The Wikipedia article on goalkeepers states that:

The goalkeeper is the only player in the side who may use his or her hands and arms to catch, throw and save the ball, but only within the penalty area.

(boldface added, I'v edited the wiki page to solve the ambiguity)

It is however not clear to me whether the goalkeeper can only use his/her hands within the penalty area of his/her team or is he/she allowed to use his/her hands within the penalty area of the opponents team as well.

Sometimes goalkeepers effectively cross the field for instance to assist the team in a final corner, etc. I am wondering if the goalkeeper would be allowed to use his hands (for instance to catch the ball and throw it to the opponents goal?

Can someone provide a reference whether this is allowed?

2 Answers 2


In the Laws of the Game, Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct says the following (emphasis mine on first bullet):

A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences:

  • handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area)
  • Holds an opponent
  • impedes an opponent with contact
  • spits at an opponent

In your scenario, the goalkeeper would not be in their own penalty area, but the penalty area of the other team. It would be a foul and the defending team would get a direct free kick.

  • 1
    Apologies - I hadn't realized I had linked to the 2011 version. I've updated my link!
    – Duncan
    Jul 1, 2016 at 16:39

As has been pointed out, the goalkeeper may only deliberately handle the ball within their own penalty area.

Furthermore, if the goalkeeper attempts to score a goal with their hands in the opponents' penalty area - as is likely in the scenario you have posed - not only would a direct free kick be awarded, but the goalkeeper would also be cautioned (shown the yellow card) for unsporting behaviour.

From the 2016/17 Laws of the Game - 12.3 Disciplinary Action:

There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player:


  • handles the ball in an attempt to score a goal (whether or not the attempt is successful) or in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a goal

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