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Learn about the top 10 unknown rules in football

Almost everyone has played football at some point in their lives. Whether at home, on the streets, in the park, at school, or even at the stadium. And most would believe they know all the rules of football. Many are familiar with basic rules like offside, goalkeepers not handling back-passes, fouls, free kicks, and penalties. But there are many rules that we may not be aware of. Even professional footballers sometimes forget these “obscure” rules. In this article, bestsoccertips will introduce you to 10 unknown rules in football through the following piece!

Top 10 unknown rules in football

1. Players can pass from a penalty kick

We are used to seeing penalty takers shoot the ball straight into the net, but players can actually decide to assist from a penalty kick. This can be done by passing the ball directly from the penalty spot to a nearby teammate. In 2016, in a match between Barcelona and Celta Vigo, Barcelona was awarded a penalty and Lionel Messi stepped up to take it.

10 unknown rules in football: Players can pass from a penalty kick
10 unknown rules in football: Players can pass from a penalty kick

Successfully executing the penalty would have been his 300th goal in La Liga, but instead, he passed the ball to Luis Suarez, who was lurking nearby, to score. Suarez scored two goals, and Messi’s assist from the penalty kick helped the Uruguayan complete a hat-trick. However, things can also go wrong, as seen when Thierry Henry and Robert Pires failed in their transfer attempt to Manchester City in 2005.

2. The penalty taker cannot score from a rebound if the ball directly hits the goalpost

We all know that a player cannot touch the ball twice in a penalty kick. He can only strike it once. But there’s a peculiar part of that rule:

While taking a penalty kick, the penalty taker cannot touch the ball to score after the ball DIRECTLY hits the goalpost and rebounds – unless the ball has been touched by another player. The ball must be touched by the goalkeeper or another player. Only then can the penalty taker attempt to score from the rebound.

For example, when a player takes a penalty kick and the ball hits the post and rebounds back to his foot. If he attempts a follow-up shot, the goal will be disallowed. But if after taking the penalty kick, the goalkeeper touches the ball onto the post and it rebounds back to the penalty taker’s foot, then that goalkeeper can score from the rebound. This is simply because the goalkeeper touched the ball after the kick.

3. Goalkeepers cannot hold the ball for more than 6 seconds

When a goalkeeper gathers the ball in their hands (whether from a shot, a cross, or any other means), they must release it in some way within 6 seconds to demonstrate that they are not holding onto it. Most goalkeepers simply drop the ball to the ground without needing to pass or throw it.

Some may even do this after 6 seconds, which is illegal. However, this rule is not strictly enforced. If a goalkeeper holds onto the ball for too long (whether bouncing it or not) and is noticed by the referee, the opposing team will be awarded an indirect free kick, and the goalkeeper will receive a yellow card.

4. Goalkeepers cannot pick up the ball again after releasing it

When a goalkeeper holds the ball in their hands and then releases it, the rules of the game stipulate that they are not allowed to touch it again until it has been touched by an opponent player. If they violate this by picking up the ball again, the opposing team will be awarded an indirect free kick, providing them with an advantageous attacking position.

Notably, when a goalkeeper commits this foul, they often opt to resolve the situation by kicking the ball away or passing it to the nearest teammate, or even dribbling it to avoid further infractions and facilitate their team’s play.

5. A goal kick does not necessarily have to leave the penalty area to be in play

Previously, on a goal kick, the ball had to leave the penalty area to be in play. Under the old rule, if a player obstructed the goalkeeper while taking a goal kick and scored, the goal would not be counted as the ball had not left the 18-yard box. Furthermore, the player could even be penalized with a card. However, recently, on a goal kick, the ball does not necessarily have to leave the penalty area to be in play. The ball is in play when the goalkeeper releases it.

This new rule suits teams that like to build play from the back. But it can also benefit attackers if the goalkeeper mistakenly kicks the ball and it doesn’t leave the penalty area. The attacker can run in and score. This was perfectly illustrated at the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 in the group stage match between Portugal and Ghana.

Unknown soccer rules: A goal kick does not necessarily have to leave the penalty area to be in play
Unknown soccer rules: A goal kick does not necessarily have to leave the penalty area to be in play

In the dying minutes of the game, the Portuguese goalkeeper had no idea that Ghanaian forward, Inaki Williams, was lurking behind him – and he dropped the ball. Williams quickly pounced on it and caught the ‘unaware goalkeeper’. Unfortunately, he slipped at the crucial moment – twice! It could be one of the funniest goals ever scored in World Cup history.

6. A match cannot proceed without corner flags

A rather surprising incident occurred in the 1974 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and the Netherlands when English referee Jack Taylor had to postpone the match because there were no corner flags on the field. Everything seemed ready for this important match, but a minor oversight by the stadium staff led to forgetting to place corner flags.

Earlier, preparations for the closing ceremony had caused the corner flags to be removed from the field. No one anticipated that this would create a major issue in such an important match. However, when referee Jack Taylor noticed this oversight, he decided to postpone the match until the corner flags were correctly positioned back on the field.

7. Players cannot score an own goal from a direct free kick or a throw-in

When a player takes a direct free kick or a throw-in for their own team’s goalkeeper, and the ball then goes into the net, that kick or throw-in will not be considered an own goal, as long as no other player – except for the one taking the direct free kick or the throw-in – touches the ball during this process.

Instead, the referee will make a decision, typically awarding a corner kick, to compensate for the opposing team. This ensures that no unfair advantage is gained from a player accidentally scoring into the opponent’s goal in such a situation.

8. A player can be sent off before the match starts

To manage pre-match or tunnel altercations, referees are allowed to send players off the field even before the match begins. In 2017, Patrice Evra was red-carded before the match between Marseille and Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League after angrily kicking a fan. The former Manchester United defender got involved in an ugly confrontation between Marseille players and Guimaraes fans before the match in Portugal.

During warm-ups, Marseille players approached the stands with Guimaraes fans. The fans started hurling insults at them, and in a bizarre moment of frenzy, Evra kicked one of the fans! He received a straight red card and was immediately sent off. Moreover, Evra didn’t even feature in Marseille’s starting lineup but was among the substitutes!

9. A match will be abandoned after 5 red cards

In a football match, the maximum number of red cards a team can receive is 4. This is because each team must have at least 7 players on the field for the match to begin or continue. Therefore, if the number of players on a team’s field decreases below 7 due to red cards, the referee must end the match.

Unknown football rules: A match will be abandoned after 5 red cards
Unknown football rules: A match will be abandoned after 5 red cards

Each time a player receives a red card, that team must continue playing with fewer players, creating a disadvantage for them. However, if a team receives an additional red card after already having 4 players sent off, the match will be immediately abandoned because that team will not have the required number of players to continue the match as per regulations.

10. Celebrations can still be penalized even if the goal is disallowed

Players can be penalized for celebrating a goal even if the goal is actually disallowed. For example, if a player scores an offside goal and celebrates by taking off his shirt, that goal will be canceled. He will still be penalized with a card for removing his shirt. This frequently happens nowadays with the availability of Video Assistant Referee (VAR). A prime example is what occurred between Juventus and Salernitana in September 2022.

With the score tied at 2-2, Arkadiusz Milik successfully headed in a stoppage-time goal in the second half and celebrated passionately by removing his jersey. However, Milik believed he had secured Juventus the ultimate victory against Salernitana and was sent off for his celebration – only for VAR to disallow the goal.


In football, beyond the spotlight of goals and tackles, lie 10 unknown rules in football that wield significant influence. From goalkeepers’ actions to player conduct, these regulations shape the game’s dynamics. Understanding these nuances isn’t just strategic; it’s a tribute to football’s essence: fair play and respect for the sport.

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