When you look around a soccer team, one of the first things that catches your eye is that the goalie is wearing different colors to the rest of the team. Every other player on the team is matching but not the goalie who will often grab your attention in their brightly colored uniform. I want to explain to you the important reason why that is.
Soccer goalies wear a different color uniform than the rest of the players on their team so that the game officials, players, and fans can instantly differentiate them from the rest of the players on the soccer field. The goalie needs to be easily identified as they perform a different role than the other players on their team.
The unique role of a goalie means they need to be easily identified, but their choice of colors and the reason for it is worth looking into in a bit more detail. You may be surprised by what you find out.
Different Colors for Different Role
In every game of soccer you watch or play in, the goalie will be wearing a different color uniform than those around them. Soccer may be a team game but when it comes to the uniform the goalie is on their own.
The basic reason for this is because the Laws of the Game that govern soccer worldwide make it clear that things have to be this way.
In Law 4: The Player’s Equipment the rules state:
“Each goalkeeper must wear colors that are distinguishable from the other players and the match officials“IFAB Laws of the Game
As you read this, I’m sure you can see that the rules are clear about this. Each goalie must be unique in the colors they wear.
But why do the rules of soccer insist on this? Would it really matter if the goalie wore the same color uniform as the rest of their team?
One reason that the different color uniform is important is that it can be really hard to identify a specific player in a split second when the game is moving fast and everyone has crowded around.
I know there are many times when I’ve been playing and the only reason I’ve been able to identify if someone is on my team or is a goalie is because of the color of their uniform. This is even the case when I’ve known the people on my team for years.
There is something about the bright color of a jersey that catches the eye quicker than you can recognize a specific face. And in the mayhem of a game that is sometimes all you have time for.
This is the case for not only the players but the game officials also. Many referees and referee’s assistants don’t know the individual players and all they have to go on is the uniforms that the players are wearing.
This is especially important with a goalie because the goalie has a different role to anyone else on their team and different rules apply to them than apply to the rest of the players on their team.
Different rules apply to the goalie
The most obvious example of this is the fact that a goalie can use their hands to touch the soccer ball. No other player is permitted to do this and if they do they will receive a caution, or worse, be sent off of the soccer field.
Because of the rules that apply solely to a goalie the referee needs to be able to quickly and clearly distinguish the goalie from the rest of the players on their team.
Requiring a goalie to wear different colors to the rest of the team also restricts the team from changing what player is playing as goalie without the referee knowing.
Although the rules of soccer allow a team to change their goalie part way through a game it has to be done during a stoppage in play and the referee has to be aware it is happening. [source]
Having to change uniform prevents another player on the team from using their hands in place of the goalie and then claiming they had swapped positions with the goalie and they are now playing in goal. If they are not wearing the goalie uniform then they are not the goalie!
If you’re interested in discovering the meaning behind one of the most common phrases used about goalkeeping, check out my article – What is a Clean Sheet in Soccer?.
Can Goalkeepers Wear the Same Color?
So, although you hopefully understand why the goalie wears different colors to the rest of their team, what does that mean for the opposition goalie? There are always two goalies on the field so do they have to wear different colors to each other?
Soccer goalkeepers can wear the same color jersey as each other during a game if neither goalie has a replacement jersey in a different color. If the goalie’s uniform is the same color as the goalie on the other team the referee can allow the game to go ahead as planned.
The ideal situation is for the goalie to be wearing a different color. As we showed above from Law 4 of the soccer rules, the goalie should wear a color that is “distinguishable from the other players“. But the same rule then goes on to say:
“If the two goalkeepers’ shirts are the same color and neither has another shirt, the referee allows the match to be played“IFAB Laws of the Game
This rule is there to allow smaller, lower league teams who may not have the budget to afford a second goalie uniform option to continue their involvement in the game. With the two goalies positioned at opposite ends of the soccer field, there is very little chance that they will spend much if any time, close to each other during a game. It should be clear to anyone involved in the game which goalie belongs to which team.
How Do Soccer Goalies Choose Their Color?
There are a number of reasons a soccer goalie may choose a specific color for their uniform. The reasons include:
- Personal preference
- The color is chosen by the coach or marketing department
- The color is chosen based on research
Although not too common for organized soccer games, you will occasionally find that the goalkeeper themselves has chosen their uniform. This choice is based purely on personal preference and as long as it is a different color to the rest of the team that is ok.
For the majority of goalies, they will have the color of their jersey, or uniform, chosen for them. Most teams have the coach, equipment manager, or even marketing department and sponsors decide on the color and design of the team’s uniform.
At the top level of soccer, there is a lot of thought and money that goes into deciding something as seemingly simple as what color a team wears. The team’s brand is important and this includes the team’s uniform. So the choice of color that the goalie wears on the soccer field is usually out of the goalie’s hands.
This way of deciding what color the goalie should wear is often why you see a goalie wearing a bright color rather than a pale one.
Goalies often wear bright uniforms because research shows that a soccer player is less likely to score against a goalie in a bright color and a goalie should make the most of any advantage they can get over the opposition. [source]
This research showed that when a goalie wore a red jersey the player trying to score past them was less likely to score than when the goalie wore a color that wasn’t as bright. A bright color seems to grab a player’s attention and subconsciously make a player kick the ball towards the bright color rather than away from it. As a goalie, you want the ball to come to you.
For a deeper dive into what it means to be a goalkeeper, I recommend you check out my article – Soccer Goalies: Role, Responsibilities, and How to Play.
Hopefully, you now feel you understand why goalies wear a different color to the rest of their team or anyone else on the soccer field.
To understand more of what it means to be a soccer goalie check out one of my other articles.