The penalty area is where the keeper can handle the ball – only the rectangular red shaded area – not including the “arc” or partial circle on the edge of the area (see diagram).


Possession – basically, if the GK has control over the ball (including holding the ball between hand/arm/ body and the ground/goalpost) he is in possession and no one can attempt to kick at it. We discuss this controversial concept in detail here.

“6 seconds in your hands” – GK must release the ball to the ground or pass or throw to a teammate within 6 seconds or it’s a free-kick against. If the ball leaves your hands (e.g. on the ground), you can’t pick it up again. 

Backpass by teammate with foot/leg or throw in – if there is clear intent, you can’t handle the ball. If in doubt kick it out. Don’t handle and risk a free kick in a dangerous area. (See diagram below) 


Unintentional deflections, or headed/chested backpass – it’s ok to handle even if it was your teammate that last touched the ball (see diagram above).

However, if the ball was played back intentionally by a teammate, and even if you play the ball with your feet before touching it with your hands, even outside your box, you can’t pick it up when back into your penalty area. Remember, “if in doubt, kick it out!”

Finally you can handle the ball in your area even if your body is outside (see lower diagram), unless it was intentionally passed by a teammate. The ball has to be fully outside the area to be “handball”


Take a goal kick from anywhere inside the “goal box” or 6yd box – you choose. Most keepers prefer the corners of the box. to prevent kicking straight to strikers lurking on the edge of the penalty area.

You can move sideways on a penalty, but not forward until the ball is struck.

Also, the striker can’t touch it twice – so if it comes off a post without anyone touching it he can’t kick it a second time – so go for it! Take care when holding the ball near the edge of the penalty area – it’s easy to stray outside and handball if you do. The same is true for a punt – by all means get close to the line but be careful. 

Matt says – know the rules!