Can you steal the ball from the goalkeepers hands?

It’s very common to see a forward press the keeper as he performs a drop kick to either win the ball or even score from a lucky rebound. But most people aren’t actually aware of the rules when it comes to stealing the ball from the keeper.

So, can you steal the ball from the goalkeeper? No. If the goalkeeper is in control of the ball with his hands the ball cannot legally be stolen. If the keeper is controlling the ball with his feet then he can be challenged like any other player on the pitch, but if he has control of it with his hands, it is a foul to take the ball from him.

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What does the official rule state?

The official rule states:

A goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hand(s).

www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-12—fouls-and-misconduct

The rules also clarify what determines if the goalkeeper is in control of the ball. It states the keeper is in control of the ball when:

  • The ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save.
  • Holding the ball in the outstretched open hand.
  • Bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air.
www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-12—fouls-and-misconduct

The rules also state an indirect free kick is awarded if a player:

Prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.

www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-12—fouls-and-misconduct

So the rules make it quite clear that as soon as the keeper has control of the ball with his hands, it is safe and cannot be taken from him. Occasionally you will see a player try to head the ball from his hands or steal the ball as he attempts a drop kick, but this is illegal and will result in a foul as we will see in some examples further down the page.

What if the keeper doesn’t release the ball?

Since players aren’t allowed to steal the ball when the keeper has control of it with his hands, there is a rule to prevent the keeper from wasting time with the ball in his hands. The rules state an indirect freekick is awarded if the goalkeeper:

Controls the ball with the hand/arm for more than six seconds before releasing it.

www.thefa.com/football-rules-governance/lawsandrules/laws/football-11-11/law-12—fouls-and-misconduct

A few examples

In the compilation below you can see examples of both legally stealing the ball from the keeper (when he has release the ball or is controlling the ball with his feet) and illegally stealing the ball which usually results in a yellow card.

Thanks for reading!

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