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Free Kick Rules in Soccer

Direct free kick

Learn the rules of football's direct and indirect free kicks that you may not have known before

A free kick (direct or indirect) is used to restart a play after a foul in football. Free kick rules are specified in Law 13 of the FIFA Laws of the Game.

Generally, in any free kick, an opposing player cannot stand closer than 10 yards (9.15 meters) from the free kick spot. The only exception to this is when an indirect free kick is awarded inside the penalty area (see: Parts of a soccer field). Here, the opposing players form a wall on the goal line. When a player is taking free kick inside his penalty area, the opposing players should stay outside the penalty area, at least 10 yards from the ball, till the ball is played or kicked.

Direct free kick rule

Direct free kicks are also known as one touch kick, since only one touch is required for a goal to be awarded. This kick should always be taken at the spot where the offence took place, and the ball should always be in a stationary position when taking the kick. A player can kick the ball straight into the goal from a direct free kick. However, when an offence worth of a direct free kick is committed inside the penalty region; a penalty kick is awarded instead.

According to FIFA's law, a direct free kick is granted for infractions like:

  • Jumping at an opponent player.

  • Kicking or attempting to kick a player.

  • Tackling a player illegally.

  • Charging at an opponent player.

  • Pushing an opponent player.

  • Tripping or attempting to trip an opponent player.

  • Handling the ball with a purpose.

  • Holding a player.


Indirect free kick rule
Indirect free kick inside the box

The rule of indirect free kick states that, a player cannot score a goal straight from the kick. The indirect free kick rule was derived from the Sheffield rules that stated that no goal could be scored from this kind of free kick. The rule was absorbed into the Laws of Game in 1877. Generally, an indirect free kick is given to the opposing team when a player commits a foul other than a penalty one (dangerous play) or violates certain technical requirements of the football rules.

Most indirect free kicks are given due to fouls committed by goalkeepers. According to soccer's free kick rules, indirect free kicks are awarded when the goalkeeper:

  • Touches the ball with his hands after his teammate has purposely kicked or passed the ball to him (see: Back pass rule in soccer)
  • Holds the football with his hand for more that 6 seconds before releasing it.
  • Touches the ball with hands after releasing it from his possession, before another player has touched it.
  • Touches the ball with his hands after he has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate


Indirect free kick can as well be awarded when an opposing player:

  • Stops the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.
  • Plays in a dangerous way.
  • Interferes in the movement of an opponent player unless when shielding.


General rules for direct and indirect free kicks in soccer


A kicker should not kick the ball a second time before ball being touched by another player, otherwise an indirect free kick (IFK) is awarded to the opponent from the point where the foul occurred, unless the infringement is committed by a player in his opponent's goal area, whereby the free kick is taken from any spot inside the goal area.

An indirect free kick is indicated by the referee raising his arm above his head, and the arm remains in that position until the kick is taken and the ball is touched by another player (see: Soccer referee hand signals). In case the referee fails to raise his arms so as to point out for an indirect one, and the kicker kicks the free kick straight into the goal, then the indirect free kick (IFK) should be retaken.

Players should not gesticulate in a way assumed to distract their opponents, when any type of free kick is been taken. Otherwise, the offender should be cautioned. Feinting to take either a direct or an indirect free kick is allowed, although it should not be an act of unsporting behavior.

Players who do not position themselves in the allowed distance, when any free kick is been taken shall be cautioned and if they repeat the offense they should be ordered off. A referee should also allow the free kick to be retaken in such circumstances. However, if the kicker, takes a quick free kick before the opponents are beyond the recommended distance, the referee must allow the play to continue.

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Direct free kick vs indirect free kick
Rules of free kick in football