Referee Signals Explained

Understanding the referee signals is an important part of your soccer game. Since the referee is the boss on the field it is crucial to understand what he is meaning with different signals.

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Here is a mini course on important referee signals:


When the referee blows his whistle it is a sign that a foul is committed. The whistle is used for terminating and starting the game.

A short whistle means a harmless foul, punished by a free kick. However, harder blasts usually means a more serious fouls followed by a yellow/red card or penalty kick.


When the referee points out both his arms without blowing his whistle it simply means that the referee has noticed an afoul.

However, he may also have decided to play advantage to you or your opponent if there is a chance for scoring.

Generally, a soccer referee will give approximately 3 seconds advantage before blowing his whistle for a foul.

Direct Free Kicks

The referee will signal for a direct free kick by blowing his whistle and point with either left or right arm (if you have committed the foul he will point at your goal instead).

You may also score from a direct free kick. However, you better pass the ball if the distance from the goal is more than 35 yards.

Indirect Free Kicks

If the referee keeps his arm raised after a free kick then he is signaling for an indirect free kick.

This type off free kick may be awarded for all fouls that are not treated as foul that is not committed against you or your opponents.

You can't score a goal from an indirect free kick until the ball touches one of your teammates.

When the referee signals for an indirect free kick he will hold his hand straight up until you or your opponent have kicked or touched the ball.

Penalty Kick

When a referee points directly at the 18 yard area he is indicating that you or your opponents have omitted a Penalty kick.

The referee will usually run at the penalty spot, stop beside it and point straight with his hand on it.

Yellow Card

A yellow card is the referees way of saying "calm down now"!. If you or your opponents are already booked and receive one more yellow card you will be sent off the field.

You will not either have permission to participate in that game anymore.

Red Card

If the referee is showing the red card for you or your opponents this is a signal that a serious foul has been committed and the player responsible is sent off the field.

The player will not be able to enter the field of play again but he may change with another player (under special circumstances like training match or similar)

One more word; never underestimate the power of referee. Treat him like you want others to treat you.

Oh, and make sure you study our other soccer rules as well!

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