While I was reading the Laws of the Game to look for an answer to another question, I came to read the following bit:

Cautions for unsporting behaviour There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour, e.g. if a player:

  • ...

  • uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offence is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick

This goes against all my knowledge of football, as it happens on a regular basis, as a matter of fact it's even a sign of a good defender to do this properly. Have I misunderstood something, or is this rule just not enforced on a regular basis?

2 Answers 2


You are misinterpreting the rule; you can pass the ball to your goalie using your head, chest or whatever. What you can't do, is to pass the ball using a trick, like for example the goalie gives the ball to a defender, and then the defender does some juggling to raise the ball,and head it back to the goalie.

But according to the rule, you could lift the ball to another player who can then pass it to the goalkeeper, and this is not illegal in the spirit of the law (since the law always refer to one player).

The ball can be passed to the goalie in the flow of the game with any legal body part, even with your feet, if that was not your intention (if you try to kick the ball and you miss it, or if you try to deflect it and it goes to your goal).

Read about this here

  • Ah ok, I think it's pretty vaguely put in the rulebook. Btw I did some small edits in your answer to clarify some bits, hope that's OK.
    – posdef
    Mar 7, 2013 at 13:04

In 1992, FIFA introduced the Back-Pass rule in an attempt to speed up the game and reduce time wasting.

The Back-Pass rule prohibits goalkeepers from intentionally handling the ball if it has been deliberately played to them by a teammate, or from intentionally handling the ball when receiving directly from a throw-in.

According to the Laws of the Game, a goalkeeper cannot touch the ball with his hands after a teammate has deliberately kicked it to him. In this back-pass situation, the goalkeeper has two options: kick the ball to safety or don’t touch it at all. The back-pass rule also applies to throw-ins – a goalie can’t pick the ball up if a teammate throws it directly to him.

If a goalkeeper does handle the ball from a back-pass, the referee will blow his whistle and award an indirect free kick to the opposition. Worse still, your opponents will take the free kick from the spot where the goalkeeper handled the ball – even if it’s just inches from your goal!

When Can a Goalie Pick Up a Back-Pass?

There are some very important exceptions to the back-pass rule. If a player passes the ball back to his goalkeeper using his head, chest or knee, the goalie can pick up the ball. The goalie can also pick up the ball if a teammate passes it to him by accident. For example, a defender might slice or scuff his clearance, accidentally kicking the ball towards the goalkeeper. In this case, the goalie can pick up the ball.

Sources: 1 2

  • 1
    This doesn't address the specific case asked about in the question.
    – wax eagle
    Mar 7, 2013 at 18:39

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