Green Cards in Soccer: Fact or Theory

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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.

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…

Soccer Red Card Rules – Official

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When I’m playing soccer, the last thing I want to do is get sent off. I would let my team down and it would be hard to watch them play with only 10 men.

When do you get a red card in soccer? A red card is given when a player uses “excessive force”. This can be an aggressive tackle that endangers an opponent or misconduct as outlined in the rules below.

In this article, I will take you through all of the areas where a player can receive a red so that we can avoid it as players and we can instruct other players to do the same.

Knowing the official rules will help us play a better game – we will know how we can tackle on the safe side of the law. Being strong in the game is a major factor in competing, it is a physical game, so it’s best to know right from wrong.

History of Red Cards in Soccer

Red and yellow cards came into the game of soccer after the violence at a world cup in 1962. The first foul in the match was after 12 seconds and Kaplan Internationl reports after the referee had returned to England and was driving home  “While I was driving the light turned red and I thought, ‘Yellow, calm down and red, stop, go out.’”

After this incident at the world cup, it was another 8 years before red and yellow cards were introduced. In the 1970 World Cup in Mexico cards were first used.

Official Soccer Rules

There are many opinions about when a red card should be shown in soccer, but the best place to get the rules is from the rule-makers. Football Federation International Football or FIFA as they commonly know.

These three stages are outlines for what a player should receive, for their offense;

Carless – means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making his challenge or that he/she acted without precaution: no further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless.

FIFA Law 12

Reckless – means that the player has acted with complete disregard of the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent: a player who plays in a reckless manner shall be cautioned.

FIFA Law 12

Using excessive force – means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring an on opponent: a player who uses excessive force shall be sent off

FIFA Law 12

Seven Reasons for a Red Card

  1. Serious foul play
  2. Violent conduct
  3. Spitting at a person
  4. Deliberate handball – denying a goal-scoring opportunity
  5. Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
  6. Offensive, aggressive, abusive language or gesture
  7. Receiving a second caution

When a Player is Sent Off

If a player is sent off, that player needs to leave the field of play, plus they cannot stay in the technical area, which surrounds the manager and the substitutes. Normally the player will go to the locker room.

1.0 Serious Foul Play

Using Excessive Force

A player will receive a red car for using force that is more than necessary. For example, tackling a player where the player’s intention is to injure. This is just one example where a player can be sent off, but there are many more.


If a player lunges or slides towards a player with their leg raised in an aggressive manner, with the studs toward the opponent. It can be one leg or two, coming from the front, back or sides. This is classified as ‘serious foul play’.

If a player commits an offense while the ball is still in play. The referee can let the play continue to allow an advantage and give a red when the ball is out of play.

2.0 Violent Conduct

Excessive and brutal force when challenging a player, spectator or another person. This can be on the field of play or outside of it. It applies to any player on the pitch and also those on the bench. The referee will only allow play to continue if there is a goal-scoring opportunity.

Object or Ball Thrown

If a player throws an object, either on the pitch or bench, in an aggressive manner, the player will be shown a red card.

Denying a Goal or Scoring Opportunity

If a goal-scoring opportunity is denied, this can be inside the penalty box or outside. If the referee allows play to continue as an advantage and a goal is scored, only a yellow card would be given.

The two offenses for this to happen are;

  1. Deliberate handball
  2. Any offense that would cause a freekick

The closer to the goal the offense occurs, the more likely a red card is given. Including if the ball would have gone into the goal if it were not for the handball. Along with other factors, such as the positions of the defenders and the direction of play.

Offensive, Insulting or Abusive Language

Any player who is guilty of the above must be sent off. This can be towards any person, players, officials or spectators.

Two Yellow Cards

If a player is shown two yellow cards in the match given for offenses covered in this article. The referee will show the second yellow to the player and then the red card.

Are there Sin Bins in Soccer?

In the professional game, there are currently no sin bins for offenses, like they have in many other sports.

They have introduced sin bins at the grassroots level of soccer in England. This is for the youth players and it will help them adapt to the rules and give the referee more control.

Sin bins could be introduced into the game in the future, giving an extra dimension. The infographic below is from the English FA:

What happens when you get a red card in soccer?

The player is sent off from the field and cannot stay in the technical area.

How many games do you miss when you get a red card?

For two yellows resulting in a red card, the player will be suspended for 1 match. Reds card for dissent will get a 2 match ban and for aggressive force 3 matches. For extreme cases, a ban can be for 4 matches or more.

Can you get a red card after a yellow?

If an offense made is worthy of a red card, the player will be shown a straight red card.

Read More…

Soccer Rules for Yellow Cards – Official

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The rules for a yellow card in soccer are very much debated and can be a matter of opinion. Let’s look at the rules, to see what they actually say.

When is a yellow card given? A yellow card is given as a caution when a player is “reckless”. For players, substitutes or substituted players.

When I play soccer or coach, there will always be times when you think there should be a yellow card given. Debates go on after soccer matches, to whether it should have been a red card that was shown or just a yellow.

In this article, I have researched the rules from the officials at FIFA, so that there is no debate, although some rules are at the discretion of the referee, so there will always be contentious decisions. Let go through each case and what is deserving of a yellow car.

To keep it simple, all of the examples here are about yellow cards. There are a number of other rules regarding non-caution offenses and more for red cards.

Official Soccer Rules

First, the definition from FIFA about the types of fouls;

Carless – means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making his challenge or that he/she acted without precaution: no further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless.

FIFA Law 12

Reckless – means that the player has acted with complete disregard of the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent: a player who plays in a reckless manner shall be cautioned.

FIFA Law 12

Using excessive force – means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring an on opponent: a player who uses excessive force shall be sent off

FIFA Law 12

For the following examples, we will need to use these three definitions – ‘carless’ ‘reckless’ and ‘using excessive force’. A yellow card is for;

  • Charging an opponent – caution if reckless.
  • Holding an opponent – When the ball is in play and the holding continues.
  • Handling the Ball – When a player handles the ball to break-up attacking play. If an attacker uses their hand to attempt to score a goal.
  • Dangerous play – If a player makes an action that can risk an injury to another player.
  • Impeding the progress of an opponent – If a player holds another player back or blocks a player on purpose, that prevents an attack.


Seven Offenses for a Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word of action
  3. Persistent misconduct/fouls
  4. Delaying play
  5. Not moving away from a ‘dead-ball’ (eg. free kick)
  6. Comes in to play without the referee’s permission
  7. Leaves play without the referee’s permission

Three Offenses for a substitute or Substituted Player

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word or action
  3. Delaying play


Soccer players in a tackle
  • Breaking up an attack, where there is the possibility of creating a scoring chance.
  • Holding a player or their shirt to prevent the opponent from getting the ball.
  • Handling the ball when a player is in their own box to prevent the attacker from attacking.
  • Handling the ball in an attempt to score a goal even if the player does not score.
  • Simulation, where a player tries to con a referee into thinking that they are injured in order to punish the opponent. If a player tries to make-out that they have been fouled.

Unsporting Behaviour

Removing or partial adaption of Jersey;

  • A player removing a jersey when celebrating a goal
  • The jersey is pulled over the player’s head
  • A plyer covers their head with a jersey or mask

For clarification it is not a yellow card when a player lifts up their jersey just on their front – this could be done in a celebration of for wiping their face.

Other Offences for a Yellow Card

Referee deciding a yellow card
  • If a player changes positions with a goalkeeper during the game without notifying the referee.
  • A player kicks the ball when leaving the field, as an example a substitute or medication.
  • Verbally distracting a player during play or a set-piece.
  • Showing a lack of respect for the game, opponent and referee.
  • Marking the field of play, where there should be none officially.

Dissent – Action or Word

Protesting verbally or physically against the decision of a referee.

Delaying Restart in Play

  • Deliberately taking a free-kick from the wrong position
  • Pretending to take a throw-in, only to leave it for another player
  • Kicking or carrying the ball away when the referee has signaled to stop
  • Excessively delaying taking a throw-in or set -piece
  • Provoking an opponent by touching the ball to distract them
  • Obstructing a set piece from being taken by standing in the way of the ball and not retreating

Persistent Fouls

If a player commits a number of fouls throughout the game, regardless if they are the same. A player will be warned by the referee when they have committed a number of foul before being given a yellow card.

The discretion for this is for the referee to decide. If a player commits a number of fouls within a 15 minute period.

Denying a Goal Scoring Chance

If a player tries to stop a goal from being scored – this can also result in a yellow card if the play is allowed to be continued by the referee and a goal is scored. The referee can caution the player when the game is next stopped.

Two Yellow Cards

If two cards are given to a player during a match, it will result in a red card. When one yellow card is issued, a player may be fined or suspended, depending on the number of yellow cards, that the player has previously been given.


If a player tries to block the keeper when they are kicking it out of their hands.

How long is a player suspended for after two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

Does a yellow card expire?

For league matches, yellow cards will be reset halfway through the season. Cup competitions each have different rules.

What happens if a soccer player gets two yellow cards?

A player who is shown two yellow cards during a match will be sent off during that game. The player will not be able to play the next match. Further suspensions can be given if the player has accumulated a number of cards.

Read More…

For more information regarding the rules for the MLS, you can click here.