Hand ball

One of the most misunderstood soccer laws is a “hand ball”. Many parents and players believe that a ball contacting a player’s hand is automatically a foul, but that is not the case. Instead:

The player must have handled the ball deliberately.

When hand and ball make contact, referees ask: Did the “hand play the ball”, or did the “ball play the hand”? Only the “hand playing the ball” is a foul.

Obviously, the call is the referee’s opinion, as are most calls in soccer. Cases where refs usually would not call a foul:

  • A fast ball hits a player’s hand before the player could move the hand away, or any ball that bounces up unexpectedly into a hand
  • A fast ball where the player instinctively uses hands in self-defense

Good referees also consider age/skill: An older player can move a hand away faster than a younger one.

BTW, soccer has no foul called “hand ball”. The foul is “handling the ball deliberately”.


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