Green Cards in Soccer: Fact or Theory

Fotos Tarjeta Verde 3 e1573309592215

Green cards are normally associated with a visa in the U.S.A. But are they used in soccer or anywhere else in sport and what do they mean? Let’s take a look

What are green cards used for? Green cards have been used in the CONIFA world cup for dissent and the player must leave the pitch. Green cards are given in Italy’s Seria B for good sportsmanship.

There has been ‘talk’ of many different kinds of cards. In another article, we looked at orange cards and if they were used – see here. The orange cards were not official and they represented a foul that was in between a yellow and a red card.

Sin Bins

New rules for the youths and the local leagues in England are introducing, sin-bins, which could be associated with an orange card. For that system, they won’t have any new card but instead, use the yellow and signal.

Are the green cards connected with the proposals for a sin-bin system to give the referee more control and keep uphold respect? Let take a look at where they are used and what for.

CONIFA World Football 

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations is a body that is outside of FIFA. It was established to unite smaller nations and states. A world cup for these nations is held every two years.

In 2018 the world cup was held in London and there was shown the first green card in a professional game of soccer. The card was introduced to cut down on dissent and diving. When a player is shown a green card they must

  • Leave the field
  • Can be substituted
  • Only substituted if the team has not used all
  • Can take part in next match

The CONIFA’s Asian president told Sky Sports;

“We have had some minor problems in the past, with some red cards at the end of a game – mostly when teams realised they can’t keep up and find themselves losing heavily with 10 minutes left,” he explained.

Jens Jockel

“It’s a really good idea of how to sanction things that might not be worthy of a red card. More like personal mistakes – using swear words, disrespecting spectators and coaches and so on. It’s a perfect way to find something in between.”

Jens Jockel

It sounds like a good idea. The referee has more control over the players and the player will be better behaved. It could be a good idea for the whole game.

It’s generally not good for spectators watching a competitive match only for a player to get sent off. It generally ends up one-sided. So the idea that a player is sent off but the team can bring on another player, seem like a good alternative.

Respect is something that needs to be dealt with in forms of life. With so many people watching soccer, we need to have good role models for the youth to look up to.

Italian Soccer

A green card will be given to players for acting in favor of fair play. If they perform an exemplary act. This was introduced in Italian soccer’s Siria B – the second division in 2016. The players would not be shown the card during the match, the green card is more symbolic of the act. It will be noted in the referee’s notes.

The first green card in Italian soccer was given for a player who told the referee that the ball had not touched him. Which lost him a corner kick, but gained him a green card.

First green card awarded in soccer

Here is what the president of Seria B said to the Sun newspaper.

“It’s a symbolic award,” said Abodi. “It could be something very simple. The important thing is to recognise it when a professional does something exemplary.”

Andrea Abodi

So unlike yellow and red cards, a green card is given to reward a player. A positive approach. The cards will be announced at the end of each month, but there is no report if there is any reward for one.

Origins of the Red, Yellow and Green Cards

Players have been cautioned for serious breaches of the law in soccer, ever since 1881 and two years earlier in 1878 a referee used a whistle for the first time.

The game of soccer started out like a gentleman’s game and it was expected that the players would adhere to the rules of the game. Even though in the early years of the game, soccer and rugby were a combined sport and normal tackles made then would result in a sending off today. Read my article on the origins of soccer here.

While in the early days of the game, soccer was played locally and there was no communication barrier. The first World Cup was in 1930, held in Uruguay. The referees would use hand signals to control the game and it was only realized in 1966 that there was confusion with the system.

Red and Yellow Cards

During the 1966 World Cup, Jack Charlton was cautioned but was not aware of the fact until after the game when the England coach contacted FIFA for clarification. It was then that Ken Ashton, a former referee acting as a referee committee member for FIFA, realized the confusion.

On the way home from a soccer match, Ken Ashton saw traffic lights and thought ‘Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you’re off’. This would take away any confusion for the players and the spectators and the first cards were introduced in at the World Cup in Mexico in 1970.

Green Cards

Green card Roosevelt Castro png
Roosevelt Castro Bohorquez

While red and yellow cards dealt with the problems of players breaking the laws of the game, players were not rewarded for good behavior.

It was another 16 years later in 1986 that the idea of green cards in soccer was thought of by Roosevelt Castro Bohorquez. The idea came about when Roosevelt, a soccer referee from Columbia, had the idea to strengthen values in the game by completing the traffic light system with red, yellow and green. It was is 1996 when Roosevelt created a manual for mutual respect in the game, which resulted in the incarnation of the green card.

In an interview with Soccer Blade, Roosevelt Castro gave us an insight on green cards;

When did you start showing green cards in your games?

“With the Laminita del Divino Niño Jesús I started in 1996, but, and as explained, I implemented them in the year of 2004 in several children’s soccer games.”

Roosevet Castro Bohorquez

How was the reaction when you first showed a green card to a player?

“He was very curious and scared, but I explained the methodology that consisted of not punishing him but acknowledging his respectful behavior and fair play that he had on the pitch.”

Roosevet Castro Bohorquez

Are the player’s fans of the green card where they are implemented in Colombia?

“There are many players and technicians who see it with good eyes, for the contribution to peace and coexistence in football.
I have done some opinion tests that are on my YouTube Channel and many have liked this proposal that rewards fair play.”

Roosevet Castro Bohorquez

What is your hope for the use of green cards worldwide?

“My desire is that it be incorporated into the regulation of football and so that everyone who plays this sport on our planet can have it.”

Roosevet Castro Bohorquez

What other positive measures could be implemented in the game?

I believe that the scope of the green card is very wide and that it can be used to generate spaces for peace and coexistence, in the context of football.
For example: that for each action of fair play and/or respectful behavior of the players, technical or administrative bodies awarded with the green card a point is given and five annual one yellow, ten annul a non-violent red and 20 an expulsion of bodies technicians Likewise, let it be the first tiebreaker item. In the same way, if they charge for a yellow and a red one, that the green one also has an economic recognition to the players or uniforms or sports implementation for the amateur soccer players and that at the end of the sports season the individual and collective cards are added and the Fair Play players and teams are rewarded, as they do with the less defeated scorers or archers.

Roosevet Castro Bohorquez

The future of soccer looks bright with the addition of the green card. To see referee Castro in action, take a look at his Youtube channel.

Youth soccer players - Green card Roosevelt Castro

Irish Soccer

The Irish football association FAI has introduced its own green card system for youth competitions. A team will be given a green card if they carry out all of the points below. This will enable them to go on to compete in bigger competitions across the country.

  1. Line-up & shake hands before each game with opposing team & game officials.
  2. No foul or abusive language used during the game, by either players or coaches.
  3. No over-aggressive play during the game.
  4. No fighting – either with teammates, or opposing players.
  5. If a foul is committed, both players involved must shake hands before play restarts.
  6. Respect is shown to game officials, other players & coaches at all times.
  7. Line-up & shake hands after each game with opposing team & game officials.

Black Cards – Gaelic Football

A different game to soccer, but one sport can learn from another. The first black card was shown in Gaelic football in 2013. The black cards are given out for 5 offenses;

  •  Deliberately bringing down an opponent 
  •  Off-the-ball contact
  •  Aggressively remonstrating with officials
  •  Abusive language
Black card football
Irish Gaelic football

This system is similar to the green card that was used at the CONIFA world cup. In this system, if the player is first shown a black card, the player will be sent off and they can be substituted.

If the player has already been shown a yellow card, the player will be sent off and they cannot be replaced.


The green cards that have been introduced are a positive progression for soccer. Any improvements that can be made to improve respect for all is a good one. In the future, there could be an introduction by FIFA to implement a green card or orange card (although they are difficult to see from afar).

Gaelic football may have found the best possible solution although there all calls for the time allotted sin bin, to keep the players on the pitch.

What is a blue card in soccer?

A blue card is used for indoor soccer in the United States. The offending player will sit in the box for 2 to 5 minutes until the time is up or the opponents have scored.

What are the cards in soccer?

A yellow card is given as a caution to a player and a red card is given to send off a player. Two yellow cards result in a red card.

Read More…

Orange Card – Soccer Sin Bin

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I have never seen an orange card in soccer, so what does it mean? I have done some research to find out why it is mentioned.

What is an orange card in soccer? There is no official orange card in soccer. It is used when a decision is unclear but it has also been proposed as a new law.

In soccer, there are currently two cards given out by referees, the yellow and red card. So if there was an orange card, that would in the middle of those two. What does it mean when we discuss soccer and what proposals have there been?

A yellow card would give a player a caution for reckless play and a red card is for excessive force. So an orange card would be somewhere in the middle of, a combination of the two.

Games Using Orange Cards

There are no other games using an orange card. Apart from the two cards used in soccer, there are green, white, blue and black cards. So if there is an orange card in soccer, it will be the first.

Social Speak – Orange Card

Difficult decision

Soccer fans watching TV

You may have heard the commentators say that the decision should have been an orange card offense, but it is kind of phrase which really means ‘I have no idea’ – was it a yellow or a red.

With so many rules in soccer, there are rules that just a matter of opinion. There is a grey area and sometimes it depends on what referee there is at the game. On another day the decision may have gone the other way.

Own Team Bias

When you are watching your team play soccer and there is a foul that normally results in a red card. Your friends shout ‘red card!’, you, on the other hand, you know the player should be sent off and not wanting to be too bias! you shout ‘orange card’!

Those who have never heard of an orange card, will say ‘what?’. You can carry the joke on a tell them it’s a new thing! Of course, it’s just friendly joking and wishful thinking, that your player won’t be sent off.

New Soccer Law Proposal

Brazil soccer fans

It was in 2014 when Fifa presidential candidate Jerome Champagne, proposed the idea of using an orange card to sin-bin a player. Of course, as only a candidate it was just to get the attention of the voters as a forward thinker. He did not go on to win the election, but the theory of an orange card still remains.

Along with the sin-bin/orange card proposal, his other ideas were;

  • Quotas for foreign players
  • Captains only speaking to the referee
  • 10-yard freekick advance for dissent
  • Leniency on a red card is given when a penalty is awarded

Three out of the four are used today with only the foreign player quota rule not being used. This is used in some countries as they can add their own laws.

As reported by the BBC;

Champagne suggests players could be sin-binned for two or three minutes for “in-between fouls committed in the heat of the moment”.

Jerome Champagne

In 2017 Marco Van Basten, a technical director of FIFA, suggest implementing an orange card/sin bin system. He is regarded as a Dutch legend, scoring many goals for the Netherlands/Holland. He is quoted in the Independent newspaper as saying;

“Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card.” 

Marco Van Basten

Sin Bins

From 2019 sin-bins will be introduced into English soccer, at ‘grassroots’ level – Non-pro leagues to youth teams. This was first decided in 2017 by the English FA, so 3 years after the proposal from Jerome Champagne.

Why Sin Bins

Nobody wants to see a player get sent off – well not always! As a viewer on TV, it can spoil a good game – if you are on the pitch or the coach, it can ease the tension.

It is important for the referees to ben be in control of the game and they themselves don’t want to give a red card. With a sin-bin rule and an orange card, it gives the referee more control without ruining the game. Plus as a spectator, it would be interesting to see.


Soccer is a physical game and during a match, the adrenalin builds up and tension can arise easily. In England, soccer has been compared to Rugby, which is more physical, but there is more respect.

Respect for the officials who know the rules and for all people concerned can only be a good thing,

Sin Bin – Orange Card Survey

The English FA carried out a survey after trialing the sin bin system and these are the results;

  • 72% of players wanted to continue with sin bins;
  • 77% of managers/Coaches wanted to continue with sin bins;
  • 84% of referees wanted to continue with sin bins.

English Grassroots Sin Bins

Why Does a Player Get Sent to the Sin Bin?

A player will be sent to the sin bin for dissent, by a player’s words or actions.

Where is a Sin Bin?

A player who is ordered to go to the sin bin must go to the technical area of his team. The area that surrounds the manager and the substitutes.

Sin Bin and No Orange Card!

There will be no orange card shown by the referee when they are sending a player to the sin bin. The referee will instead show a yellow card, point to the card and then point to the sidelines.

How Long in the Sin Bin?

A youth player will spend 8 minutes in the sin bin and an adult will spend 10 minutes.

How Many Players in the Sin Bin?

There is no limit to the number of players in a sin bin, but the laws of the game already state that there should be no fewer than 7 players on one side. So if a team were to have 5 players sent off, the match would be abandoned and the other team would be awarded the points/progression.

Here is an infographic from the FA and their sin bin system;

Sin bin orange card infographic
What does an orange card mean in soccer?

There is no official orange card in soccer. It can refer to a decision that is in between and yellow and a red card offense. Sometimes associated with a sin bin system.

What is a blue card in soccer?

Blue cards are issued for indoors American soccer. It is less than a yellow card – the player must sit in the box for 2 minutes or until a goal is scored against the offending team.

Read More…