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Demystifying Free Kick Rules

General Free Kick Rules

All free kicks must follow Law 13 of the FIFA Laws of the Game.

For all free kicks, the opposing player can stand no closer than ten yards from the ball.  In doubt?  Ask the referee to count your yards for you, or in soccer lingo simply say “Give me my yards, please”.  The referee will then count the yards for you and position the opposing team the correct distance from the ball.

Exceptions?  An indirect free kick that is awarded inside the penalty area, when the ball is closer than ten yards from the goal line.  In this case, the opposing team will typically form a wall on the goal line, which is the farthest back they can be positioned.

In fact, it’s not unusual in cases where the free kick is awarded just a few yards from the goal line to see a handful of players forming a wall by standing in the goal area!

In all cases however:

  • The ball must be stationary when played
  • The ball is only in play when it is touched and moves
  • The kicker may only touch the ball once another player touches it
  • The kick must be taken from the spot where the infraction occurred

The Mystery of the Free Kick

At all age levels, players still seem mystified by the awarding of free kicks.  Throughout the course of any game, you’ll hear the players shouting out questions to the referee regarding whether a kick is “number 1 or number 2”.

What is it they’re asking?  And, more importantly, why can’t they just figure out free kick rules for themselves?

Direct and Indirect Free Kicks

In soccer, free kicks are awarded differently depending on the soccer foul committed.  When the player is asking the referee if the kick is to be a “1 or 2” what they are really asking is if the kick is one or two touch, or ultimately, an indirect or direct free kick.

The direct free kick can be directly kicked into the goal.  Also known as a one touch kick, as only one touch is necessary for a goal to be awarded.

An indirect free kick cannot be directly kicked into the goal, and as such a goal cannot be scored off a direct free kick.  This means that, yes, two touches, by two different players, must be made in order to score.

Wondering what happens if you kick an indirect free kick directly into the opponents goal? You just gave the opposing team a goal kick.

It's also worth nothing that anytime an offense worthy of a direct free kick is committed inside of the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded instead.

Direct Free Kick

According to free kick rules, a direct free kick is typically awarded for infractions such as:

  • Kicking or trying to kick a player
  • Tripping or trying to trip a player
  • Jumping at a player
  • Charging at a player
  • Striking or trying to strike a player
  • Pushing a player
  • Illegally tackling a player

The direct free kick can also be awarded for:

  • Holding a player
  • Spitting at a player
  • Purposely handling the ball (except for, obviously, the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

Indirect Free Kick

Many indirect free kicks are awarded for fouls committed by the goalkeeper. According to free kick rules, an indirect free kick is given if the goalkeeper:

  • Holds the ball with his hands for more than six seconds before releasing it
  • Touches the ball with his hands after he has released it from his possession and before it has touched another player
  • Touches the ball with his hands after it has been purposely kicked or passed to him by a team-mate
  • Touches the ball with his hands after it has been directly throw-in to him from a team-mate

Additionally, a free kick may be awarded if a player:

  • Plays in a dangerous way
  • Impedes or interferes in the progress of a player (this is different from shielding, which is actually an essential skill)
  • Stops the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
  • Commits any other offence, not mentioned in Law 12 – Soccer Fouls, for which play must be stopped to caution or send off the player

Return to Soccer Rules from Free Kick Rules


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