When a player scores a goal during a soccer game you will sometimes see that player immediately run to the goal, pick up the ball, and then run off with the ball in their hands.
If you’re anything like me you may have been wondering why a soccer player would do this.
There are 3 reasons a soccer player grabs the ball after scoring a goal.
- To speed up the game and hasten the restart of the game.
- To slow down the game and delay the restart of the game
- To use the ball as a prop in the player’s celebration of the goal
These are all possible reasons why a player may pick up the ball after scoring a goal, but knowing which of these three reasons is behind the player’s motivation for grabbing the ball mostly depends on the dynamics of the game at the moment the player scored.
Players grab the ball to speed up the game
The first reason that we mentioned above was a player wanting to speed up the game or keep the game moving.
The most common reason a soccer player will grab the ball after scoring is to speed up the restart of the game. The quicker the player can get the ball back to the center of the field after a goal, the sooner the opposition can take the kick-off and continue the game.
You will most often see a player do this when a soccer game is getting close to the end of regulation time and the scoreline is close, but one team currently has the lead over the other team.
In this scenario, if the team that is trailing in the game suddenly scores a goal that brings them closer to the opposition’s number of goals scored, or even level with the opposition, then it is to that team’s advantage to restart the game as quickly as possible.
This is because at this point the momentum of the game is with the team who just scored.
By scoring a goal they have just been giving a boost and lift of self-belief and suddenly believe that if they’ve just scored once, then they are capable of scoring again.
But the reality is that the clock is still running and time will soon be up. The sooner they can restart the game, the longer they will have to score another goal.
Because of this, the players on the team will be highly motivated to get the ball out of the goal and take it back to the center spot as soon as possible.
Players grab the ball to slow down the game
The other side of the coin to the previous reason is that sometimes it works to a team’s advantage to slow down the game.
Imagine a situation where two teams are playing and the scores are tied. There’s not much time left to go in the game.
At this point, one of the teams suddenly score. They have taken the lead and if they hold on to this advantage they will win the game.
In this situation, it will work out much better for the team who have just scored to slow down the game and do what they can to delay the restart of the game.
Because of this, the team who have just scored will have a strong reason and motivation to grab the ball before anyone else. They can then hold on for it as long as possible and hopefully use up some of the game time that the opposition would have otherwise had to try and score a goal themselves.
In the video below, in a game between Arsenal and Bayern Munich, you can see the Bayern Munich goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, jump on top of the ball after Arsenal score their second goal.
He’s doing his best to slow the game down and the Arsenal players don’t appreciate it!
Players grab the ball to use it as a prop for their celebration
The third reason you may see a player pick up the ball after scoring has very little to do with how slow or quickly the game is restarted.
Sometimes you will see a player grab the ball simply because they want to use the ball to celebrate the goal they have just scored.
Celebrations in soccer take all sorts of shapes and forms. There are relatively few restrictions on how a player is allowed to celebrate a goal.
One way you may have seen a player celebrate with the ball is by sticking the ball under their jersey. There is often a specific meaning to this.
Soccer players put the ball under their shirt to symbolize and celebrate the fact that a loved one is pregnant. They do this to honor the person and share their joy with all who are watching.
For example, Lionel Messi did it in 2012 after scoring a goal for Argentina against Ecuador.
You can see it in the video below
Another way a player may celebrate with the ball is by throwing or kicking the ball in the air as high as they can.
This is usually done out of sheer joy or excitement at the fact they have just scored.
Who has a right to the ball after a goal is scored?
One question that’s important to think about when taking the ball after a goal, and something that can be confusing to people, is – who actually has the right to the ball at this point?
When a goal has been scored the team who has conceded the goal has the right to the ball at this stage.
This is because the next play in the game will be a kick-off, or restart of the game, from the center spot and this will be taken by the team that has conceded the goal.
In fact, in the vast majority of occasions, after a goal is scored, you will see a player from the team who has been scored against picking up the ball and carrying it back to the center of the field for the restart.
Although you obviously do see the player who has scored grabbing the ball occasionally, the fact is that this is not what happens most times.
And when it does happen it is with an unspoken understanding from the opposition team that the ball will be taken back to the center of the field for the restart in a reasonable amount of time.
Wasting time by holding onto the ball after a goal
Where this can get a little bit more complicated is when the referee believes a player is wasting time by holding onto the ball.
This can apply to a player from either team.
If a player is holding onto the ball and the referee judges that they are taking longer than is fair to bring the ball back to the center spot then the referee can caution them and show them a yellow card for time-wasting.
If you are interested in finding out when or how a player can end up cautioned for time-wasting or various other offenses, click here to go to an article I wrote about receiving a yellow card in soccer.
This can sometimes cause a heated exchange between players if one side is hurrying to get on with the game but the other side has a strong interest in slowing things down.
Although a referee tries to be as lenient and accommodating as they can, there comes a point where a player may have to be cautioned for using up to much time.
I hope you now feel as though you have a much better understanding of why a player may grab the ball after they score a goal.
If you’re interested in finding out more about scoring goals, click here to go to an article I wrote about whether goalkeepers can score in soccer or click here to go to another article I wrote about defenders scoring during soccer games.