Soccer Rules No One Knows: Surprising, Weird, and Dumb

Soccer fans will be familiar with the well-known rules of soccer, like handball. But what about the soccer rules no one knows?

As well as the more familiar rules, there are rules that fly under the radar. Let’s take a look at 10 soccer rules no one knows.

Orlando City SC host the Colorado Rapids at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando Florida on April 6, 2019.
Orlando City SC host the Colorado Rapids at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando Florida on April 6, 2019.

Soccer Rules No One Knows

1. No corner flags, no game

A soccer game won’t start if there are no corner flags in place.

  • This happened in the 1974 World Cup final. The referee delayed the game between Germany and Holland. It turned out the staff had forgotten to put the corner flags in place on the field.

Once the corner flags were in their rightful place, the game started.

2. You can’t score a goal directly from a throw-in

If you throw the ball directly into the goal, it won’t count as a goal. Directly means that no other player touches the ball.

So, as long as the ball doesn’t touch any other player, it won’t be a goal.

A throw straight into the goal, without touching any player, will be given as a goal kick for the goalkeeper.

This rule is for those long throwers out there. If you get a goal from that long throw-in, hold off on the celebrations.

3. A goal kick doesn’t have to leave the 18-yard box to be in play

On a goal kick, the ball doesn’t have to leave the 18-yard box to be in play. The ball is in play once the goalie touches it and it moves position.

This is different from the old rule where the ball had to leave the 18-yard box to be in play.

The newer rule has impacted the game. It suits teams that like to build play from the back. But it can also help forwards.

  • Think of it this way. You’re a forward waiting outside the box for the goalie to take a goal kick. The goalie miskicks the ball and it doesn’t leave the 18-yard box. You run in and shot the ball into the goal.

Is the goal allowed? Yes, because the ball was in play from the goal kick once it moved position.

Under the old rule, the goal would’ve been disallowed because the ball didn’t leave the 18-yard box.

4. Goalkeepers can only hold the ball for 6 seconds

Goalkeepers can only hold the ball in their hands for 6 seconds. The rule stops goalies from wasting time by holding the ball too long.

  • This rule helped the US women’s soccer team in their game against Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games. Canada led 3-2.

In the 78th minute, the referee ruled that Canada’s goalie held the ball for more than 6 seconds.

An indirect freekick was given. And that led to a penalty after a handball. The US went on to win the game in overtime. So, this rule can change the course of a game.

5. When goalies release the ball, they can’t lift it again

A goalie can’t catch the ball, release it on the ground, and then lift it again.

  • You’re a goalie. A shot comes in, you catch the ball in your hands and then release the ball on the ground. An opposing player runs towards the ball, so you pick it up again.

What happens? The referee blows the whistle and gives the opposing team a free-kick.

So, goalkeepers, don’t lift the ball after releasing it. You’ll give the opposition a cheap free-kick.

Messi penalty kick vs Argentina e1576487994417
Messi penalty kick vs Argentina e1576487994417

6. You can pass from a penalty

That’s right, you can pass the ball to a teammate from a penalty kick.

Passing from a penalty can be a good way to catch the opposition off guard.

  • A game between Barcelona and Celta Vigo is a good example of this. Lionel Messi stepped up to take a penalty and passed it for Luis Suarez to score.

You should be careful with this one, though. It can go horribly wrong, as it did for Robert Pires and Thierry Henry.

Pass From A Penalty Kick

7. You can’t touch the ball twice from a penalty

From a penalty, you can’t touch the ball twice. So, you can’t take a touch and then shot the ball into the goal. A penalty must be taken with one touch, the shot.

Even if you shoot and the ball hits the frame and comes back, you can’t touch the ball a second time.

For instance, you take a penalty. The ball hits the frame and bounces back to your feet. You slot in an easy rebound. But it’s not a goal, because you touched the ball twice.

  • In a different scenario, you take a penalty and the goalie touches the ball onto the frame. The ball bounces back to your feet.

You score an easy rebound. This is a goal because the goalie touched the ball after your first touch.

8. You can’t set up your own back pass

You can’t set up your own back pass to the goalie. When watching soccer, you’ll often see players back pass to the goalie with their head or chest.

It’s within the rules for the goalie to then take the ball in the hands.

Now, you might think it’s a good idea to set up your own back pass. You flick the ball into the air and head/chest it back to the goalie. But this isn’t allowed.

In 2017, Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic was in his own 18-yard box. He flicked the ball up and headed it back to his goalie. This is against the rules.

Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic Set-Up His Own Pass Back

The referee awarded the opposing team a free kick and gave Perisic a yellow card.

9. Foreign objects touching the ball is deemed interference

If an object like a bottle or balloon is on the field and touches the ball, it’s interference with play. The referee should stop play and remove the object.

Sometimes this type of interference can happen at a crucial time. And it can cost a team a goal if the referee makes a mistake.

In 2009, in an English Premier League game, Darren Bent shot the ball against a beach ball and scored a goal.

Darren Bent and a Beach Ball

The beach ball clearly interfered with play. But the referee incorrectly gave the goal.

This is an infamous case of a foreign object interfering with play.

10. Celebrations can still be penalized even if a goal is ruled out

It’s true, you can be penalized for a goal celebration even if the goal gets ruled out. This could happen more often now with video assistant referees (VAR).

  • Picture this. A player scores the winning goal and starts celebrating. The player removes their jersey and holds it above their head for the fans. Such a celebration can be penalized with a yellow card.

But wait, the goal will be checked by VAR. Afterward, the goal is ruled out for offside.

Then the referee approaches the player who celebrated and books them for removing their jersey.

A yellow card for celebrating a goal that didn’t even count.

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 02, 2019 Referee talks with Onana during UEFA Champions League match between Valencia CF and AFC Ajax at Mestalla Stadium
VALENCIA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 02, 2019 Referee talks with Onana during UEFA Champions League game between Valencia CF and AFC Ajax at Mestalla Stadium

Weird Soccer Rules

Now that we’ve looked at 10 rules no one knows, let’s look at weird soccer rules. Some of these might not happen often, but the rules exist. Let’s take a look at 5 weird soccer rules.

1. You can’t score an own goal from a free-kick

Yes, an own goal can’t be scored from a free kick. If a player taking a free kick passes back to the goalkeeper, and the ball goes into the goal, a goal won’t be given.

That is, as long as no other player, except the free-kick taker, has touched the ball.

If a player hits a free-kick directly into their own goal, a corner will be given to the opposing team.

As previously mentioned, directly means that no other player touched the ball.

So, it’s impossible to score an own goal directly from a free-kick.

2. You can’t score an own goal from a throw-in

It’s impossible to score an own goal directly from a throw-in. As with the free-kick, a corner will be given to the opposing team if a player throws the ball directly into their own goal.

But again, directly is an important part here. If any other player touches the ball, the goal will count.

Take this goalie mistake as an example. If he hadn’t touched the ball, the goal wouldn’t count. It would’ve been a corner kick to the opposition team.

Own-Goal From a Throw-In

3. If a player refuses to be substituted, the Game will continue

A player can refuse to be substituted, and the game will continue. It’s almost unbelievable, but it’s true.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to come off the field in the 2019 Carabao Cup final. And of course, the manager Maurizio Sarri was furious.

Kepa Arrizabalaga Refuses to be Substituted

Although the game continued without any punishment for the goalie, he was fined by Chelsea later.

This is an example of what not to do when being substituted. It’s disrespectful to the team and to the teammate who is coming on. Kepa rightly apologized to his team and his teammates.

4. Undershorts must be the same color as kit shorts

Shorts worn under the kit shorts must be the same color as them. Many players wear shorts under their kit shorts.

If they do, the undershorts must game the color of the kit shorts.

This is a weird rule, but it also has a purpose. It’s so the players don’t get confused by different colors.

  • Soccer is a fast game. Often, players only get time to glimpse at their teammates before passing the ball. If they glimpse another color, it could confuse them.

The player might pass the ball to the opposing team.

So, although weird, this rule makes sense.

5. You can be sent off before the game even starts

Yes, you can be sent off before the game starts. It sounds weird, but it’s true.

In fact, this happened to French defender Patrice Evra before a Europa League game. Before kick-off, Evra got into an argument with his own fans and tried to kick one of them.

The referee then gave Evra a red card before the game had even started.

Luckily for his team, Evra was listed as a substitute, so the team could still start with 11 players.

But if he’d been in the starting 11, then the team would’ve been down to 10 players before the game even started.

It may be weird, but you can be sent off before the game even starts.

Orlando City SC host Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium on Saturday February 29, 2020
Orlando City SC host Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium on Saturday, February 29, 2020

Dumb Soccer Rules

There are some dumb rules in soccer. It’s an old game with many rules, so it’s not surprising that some of them are dumb.

Now that we’ve gone through soccer rules no one knows and weird soccer rules, let’s look at three dumb soccer rules.

1. The offside rule is dumb

According to some people, the offside rule is dumb. This is a very controversial debate in the world of soccer.

Dutch legend Marco Van Basten is one of those opposed to the offside rule. In a recent interview with Sky Sports;

Van Basten said that he’s ‘convinced that it is not a good rule’ and ‘that [soccer] would be better without it.’

So, even high-profile people in the world of soccer think the offside rule is dumb. Without offside, they think the game would be more interesting and exciting.

But there’s controversy surrounding the removal of the offside rule. Some say that it’d destroy soccer as we know it.

So, if you think the offside rule is dumb, don’t get your hopes up for its removal.

Offside Example in Soccer.
Offside Example in Soccer.

2. Throw-ins are dumb

Throw ins are a pretty dumb rule in soccer. They’re the only time when outfield players can touch the ball with their hands.

Many people involved in soccer want the game to move faster. But throw-ins waste a lot of time.

Players particularly take a lot of time over throw-ins when their team is leading. This isn’t good for the fans.

  • Replacing throw-ins with a kick-in would be much better. There’d have to be a time limit set on the kick-in. But a kick-in could be done faster than a throw-in.

This would keep the game moving, which is more exciting for fans.

Unlike removing the offside rule, changing throw-ins is much more likely.

3. Away goals are dumb

The away goals rule in soccer is dumb. Fans have likely seen this rule in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League.

  • After two games, if the teams are level, say 3-3, the team with more away goals will go forward to the next round. An away goal is when a team scores at the opposition team’s stadium.

So, picture a team winning 1-0 in their away game, giving them one away goal. In the return game, at their own stadium, they lose 3-2.

That makes the team’s level at 3-3. But the other team now has 2 away goals.

Under the away goals rule, the team with 2 away goals will go forward to the next round.

That’s dumb. A goal shouldn’t have more power just because it was scored in the other team’s stadium.

Also, the away goals rule means sometimes teams will sit back and defend an away goal. This can make soccer less exciting.

Another reason why away goals are dumb.

  • Update: From season 2021/22 away goals for the ECL will be no longer in effect. The rule was originally in place because of the different standards of the playing field – but now all competing teams are at a great standard.

That’s enough weird and dumb soccer rules – but now you know!

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