How Long Can a Goalkeeper Hold the Ball in Football?

How Long Can a Goalkeeper Hold the Ball in Football?

Goalkeepers are one of the most important players when it comes to a football team. When it comes to protecting your own goal and also stopping the opponents from scoring a goal on your team, goalkeepers are essential. It is necessary for a goalkeeper to be fast and agile. Moreover, goalkeepers need to be able to handle the pressure of being the final barrier in defense. This is why players who are willing to play this position are a special kind of people.

However, there are some special sets of rules that are for goalkeepers only. Today we are going to take a look into some of those rules, for example, how long can a goalkeeper hold the ball during a match? If you want to know more then we suggest you keep on scrolling!

Rules that Every Football Goalkeeper Needs to Know

We have put together a number of rules that were made only for goalkeepers so the game is fair for everyone. These rules are important for every goalkeeper to know but even if you are not a keeper, knowing these rules can still be beneficial to you as a football player!

Only One Goalkeeper from Each Team

If you have been following football as a sport or even played the FIFA games then you should already be familiar with this rule. It states that at a time there can only be one goalkeeper on the field from each of the teams. Since a game of football is between two teams, that means that there always have to be two keepers on the field, of course, one from each team. 

If the goalkeeper suffered from an unforeseen injury and needs to be taken off the field or in the rare case that the keeper was given a red card, then there needs to be another player substituting in as a replacement. The match cannot continue unless there is a new goalkeeper. Generally, we see that most teams have a backup goalkeeper for situations like this and it is not much of a worry. However, there are also cases where a team will have used up all of their allotted substitutions, and when that happens the position of the goalkeeper is played by another player of the team.

According to the International Football Association Board or IFAB, a team is allowed to have a maximum of three substitutions in one game. If they have used up all of it and then the goalkeeper gets a red card or has to be taken off the field due to an injury another player of the team has to play goalkeeper for the game to continue. During the stoppage, the referee needs to be informed of all the changes that are happening. 

Hands are allowed only in the Penalty Box

As you are aware goalkeepers are the only players on the field who are allowed to handle the ball with their hands. This is to make the game fair and make it easier for the goalkeeper to prevent incoming balls from going inside the goalpost. However, they are only allowed to use their hands within a certain area of the field. 

Goalkeepers can only use their hands to handle the ball inside the penalty box, also known as the D-box. The penalty box is also sometimes referred to as the 18-yard box. They are the big boxes at each end of the football field. 

It is important to note that there are also limitations and restrictions to when a goalkeeper is allowed to use their hands. A goalkeeper is not allowed to handle the football with their hands inside of the D-box when:

  • When the ball is directly passed to the goalkeeper by a teammate
  • When the ball is directly thrown to the goalkeeper from a throw-in by their teammate
  • If another player has already touched the ball after the goalkeeper releases the ball from the hands

Apart from these three situations, a goalie can handle the ball with the hands at any time. 

If the Ball is Dropped it Cannot be Picked Up Again

We already mentioned this above but what this means is that after dropping the ball, the goalie is not allowed to pick the ball up again unless the ball touches another player first. This is a rule that cannot be broken otherwise it will be counted as a foul. This will result in the referee rewarding the opposing team with a free kick.

This rule makes the game more fair as football is a sport that mainly involves playing with your feet. Giving goalkeepers freedom to pick up the ball whenever gives the teams an unfair advantage and may even make the game feel more defensive and waste the time of the match.

The Six Seconds Rule

Goalkeepers are not just restricted to having a limited space and circumstances where they are allowed to handle the ball with their hands. They also have a restriction on how long they can hold on to the ball with their hands and it is no longer than six seconds. Goalies cannot hold on to the ball for more than six seconds and this of course includes holding the ball against themselves, in the air, and even just touching the ball. 

Whenever a goalkeeper picks the ball up the referee looks at the clock to make sure that they do not hold on to the ball for more than six seconds. If the goalie does do it, then the opposing team is awarded a free kick. Not only that but the goalie is also given a firm warning because they wasted game time. 

This is a rule in football that is taken quite seriously because it helps to keep the game moving and ensures that the goalkeeper is not spending the entirety of the game holding the ball. 


Football is a globally beloved sport and like every other sport it has rules that make the game fair and enjoyable for both the players and the audience. While there are plenty of rules to maintain the integrity of the game, there are also a bunch of separate rules that are apply for players who play the position of a goalkeeper. We listed some of the most common rules for goalies and we hope this was helpful for you!