Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Are Players Allowed to Play as Goalkeepers in Football?

Many football enthusiasts often wonder if outfield players are allowed to play as goalkeepers. In football, the goalkeeper position is unique and has its own set of rules. Therefore, if you are a goalkeeper or interested in the position, it is essential to understand the regulations to avoid costly mistakes on the field.

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Image: Understanding the rules of goalkeeping

In this article, we will answer the question of whether outfield players can play as goalkeepers, along with the basic rules related to goalkeeping.

Can Outfield Players Catch the Ball as Goalkeepers?

The goal area is the only place where the goalkeeper is allowed to handle the ball without violating the rules of the game. However, in some cases, even within the 18-yard box, the goalkeeper is not allowed to catch the ball.

So, can the home team’s outfield players pass the ball back to the goalkeeper?

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Image: Some rules of goalkeeping

The goalkeeper can only catch the ball when a player from the opposing team is the last one to touch it. In most situations, backward passes, throw-ins from teammates, or any external impact outside the 18-yard box are not eligible for the goalkeeper to catch the ball. Otherwise, the goalkeeper will be penalized.

Here are the specific scenarios where the home team’s players can pass the ball back to the goalkeeper:

When Can a Back-Pass to the Goalkeeper be Caught?

To ensure a valid catch by the goalkeeper, the ball must be within the penalty area. Therefore, all the situations mentioned below occur within the goal area. If the ball is outside this area and the goalkeeper catches it, the opposing team will be awarded a penalty kick.

  • Opponent’s Direct Pass: When the opponent makes a direct pass within the penalty area (from a throw-in, free-kick, corner kick), the goalkeeper can catch and handle the ball.
  • Opponent’s Last Touch: If the opponent shoots, passes, or deflects the ball into the penalty area, and the ball touches a player from the home team last, the goalkeeper can catch and handle the ball.
  • Teammate’s Head or Chest Back-Pass: If a teammate heads or chests the ball towards the goalkeeper at any point in the match as long as the ball returns to the penalty area, the goalkeeper can pick up and handle the ball.
  • Accidental Back-Pass: If a teammate accidentally passes the ball backward to another teammate who is unable to control it, and the ball enters the penalty area, the outcome depends on the decision of the referee to determine whether it violates the rules.

Situations Where the Goalkeeper Cannot Catch the Ball

Here are the situations where the goalkeeper is not allowed to catch the ball. If your team commits these fouls (intentionally or unintentionally), it will result in a penalty for the opposing team at the location of the offense.

  • Back-Pass Violation: The goalkeeper is not allowed to touch the ball with their hands if a teammate performs a throw-in or back-pass to the goalkeeper. This violation will lead to an indirect free-kick for the opposing team.
  • Handling the Ball Outside the 18-Yard Box: The goalkeeper is only allowed to handle the ball safely within the 18-yard box. If the goalkeeper catches the ball outside the penalty area, they will receive a direct free-kick. If the goalkeeper denies a clear goal-scoring opportunity, they may receive a red card and be sent off the field.
  • 6-Second Rule Violation: The goalkeeping rule specifies that the goalkeeper cannot hold the ball for too long. Specifically, the goalkeeper has only 6 seconds to release the ball and pass it to another player. Violating this rule will result in an indirect free-kick for the opposing team.
  • Two-Touch Violation: The goalkeeper is not allowed to pick up the ball after releasing it from their own hands and before it touches another player. If the violation occurs within the penalty area, it leads to an indirect free-kick. If the violation occurs outside the penalty area, a direct penalty kick will be awarded.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the issue of outfield players playing as goalkeepers:

1. Can the goalkeeper punch the ball before kicking it out?

Yes, professional goalkeepers often punch the ball before kicking it out, and this is not considered a violation of the two-touch or dropping the ball rules because the goalkeeper is in control of the ball.

2. Can goalkeepers score goals?

Yes, goalkeepers can score goals. However, to score a goal, the goalkeeper must head or directly kick the ball into the opposing team’s goal. If the goalkeeper catches the ball from a teammate or is struck by an opposing player while holding the ball, the goalkeeper will not be credited with the goal. Throughout the history of football, there have been very few successful goalkeeper goals.

3. Can goalkeepers play outside the 18-yard box?

Yes, goalkeepers are allowed to leave the penalty area and participate in football activities as a regular player. In some matches, the team requires the goalkeeper to use their feet to pass the ball. Additionally, some innovative teams position the goalkeeper as a center-back to assist other players and allow the goalkeeper to participate in attacking situations.

4. If the ball has left the penalty area, can the goalkeeper go back into the box and pick it up?

Yes, but the goalkeeper must adhere to specific rules. The goalkeeper cannot touch the ball twice in a row, violate the Back-Pass Rule, or be dispossessed by an opponent. If all the regulations are followed, the goalkeeper can return to the penalty area and pick up the ball.


Understanding the rules regarding outfield players playing as goalkeepers is crucial for both players and fans. Upholding these rules ensures fair gameplay and prevents unnecessary penalties. So, the next time you watch a match and see an outfield player pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, remember the specific scenarios when it’s allowed and the situations where it’s not. For further information and updates on all things football, visit Zerobertooficial.