick up the ball from a throw-in, they can take one.

A goalkeeper can take a throw-in. The rules of soccer permit any player on a team, including the goalkeeper, to take a throw-in. Goalkeepers always keep their gloves on to take throw-ins, as removing them would be too time-consuming.

There are a total of eleven rules that a player must follow at a throw-in. To find out what they are, check out my article – 11 Soccer Throw-in Rules: All You Need to Know.

The Goalkeeper Can Touch the Ball With Another Part of Their Body

It is worth pointing out that when the rules say a goalie can’t handle the ball directly from a throw-in, it doesn’t mean that they can first touch the ball with another part of their body and then use their hands.

The actual wording of the rules are –

“An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area…touches the ball with the hands after… receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate”

Laws of the Game

This means that no matter how long they have the ball under their control, they are unable to handle the ball until another player has touched it (and even then, there are certain rules preventing them from handling the ball in specific situations. But we’ll look at that soon).

It Can Still Be a Good Idea to Throw the Ball to the Goalie

Despite all this, it can still be a good, and sometimes the best option at a throw-in, to throw the ball to your own goalkeeper.

They are often unmarked at these times and are capable of delivering an accurate pass up the field to other members of the team.

Any half-decent goalkeeper should be able to receive the ball with their feet and pass or kick the ball out to another player on their team without too much of a problem. Doing this is completely acceptable and within the rules of the game.

When the Goalie Can Use Their Hands From a Throw-in

goalkeeper kicking a ball

When we think of the goalkeeper, we often think of them as the one player on the field who can use their hands to stop or hold the ball. And although this is true, they are the only player who can touch the ball with their hands; there are some situations where even they can’t.

We’ve already looked at what they can’t do when they receive a throw-in from a player on their own team, but what about if the goalkeeper receives a throw-in from a player on the opposition’s team?

In this situation, it is fine for the goalkeeper to pick up the ball.

In many ways, this is no different from responding to the ball coming toward their goal if an opposition player had sent the ball toward them in any other way. In this situation, the goalie is allowed to respond in whichever way they feel is best.

Including the use of their hands.

So, what if the goalie is passed the ball from one of their own players while the ball is still in play? The answer to this depends on how the ball was passed.

If the player uses their foot to kick the ball and deliberately passes to the goalie, then the goalkeeper cannot touch the ball with their hands.

If the ball is passed to the goalie with another part of the body, such as the head or chest, then it is fine for the goalkeeper to handle the ball. This is what is often referred to as the back pass rule.

If you want to know more about where and when a goalie can use their hands, check out this other article I wrote – Where and When Can a Soccer Goalie Use Their Handsfor even more information.

The Back Pass Rule

The introduction of the “back pass rule” in 1997 was introduced with the aim of reducing time-wasting during games.

Before this, it was common for the goalkeeper to simply pick up the ball every time it came to them. This sometimes led to slowing down the game, displaying less skill, and providing less entertaining games to watch.

The soccer World Cup directly preceding the introduction of this rule was widely considered to be slow and uninteresting to watch. This was mainly because of the number of times players passed the ball back to the goalkeeper, who would then pick it up, slowing down the game.

The back-pass rule has also often been credited with playing a large part in encouraging goalkeepers to become more proficient in their footwork with the ball. Now some of the best goalies in the world are the ones who are considered to be the best with the ball at their feet.

It is a significant advantage in modern soccer.

It is also worth noting that there will be some times when the referee will need to use discretion when the ball may have been deflected before arriving at the goalkeeper. If this happens, the deflection is not considered a deliberate act and doesn’t count as a pass.

If you want more info on the back pass in soccer, then check out this article I wrote that provides far more detail about this rule.

A Goalie Cannot Drop the Ball and Pick It Up Again

The last instance where a goalkeeper cannot handle the ball is when they have had the ball under control in their hands, and they have released it.

At this point, the goalie is not permitted to handle the ball again until it has been in contact with or touched another player. Only then can the goalkeeper use their hands again.

With all these examples, it’s important to point out that the goalie can only handle the ball inside their own penalty area.

No matter how the ball arrives in the goalkeeper’s possession, if they are outside of their penalty area, it is an offense for them to handle the ball. In some situations, this can even lead to the goalkeeper receiving a red card and being sent off.

If you’re looking to find out more about the rules of soccer, check out this recent article I wrote – A Simple and Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer

*Also, check out the next post –Can a Defender Score in Soccer? 5 Defenders Who Did“*

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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