What is a Handball in Soccer?

A handball occurs if any player, other than the team’s goalkeeper within his own penalty area, deliberately handles the ball when in play. A ball can be handled with any part of the arm, from the tips of a player’s fingers right up to the shoulder.

Which Part Of The Arm Is Handball In Soccer?

For determining handballs, the IFAB states; ‘the upper boundary of the arm is in line with the bottom of the armpit.‘

This means that anything above the armpit would not be considered to be handball if the ball struck it and players can use their shoulder to play the ball.

When is a Handball a Cautionable Offense?

Not all handball incidents result in a foul. It is determined to be a handball offense if a player: 

  1. Deliberately touches the ball with their hand/arm, which includes moving the hand/arm towards the ball
  2. Scores in a goal directly from their hand/arm (even if accidental). This also includes the goalkeeper if they are attacking the opponent’s goal.
  3. Scores in the opponents’ goal immediately after the ball has touched their or a teammate’s hand/arm
  4. Creates a goal-scoring opportunity immediately after the ball has touched their or a teammate’s hand/arm
  5. Touches the ball with their hand/arm when their hand/arm has made their body unnaturally bigger
  6. Touches the ball with their hand/arm when their hand/arm is above/beyond their shoulder level

The above offenses also apply if the ball touches a player’s hand or arm directly from the head or body (including the foot) of another player who is close.

It is not deemed an offense if:

  1. The ball touches a players arm directly from the player’s own head or body (including the foot)
  2. Direct from the head or body (including the foot) of another close player
  3. If the hand/arm is close to the body and does not make the body unnaturally bigger
  4. When a player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body

The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. If the goalkeeper handles the ball inside their penalty area when not permitted to do so, an indirect free kick is awarded but there is no disciplinary sanction. However, if the offense is playing the ball a second time (with or without the hand/arm) after a restart before it touches another player, the goalkeeper must be sanctioned if the offense stops a promising attack or denies an opponent or the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

Is It A Handball If You’re Protecting Your Face?

If the ball strikes your hands while they are protecting your face, it isn’t a handball.

If your hands are shielding your face, your arms might be pointing outward. This could appear to be an unnatural position and deemed an offense. Players must keep their arms tucked into their bodies when trying to shield themselves from the ball.

What Are The Consequences Of a Handball?

Different acts of handball are classified differently and thus carry varying penalties. The referee has broad discretion when it comes to handing down punishments for handball. There are, however, certain parameters that must be observed.

Is a handball a direct or indirect free-kick?

The referee blows his whistle when he believes a player has committed handball, at which point he either gives an indirect free kick or a direct free kick.

In most cases, a direct free kick will be given for a handball infraction. The only time when this isn’t true is if the goalkeeper commits a handball foul in their penalty area.

The only time this principle is broken is when the infraction takes place in the penalty box, and a penalty is given.

Cautionable or Sending Off Offense?

Besides awarding a free-kick, a referee may also want to hand out a yellow or red card to the player who committed the offense. This again depends on the circumstance in which it occurred.

A player will be given a red card and dismissed if they use their arm or hand to deny the opposition a clear goal-scoring opportunity or goal, whether intentionally or not. This also applies to goalkeepers who have rushed out of their box when there is a scoring opportunity for the opponent.

In certain situations, such as obstructing or stopping a threatening assault with their hand or arm, or handling the ball in an effort to score a goal or prevent one, they will be shown a yellow card. If this is their second booking, they will be dismissed.

In other cases, the referee will use their discretion and not issue a yellow card but will simply restart play with a free-kick rather than a caution.

Handballs in the Penalty Box

Following the implementation of VAR, the number of handballs that resulted in penalties has increased dramatically.

This has led to an increased focus on defenders and referees, as well as the handball rules, by coaches, the media, and supporters.

A handball by a defensive player in the penalty area it does not always result in a penalty. If the ball makes contact with a player’s arm or hands while their arm is close to their body and in a natural position, or if it comes straight from a nearby player, the referee will not give a penalty.

When the ball touches a player’s hand/arm in these situations, they have not committed a handball infraction.

If a player handles the ball in their penalty area in an improper manner, as governed by the rules of soccer, a penalty will be awarded. The player may only receive a caution, get sent off, or have no direct punishment except for the penalty kick in this situation.

Players in the opponent’s penalty box may also commit a handball in order to score a goal. While many of these are unintentional, if it gives them an unfair advantage and results in a goal, they are now always considered handball whether intentional or not.

In certain circumstances, the attacking player may be given a yellow card if their handball was judged to be intentional and a clear violation of the regulations.