what is a handball in soccer

What Is a Handball in Soccer?

Soccer is a unique sport, as players cannot touch the ball with their hands, unlike most sports. To play the game appropriately, it is essential to understand what a handball is. 

To correctly play a game of soccer, you must understand the definition of a handball, the rules of soccer regarding a handball, if a handball is direct or indirect, and what the consequences of a handball are. 

It is entirely up to the referee to decide if there was a handball in soccer. The referee will consider whether it was intentional or unintentional, as they will have different consequences. 

What Is Considered a Handball in Soccer?

A handball in soccer is when the ball illegally makes contact with a player’s arm or hand.  A handball is perhaps the most important rule during a soccer game, significantly impacting how the game goes.

handball in soccer

Which Part of the Arm is a Handball in Soccer?

A handball in soccer is any part of the arm that runs from the fingertips to the shoulder. If a player uses their fingers, arm, or upper boundary of the arm, or bottom of the armpit to handle the ball, it is a handball. 

If the player gets hit by a ball and the ball hits the fingers, arm, or shoulder, it is not a handball because the player did not intentionally touch the ball.

What Are the Rules for a Handball in Soccer?

The laws of the game of soccer clearly state that a handball refers to the hand/arm. It is a handball if a player:

  • Creates an obvious goal-scoring opportunity immediately after the ball has either touched their hand or arm or a teammate’s hand or arm
  • Purposely touches the soccer ball using their hand or arm
  • Touches the ball using their hand or arm when it is above the shoulder level
  • Scores in the opponents’ goal using their arm/hand
  • Scores in the opposing team’s goal immediately after the ball touched either their arm or hand or a teammates arm or hand
  • Touches the soccer ball using their arm or hand when their arm or hand made a part of the body seem larger

Overall, it is a handball offense if a player purposely touches the ball using their hand or arm, including moving their hand or arm towards the soccer ball.

soccer players

Have There Been Changes to the Handball Rules in Soccer?

There have been several changes in the handball rule book from the International Football Association Board throughout the years. In current times, handball is seen as either intentional or unintentional. Formerly, a handball was a particular punishable offense or a discretionary offense. When deciding if a handball is deliberate, there can be some confusion. 

Determining if the handball is intentional can be difficult, as a player’s true intentions are often unclear. As IFAB’s March 2021 rule changes, if a player handballs to build up to a goal, the goal will not be allowed. A VAR (video assistant referee) will review the goal to decide if the handball was intentional or unintentional.

Is It Still a Handball If It Hits Your Leg First?

No, it is not a handball if the ball hits your leg first. If the soccer ball is moving quickly and you cannot move the player’s hand or arm out of the ball’s way after it hits your leg, it is not considered a handball.

Is There a Red Card for Handball in the Box?

A red card is awarded for soccer handball if the offense prevents the player from making a clear goal. A player may also be awarded a red card if they get a second yellow card for a handball. 

A player may receive their first yellow card if the handball is deemed worse than a standard handball. The cards are awarded to players based on the discretion of the referee. Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo has received 11 red cards throughout the years, including in Manchester city in the premier league. 

Consequences of a Handball

  • A standard handball foul during a soccer game is typically punished with a free penalty kick or a penalty is awarded 
  • A yellow card may be given to the player if the referee considers the handball worse than a regular handball
  • A red card may be awarded to a player if the offense prevents a clear opportunity to score and make a goal. A red card may also be given if a player or goalie receives two yellow cards because of a handball
playing soccer

Is a Handball an Indirect Free Kick or a Direct Kick?

There are two kinds of kicks in soccer, an indirect free kick or a direct kick. An indirect free kick means another player touches the ball before it is used as a shot for a goal. A direct free kick is when a kick is taken as a straight shot. A handball is considered a direct free kick.

Soccer Handball FAQs

What is not allowed in handball?

In handball, players cannot push, trip, charge, hold, or hit other players. When practicing attacking or footwork drills for soccer, you should keep a handball in mind during your training. Understanding a handball during practice can help you learn how to avoid it during a game.

What are common mistakes in handball?

Some of the most common mistakes players make in handball include dribbling with a stiff wrist, looking at the ball too much, the player falls, or dribbling in front of the body.

What is the penalty for a handball in soccer?

Typically, the penalty for a handball violation is a free kick from the other team in the same spot as the handball. However, if the ball is touched by the defense in the player’s own penalty area, the opposing team gets a free penalty kick.

What is the most offensive skill for handball?

Effective passing or punting a ball is a couple of the most offensive skills for handball, as it is important for any possession and can lead to making a goal. When passes are careless, the other team can take control of the ball and make a goal. 

Is it a handball if you are protecting your face?

If you protect your face and the ball hits your hands, it is not a handball. The ball would hit you if your hands were not covering your face. 

However, you should be careful when using your hands to protect your face, as your arms may be facing outward. This could be considered an unnatural position and not a natural position. To avoid penalties, tuck your arms into your body while covering your face.

Final Thoughts

While the rules of a handball in soccer might seem confusing at first, they are straightforward. Essentially, you cannot use your fingers or arm to touch a soccer ball or it is considered a handball. 

When practicing for soccer, consider using the Open Goaaal 3-in-1 soccer trainer to work on your skills in preparation for your game.

Pass it on

Pass it on