Indirect Free Kick Rule- Everything You Should Know

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Indirect free kick: One of the most fascinating things about football is the manner in which we, as fans, will often question a referee’s decision-making without really being clear on the rules ourselves. It tends to happen most often when an old rule is discarded. But pundits and commentators still refer to it as being the case. So football fans listening to them assume that it’s real and continue to spout it as a law of the game.

There are a whole host of rules and regulations that we vaguely recall hearing about at various points. One such rule is the indirect free-kick.

When was it added to the Laws of the Game? Why did it come about? When is it applicable as a rule instead of the more common direct free-kick? Keep reading this post to find more information about indirect free kicks.

What is an indirect free-kick?

Let’s start with an obvious one – what exactly is an indirect free-kick? Simply put, this is a way of re-starting a football match that means the ball cannot be kicked directly into the goal. In order for a goal to be scored from an indirect free-kick, the ball must be touched by a player from either team before it crosses the goal line.

If a goal is scored from an indirect free-kick without having gained a touch from another player then the defending team is awarded a goal kick.

Types of the free kick

Direct and indirect free kicks are awarded to the opposing team of a player, substitute, substitute or sent-off player, or team official guilty of an offense. The referee indicates an indirect free kick by raising the arm above the head. This signal is maintained until the kick has been taken and the ball touches another player, and goes out of play. Or it is clear that a goal cannot be scored directly.


An indirect free kick must be retaken if the referee fails to signal that the kick is indirect. And the ball is kicked directly into the goal. THE BALL ENTERS THE GOAL

  • if a direct free kick is kicked directly into the opponent’s goal, a goal is awarded
  • if an indirect free kick is kicked directly into the opponent’s goal, a goal kick is awarded
  • if a direct or indirect free kick is kicked directly into the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded


All free kicks are taken from the place where the offense occurred, except:

  • indirect free kicks to the attacking team for an offense inside the opponents’ goal area are taken from the nearest point on the goal area line which runs parallel to the goal line
  • free kicks to the defending team in their goal area may be taken from anywhere in that area
  • free kicks for offenses involving a player entering, re-entering, or leaving the field of play without permission are taken from the position of the ball when play was stopped. However, if a player commits an offense off the field of play, play is restarted with a free kick taken on the boundary line nearest to where the offense occurred. For direct free kick offenses, a penalty kick is awarded if this is within the offender’s penalty area
  • where the Law designates another position.

The ball

  • must be stationary and the kicker must not touch the ball again until it has touched another player
  • is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves

Until the ball is in play all opponents must remain:

  • at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball, unless they are on their own goal line between the goalposts
  • outside the penalty area for free kicks inside the opponents’ penalty area

Where three or more defending team players form a “wall”, all attacking team players must remain at least 1 m (1 yd) from the “wall” until the ball is in play.

A free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously. Feinting to take a free kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. If a player, while correctly taking a free kick, deliberately kicks the ball at an opponent in order to play the ball again but not in a careless or reckless manner or using excessive force, the referee allows play to continue.

Offenses and Sanctions

If an opponent is closer to the ball than the required distance, the kick is retaken unless the advantage can be applied. But an opponent who is less than 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball intercepts it, the referee allows play to continue. However, an opponent who deliberately prevents a free kick from being taken quickly must be cautioned for delaying the restart of play.

If an attacking team player is less than 1 m (1 yd) from a “wall” formed by three or more defending team players, an indirect free kick is awarded. However, when a free kick is taken quickly by the defending team from inside its penalty area, any opponents are inside the penalty area. Because they did not have time to leave, the referee allows play to continue.


If an opponent who is in the penalty area when the free kick is taken or enters the penalty area before the ball is in play, touches or challenges for the ball before it is in play, the free kick is retaken. Besides, if after the ball is in play, the kicker touches the ball again before it has touched another player an indirect free kick is awarded. If the kicker commits a handball offense:

  • a direct free kick is awarded
  • a penalty kick is awarded if the offense occurred inside the kicker’s penalty area unless the kicker was the goalkeeper in which case an indirect free kick is awarded

What are indirect free-kicks awarded for?

Indirect free-kicks are actually awarded all of the time. However, they’re in such a position on the pitch that you probably won’t have realized. It is given that players are unlikely to go for a goal from there anyway.

The most obvious and common example of such a free-kick is one awarded for an offside decision. Given that these have to be within the half of the defensive team, they’re an entire half of a football pitch away from the opposition’s goal. And therefore a strike at the goal would be unlikely in the extreme.

You’ll know that an indirect free-kick has been awarded, incidentally. Because the referee will raise his arm above his head and keep it there until the free-kick has been taken. Indirect free-kicks can be awarded if a player is guilty of dissent. It is apparently supposed to include the use of offensive language or gestures.

Reading something like that, you could be forgiven for wondering why indirect free-kicks aren’t awarded every five minutes in most football matches.

The indirect free-kick is something of a catch-all for referees. Because one of the reasons that they can be awarded is if a player “commits any other offense not mentioned in the Laws” which results in them being cautioned or sent off.

Sum up

This is a raw goal, a wild hammer-and-tongs strike. It is brute and brawn, yet comedic. It is built on the nifty physics of moving one small object beyond several larger objects. But even so sheer luck plays a tandem part. The indirect free-kick-in-the-box delights. Because it is a reminder that football has rarities and is an unscripted drama in which no twist is too ridiculous.

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