The topic of handball is an often contentious area of the soccer rulebook, which seems to be involved in some form of controversial incident on an almost weekly basis. FIFA, the world soccer governing body, does not define the term handball in its rulebook. However, FIFA does have a series of rules referring to the outcome of a player’s handling of the ball during a match and the various consequences of this action for both the player and the restart of a match.
A handball occurs if any player, other than the team’s goalkeeper within his own penalty area, deliberately handles the ball when in play. A ball can be handled with any part of the arm, from the tips of a player’s fingers right up to the shoulder.
A handball should result in a yellow card caution if a player handles the ball for the purpose of deliberately preventing an opponent from getting possession of the ball. The resulting restart to play should be a direct free kick from the spot at which the infringement was committed for the non-offending side. If this occurs inside the penalty area, a penalty should be awarded.
Sending Off Offense
A handball becomes a sending off offense when a player is judged to have handled the ball to prevent a direct scoring opportunity such as a shot on an empty goal, or to have prevented a move that might have resulted in a direct scoring opportunity such as a breakaway. The infringing player should be given a straight red card and a direct free kick taken from the spot of the infringement. If this occurs inside the penalty area, a penalty should be awarded.
A handball should not be awarded if a player is ruled to have handled the ball accidentally. This refers to a player either attempting to protect himself from injury, for example by placing the hands in front of the face and then being hit by the ball, or a player being hit on the arm by the ball without moving towards the ball and without being able to move out of the way. An example might be a snap shot hitting the arm of a defender at point-blank range. However, if a player’s arm is in an unnatural position, for example outstretched or above their head, then a foul should be awarded whether accidental or not.