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Why Do Goalkeepers Spit On Their Gloves? | Full Explanation

Why Do Goalkeepers Spit On Their Gloves? | Full Explanation

The first thing that amateur goalkeepers need to know is that nothing can replace talent and training. Anticipation and proper timing are the keys to effective goalkeeping. But sometimes you need a little bit of spit too.

Spitting on your palm is something that any onlooker may see as gross. However, soccer goalkeepers do this and get away with it—because they have a good explanation to back up this behavior.

Spitting on gloves is a practice that is most common among amateur goalkeepers. However, it is not uncommon to find pro goalkeepers like Joe Hart, the former England goalkeeper, in this practice too.

The general belief is that it makes the gloves stickier and enhances grip so that the goalie doesn’t drop the ball after a catch or when they pick it from the air during a cross.

When goalkeepers spit on their gloves, they often follow it up by smacking their hands as if trying to motivate themselves or instill fear in the opponent. In fact, it seems every goalie has done this at least once in their career.

In this post, we are going to unravel the mystery behind spitting on gloves by soccer goalkeepers and let you know if it really works or is just another myth that has been so popularized that it starts feeling like the truth.

Why do goalkeepers spit on their gloves?

Without a doubt, the main reason why goalkeepers spit on their gloves is to make it sticky and improve grip on the ball. This lowers the chance of spilling the ball into the opponent’s path.

Does this work? Yes! When goalkeepers spit on gloves, the moisture from the saliva binds with the latex material of the gloves making it more sticky. The goalkeeper will be able to hold onto the ball in this state.

Also, this effect seems to be temporary and will wear off as soon as the saliva dries from the gloves. That means that the goalkeeper will have to repeat the spitting process very often.

While improving stickiness is one of the main reasons why goalkeepers spit on their gloves, there are other sublime reasons why goalkeepers often spit on their gloves. We are going to tell you all about that and how this practice will affect your soccer gloves.

Reflex action

a goalie holds a soccer ball

When some students are under pressure in an examination, they either bite their pen or their fingernails. They don’t do this on purpose, rather, it is a conditioned reflex that helps them to fight the tension.

For some soccer goalkeepers, spitting on their gloves is just a conditioned reflex that helps them to stay calm in a tense situation. Therefore, it is not surprising to see goalies do this more often in a penalty or close-range freekick situation because these are the times when goalkeepers are under the most pressure.

We can’t really blame the goalkeepers for being under pressure in a one-on-one situation. Knowing that the team is counting on you as the last line of defense as well as having thousands of eyes on you is bound to make anyone shudder.

However, goalkeepers are not allowed to show their fear or anxiety or it will further embolden the opponents to make daring strikes.

Following trend

Soccer players are famous for blindly following trends. Once they see another soccer player doing something, they copy without knowing why the other player did it.

This is why some soccer players cut holes in their socks without even knowing if it actually works in relieving pressure on the calves or not. Interestingly, not many people are aware that gloves are not part of the mandatory equipment required by the Law of the Game.

It only became a common feature of the game from imitation. Likewise, there are goalkeepers out there that spit on their gloves simply because they have spotted other famous goalkeepers doing it.

A bit of superstition

soccer goalkeeper gains confidence after spitting on his gloves


Soccer has evolved over the years from being more physical to being tactical and psychological. That is why an underdog can hold a big team to a draw or even win in some cases.

Some goalkeepers believe that spitting on their gloves helps to boost the psychology of the team, more like a sublime way of saying, “I have got this”. While there is no evidence that spitting on the gloves boasts the morale of the players, goalkeepers still do it anyway.

Learning from mentor

Like every other sport and sphere of life, goalkeepers usually have mentors that they learn from. A characteristic feature of mentorship is that the mentee tends to subconsciously copy some of the actions of the mentor.

So, if the mentor is the type that spits on the gloves before a penalty kick, the mentee is likely to copy that—even without knowing why their mentor does it. In other words, it is easy to pick up habits from mentors, and old habits die hard.

Better grip

hands of goalkeeper catch a soccer ball

There seem to be some logical reasons that support the spitting on gloves by goalkeepers to enhance grip. Most of the high-quality gloves used by goalkeepers are made of latex, a foam material with myriads of holes.

When the holes are filled up with water, it makes the latex material flexible and easily expands to take the shape of the hand movement making it easier for the goalkeeper to catch a ball. The opposite is the case when they are dry.

Another thing that happens when the latex is dry is that there is increased friction between the hand and the gloves which affects the integrity of the gloves.

Should you spit on goalkeeper gloves?

Inasmuch as there are some benefits to spitting on the gloves, is it something that you should do as a goalkeeper? Well, we strongly advise against it since there are other ways of getting your soccer gloves wet.

Firstly, spitting on gloves can be potentially harmful to the gloves—and we will tell you why. When you spit on the ground and allow it to dry, you will notice that you will be left with a white substance.

white substance on goalkeeper gloves

Well, that substance is acidic and has the capacity to degrade the latex material that is used to make soccer gloves. So, when you constantly spit on your gloves, you diminish the grip of the gloves.

In the short term, you will definitely notice an increase in grip but over time, that extra grip you used to achieve through spitting will gradually diminish in the long run.

Once the grip is gone, it becomes harder for the goalkeeper to make a clean catch without dropping the ball. Most goalkeepers change their gloves frequently because of sponsorship deals that supply them with kits regularly.

This is why they don’t mind spitting on them. However, if you don’t have the luxury of changing your gloves regularly, you should be cautious about spitting on them because that will affect their durability. Other reasons why you should not spit on goalkeeper gloves include;

Issue with hygiene

The mouth harbors thousands, if not millions of bacteria. When a goalkeeper spits on his or her hands, he or she transfers those organisms to their palms.

Since soccer is a contact sport, the goalkeeper can easily transfer the organisms to other soccer players during a tussle for the ball. Remember that the COVID-19 virus can be transferred from one person to another by direct contact.

Makes your gloves smell bad

smelly gloves due to spit

Spit leaves a foul smell that sticks even after the saliva has dried out. Showing up with smelly gloves can lead to stigma even among your teammates because no one will want to come close to you or hold your hands.

Imagine how you will feel when teams come together to pray or discuss at the end of the first half or the beginning of the second half and no team member wants to hold your hand.

For those that are cautious about their environment, they will have to spend extra time cleaning the gloves after every game—unless they have an extra pair.

How can you improve soccer glove grip without spit?

Rather than the use of spit, there are other ways that you can improve the grip of your gloves without undermining the integrity and durability of the gloves. See the most important ways below.

1. Pour soda on the gloves

pour soda on gloves

Water and soda cans are always available in the stadium and a goalkeeper can easily get one on request. Rather than spitting on your gloves, you can easily open a soda can and pour a little on your palms.

The main reason why soccer goalies usually ignore this is that they may not have the time to use the soda can in the heat of the action. Spitting is usually a faster alternative for them.

When pouring soda on your gloves it is important to mention that a little of it will make your gloves sticky while too much of it will make the gloves slippery and the aim would have been defeated.

2. Use grip spray

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Last update on 2023-11-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Arguably one of the safest and most effective ways of improving the grip of soccer gloves is the use of grip spray. Grip spray lasts longer on a single use compared to saliva or soda.

They come in small spray cans which you can keep beside the goalpost and use whenever you feel like. Alternatively, you can use them only during breaks and they should last you for the entire period.


The legendary British goalkeeper Gordon Banks didn’t wear gloves. Instead, he would chew gum until the taste was gone and he would spit it on his hands and rub them together.

Perhaps, placing gum on your gloves is something that you may want to try out. However, like spitting, the gum is bound to harbor some of the microorganisms from your mouth which you can transfer to other players and make them sick.

However, the thing about this trick is that it will not degrade your gloves as fast as spitting would. Much about being a good soccer goalkeeper is about confidence.

If spitting makes you confident, feel free to spit on your gloves but don’t do it regularly because it ruins your gloves. Also, make sure your oral hygiene is top-notch so that you don’t pass germs to other soccer players.