On soccer it is common to see winning teams wasting time. Goalies have their own techniques to run out the clock.

A situation that intrigues me is when a goalkeeper is allowed to get the ball but chooses not to. He places both hands near the ball without touching it. He waits for an opponent to get close enough and then he proceeds to pick up the ball. Thus wasting 5 seconds of everyone's life ;-)

So, every time that a situation like this happens, an opponent runs towards the ball to force the goalkeeper to pick it up. If instead of running towards the ball all the opponents let the keeper run out the clock, how long can a goalie wait before picking up the ball?


I will accept the answer indefinitely, because according to the rules that is the answer to my question.

But I was also interested on the practical effect of such ruling. Are there any real examples of players ever letting the goalie waste as much time as he wanted to? I cannot believe that everyone would just look at each other for 5 min...

  • Not sure why you'd expect there to be a rule against it. It's up to the opponents to force the issue. A goalie not using his hands is effectively a normal defender and if an outfield defender stood in his own box with the ball at his feet, unchallenged, would you expect a ruling against him?
    – komodosp
    Jul 2, 2022 at 22:43

1 Answer 1


In football, indefinitely.

The relevant offence is on page 37 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of the Game (emphasis mine):

An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences:

  • controls the ball with his hands for more than six seconds before releasing it from his possession


As an aside, the powers that be at FIFA seem to agree that it's something that ruins the pace and excitement of the game. In futsal, FIFA's indoor game, which is designed to be as attacking and fast-paced as possible (and requires minimal effort to change the laws), it is illegal to do this with hands or feet.

Page 40 of the 2014/15 FIFA Futsal Laws of the Game (emphasis mine):

An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper commits any of the following four offences:

  • Controls the ball with his hands or feet in his own half of the pitch for more than four seconds


  • But wouldn't the referee tell the goalie to get the ball? Or tell one of the opponents to go get the ball? Wouldn't both attitudes be considered unsporting behaviour? Apr 20, 2015 at 16:26
  • @GabrielOshiro Why would the opponent (who presumably wants to score, as they're presumably down) not get the ball on their own? Unless it's a tie that everyone is happy with, I guess, but that's relatively rare.
    – Joe
    Apr 20, 2015 at 19:39
  • 5
    just remember the 'Disgrace of Gijon'. I think in this game a goalie could have been walking (ball of his foot) through his penalty area for hours before grabbing it because an opponent's player wants to get the ball.
    – Phab
    Apr 21, 2015 at 14:09
  • 1
    The referee would probably have no grounds to tell any of the players to get the ball. It's perfectly legal for both teams to play for a draw and eat up the clock. However, the referee would definitely be submitting a report to the competition authority after the game to ensure there wasn't anything untoward happening - ie. collusion to affect the competition table, match-fixing, etc. Apr 22, 2015 at 0:56

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