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Do Soccer Goalies Have To Wear Gloves?

Do Soccer Goalies Have To Wear Gloves?

When last did you see a soccer goalie that stood between the poles without gloves? If you started loving soccer in the 2000s, our best bet is that you have never seen this.

Balls are usually kicked at incredible speeds and soccer goalies use gloves to cushion the effect of the impact on their palm, wrists, and fingers. Without gloves, a lot of goalies will always be on the sideline due to injuries.

In addition to protecting the hands of soccer goalies, gloves help to keep their hands warm. Considering the fact that soccer is often played in cold temperatures, gloves are useful pieces of gear.

Colder temperatures stiffen the muscles and slow down the flow of blood making movement harder. Unlike other players that run around and warm up in the process, goalies are usually stationary and need extra gears to stay warm and active.

Soccer goalkeeper hold the soccer ball

Another vital use of the gloves is that they enhance the grip the goalie has on the balls making it easier for them to catch a ball without spilling it accidentally into the path of an opponent player.

Prior to 1970, the only time you would see goalies donning gloves is when the temperature was cold—and they did it for the sole purpose of keeping warm.

The type of gloves they wore that time was usually made of wool, cotton, or leather. The problem with this kind of gloves is that whenever it rained or the weather was highly humid, the gloves soaked moisture leading to discomfort.

Fast forward to 1885, William Sykes, a ball manufacturer, made the first-ever rubber gloves. The sole aim of the gloves at that time was to keep the hands soft.

So, what does the rule of the game say about gloves? Are gloves part of the equipment the Rule of the game mandates soccer goalies to wear? Read on to find out.

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Do soccer goalies have to wear gloves?

A lot of soccer fans are so used to seeing goalies with gloves that it will be so weird to see them without it. In fact, ask a lot of soccer fans and they will tell you gloves are part of the mandatory gear that goalies must wear according to the law of the game.

If you are of this school of thought, it will interest you to know that there is no mention of gloves under the IFAB Rule of the Game’s Law 4. The only compulsory equipment that players must wear are;

  • Shirt with sleeves
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • Shin guards
  • Footwear

The law also allows goalies to wear tracksuit bottoms rather than shorts. As you can see, there was no mention of gloves.

The Law of the Game also permits the use of non-dangerous protective equipment including knee and arm protectors, facemasks, and headgear. However, they must be made of lightweight padded material.

The law prohibits players from wearing any equipment that may be dangerous to the player or other players on the pitch including jewelry. However, since gloves are not particularly harmful to any player, the referees started to allow them.

So, if soccer gloves are so important, why is it that the Law of the Game doesn’t make them compulsory? The truth is that IFAB tries to keep the laws as minimal as possible to make it easier for people in poorer nations to participate in the game.

Soccer goalie hold the ball on air

Soccer gloves have evolved from what they used to be in the 1970s. Back then, they were usually bulky and harder to find which ultimately made a lot of soccer goalies not to wear them.

As technology evolved, so did the material and techniques used in the manufacture of sports gears. Today, you can easily order goalies gloves online or get one at a local sports shop.

Today’s gloves make it easier for goalies to stop shots from range as well as make fingertip saves with minimal risk to their fingers. This was not the case with gloves made in the 1970s.

As you might have noticed already, much about soccer has to do with imitation. If one team or player sees another doing something, they quickly copy—sometimes even without knowing the intention of the first player that did that thing.

In other words, a thoughtless action by one soccer player can easily become a trend, especially if that soccer player is very famous or perceived to be one of the best in his or her area.

So, when some famous goalkeepers started to show up on the field with their hands covered with gloves, it quickly became a trend.

However, in the case of gloves, the benefits were so glaring that it was hard to fault goalies that adopted them. Below are some of the key features of modern-day gloves.

Soccer goalie and the ball on the pitch

1. Synthetic palm area

The palm area of modern gloves is usually made of synthetic materials—mainly a layer of latex. This makes it possible for soccer goalies to hold onto shots without feeling a pinch on their palms.

Some goalies go as far as enhancing the grip of their gloves using grip spray. Grip sprays are highly useful when teams play on wet turf which makes the ball slippery.

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2. Plastic inserts for finger protection

The finger area of most high-quality gloves has plastic inserts that protect the fingers from bending to awkward positions when the goalie makes fingertip saves.

3. Comes in different shapes or cuts

Modern-day gloves come in different sizes which gives soccer goalies a range of choices. Based on shape or cut, soccer goalies are divided into the negative cut, roll finger cut, flat cut, and hybrid cut.

Each of these impacts the goalie’s hands in a different way. While some prioritize finger protection, others are made to be slim enough for the soccer goalie to feel the ball. These types of gloves are the least restrictive.

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Can a goalkeeper play without gloves?

Soccer goalies without glove

Certainly, a referee will not penalize or stop a goalie from playing soccer simply because he or she is not wearing gloves. If anyone argues with you that goalies must wear gloves, remind them about what happened during the Euro 2004 tournament.

Portugal was playing against England and the game stretched into a penalty shootout. Having failed to stop three consecutive penalties, all of which were played at the center, Portugal’s goalie, Ricardo, decided to do something crazy.

He removed his gloves and tossed them aside when it was the turn of England’s forward Darius Vassell to play. Interestingly, Ricardo saved Darius’ penalty kick.

He also went ahead to take the next kick and scored, handing Portugal a 6-5 win over England. Ricardo said taking off his gloves was simply a mind game rather than making him more efficient.

In 2016, Kerly Théus, a female goalie for the Aigle Brilliant soccer team faced the AS Tigresses at the women’s D1 national championship final without wearing any pair of gloves. She stayed that way throughout the entire duration of the game.

Although she conceded 4 goals in that game, she performed tremendously well in diverting some shots from crossing the goal line. The point of all these examples is to tell you that soccer goalkeepers can play without gloves.

Soccer goalies save the ball

Today, virtually all soccer goalkeepers train with gloves. Besides providing warmth and protection from injury, the gloves have become like a part of them that many goalies will find it hard to play without gloves.

Young goalies will tend to feel more confident by wearing gloves. Although this is a placebo effect, confidence is usually all that is required for some goalies to make daring saves during the game.

One thing that you should know is that, if a goalie decides to ditch his gloves for one reason or another, the game will still go on. However, there are just too many benefits to using gloves that it will be surprising to see a goalie without them.


Considering the fact that the futsal ball is harder than association football balls, it is surprising to see so many futsal goalies step into the pitch without gloves.

Just like association football, there is no law in futsal that mandates goalies to wear gloves. Consequently, many goalies in futsal prefer to use their bare hands.

Unlike soccer where it is rare to find goalies without gloves, you will easily see them in futsal.

In association football, the main—and some can argue that it is the only—role of the goalkeeper is to stop the ball from entering the net. In futsal, the goalkeepers give precision passes to the players and can also score which makes the gloves a limitation.

Some goalies in futsal argue that the use of gloves makes it harder for them to give precision passes. Also, goalies in futsal often make use of their bodies to block off the ball rather than just depending on their hands.

Goalie in futsal

Indoor Soccer

Goalies of most indoor soccer prefer not to wear gloves because unlike outdoor soccer where the weather can change and affect the nature of the pitch, the condition of indoor soccer remains fairly the same throughout the game.

Also, wearing gloves is a matter of choice as there is no official rule mandating goalies to wear them. Even when goalies decide to wear gloves in indoor soccer, they usually go for the lighter ones than the heavier ones used in association football.

Beach soccer

soccer ball on the beach

Wearing gloves is optional in beach soccer too, just like every other soccer variation. However, just like in association football, most goalies will wear them because the nature of the pitch can easily change with the weather and so will your grip.

For example, at the 2019 Paraguay FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Japanese goalkeeper Shingo Terukina was the only goalkeeper in the tournament that did not wear gloves.

When asked why he preferred to keep without gloves, he said it helps him to get a better feel of the ball when he is throwing which is an important part of the game.

Should you wear gloves as a goalkeeper?

Soccer goalie

If you train with gloves, then you should wear gloves in games. Even for soccer variations like beach soccer where the ball is not as hard as association football, it still hurts if you try to catch it with your bare hands.

As long as you are using gloves of the right quality and fit, the benefit of using gloves will always outweigh that of not using them.

In addition to protecting your fingers from bending awkwardly when you make fingertip saves, gloves make your hands bigger and cover a wider area when you dive for the ball.


With or without gloves, soccer goalies are likely to experience poor ball contact when they don’t time their catch properly. What gloves do is to enhance the techniques of the goalie—and would not make the goalie magically have a skill they have not learned.

Nevertheless, the use of gloves has successfully lowered the cases of injuries to goalies which is usually expensive and costly to soccer teams or clubs. For example, some grassroots clubs have just one goalie and an injury to that goalie will mean a player has to stand in for the duration of the injury.

Today, there are hundreds of goalie gloves on the market. Some have heavy padding while others are lighter.

While thicker gloves offer better protection to the hands and fingers, they often impede grip. Some goalies have more than one different type of gloves and will usually alternate them for training or official games.

Modern soccer balls are usually lighter which is why soccer players can kick them at greater speed. Call soccer gloves a goalie’s survival adaptation to the game and you will not be wrong.