Whether you’re a new fan or a long-existing fan of soccer, one of the most striking pieces of equipment to notice on the field of play are the gloves worn by goalkeepers. They are conspicuously hard not to notice, especially since they are abnormally larger than the normal human hand.
Gloves like these are not just unique equipment for sports like soccer. There are more than 40 sports that use one form of hand gloves or the other for protection.
Yes, protection! Among other reasons why gloves are used in sports, protection stands out as the primary reason for its use.
Coming back to soccer, gloves are not part of the mandatory equipment in the sport. If you’re not abreast with the history of the game, this may seem almost impossible to believe.
How then did goalies protect their hands? For some strange reasons, they actually preferred to use their hands than have any form of covering.
This makes sense because whatever goalie’s gloves that were available at that time focused more on protection and very little on grip and functionality.
To help provide a better understanding of this, this article will briefly look at the history and also the reasons why big gloves are a necessity.
Why do soccer goalies wear such big gloves?
As we already briefly highlighted, protecting the goalie’s hands was the first reason why gloves ever found their way into the sport. Over time, the design was perfected to improve the functionality of the gloves.
For many years, goalie’s gloves saw very few changes aesthetically. It was just the regular heavily padded, big gloves that came in different sizes and colors.
However, the introduction of spiky gloves has opened up possibilities about the evolution of soccer gloves. To understand its present and possible future, let’s take a quick look at its history.
The evolution of soccer gloves
To help keep soccer gloves evolution in line with facts rather than hearsay, it’s best to use the evolution of the Laws of the Game (the official rule book of soccer) as an authentic guide.
Goalkeepers did not necessarily wear gloves in 1900. Goalies needed to have a good feel of the ball and probably felt the additional layer of gloves will not offer better grip and touches.
It was an alien practice to see a goalkeeper with gloves. This makes sense since the first and original Laws of the Game that was adopted had no mention of gloves in it.
Amadeo Carrizo, Argentinian international goalkeeper who played for River Plate in the 1940s and 1950s, is documented as the first goalie to use gloves.
The 1960s saw more goalkeepers wearing gloves, but some still didn’t find them comfortable to use. Others would wear them in wet conditions to help keep their fingers warm and improve grip.
The 1970s saw a tremendous turnaround in the acceptance of these soccer gloves. Two primary reasons could be its acceptance and use by English professional goalie Gordon Banks (famously England’s best goalkeeper) in 1970 and the early entry of top design manufacturers in producing these gloves.
Consequently, the 1980s saw gloves becoming an important piece of equipment for goalkeepers. Within the next decade, larger-sized gloves were being manufactured to accommodate goalies with larger hands.
At the start of the 21st century, modern designs and technology were gradually incorporated into soccer gloves.
Reasons why soccer goalies wear big gloves
As the use of gloves slowly became a norm, the game’s governing bodies saw it necessary to officially allow it as part of a goalie’s piece of equipment. However, going by the Laws of the Game, soccer goalies are not mandated to wear gloves.
A good example of this happened in the 2004 Euro game between Portugal and England. With the game already in the penalty shootout, Portugal’s goalie Ricardo opted to remove his gloves and play barehanded. Not only was this allowed, but he also saved the penalty kick.
Below are some of the reasons why goalies wear big gloves.
Protection and cushion feature
Although goalies struggled to adopt the use of the gloves at the beginning of the 20th century, they were plagued with hand injuries. The continuous hit of the hands with shots caused blisters and sometimes fractures.
Moreso, balls in the past were made from heavy materials that were also easily soaked with moisture during wet conditions. This made the balls feel heavier and more dangerous when struck on the hands or palms.
Not only was there a need to protect the hand from a direct hit, gloves also had to provide adequate cushion effect—more like a bounce-off.
Although, with modern designs and technology, balls are now lightweight with better manufacturing materials, shot power remains a concern to the goalie’s safety.
In professional soccer, the average soccer ball speed is around 70 mph. This does not take into account the isolated ball shot power of players like Roberto Carlos, David Beckham, or Arjen Robben.
There’s no need to imagine the extent of injuries that can happen to the hands of a goalie attempting to stop, parry, or catch a shot with such velocity and speed.
Injuries can also occur when goalies hit the goalpost’s iron or wooden vertical bars. This can occur when the goalie stretches too wide to stop a ball but ends up hitting the vertical bar. The gloves cushion helps to reduce any damaging impact this may have on the hands and fingers.
If soccer gloves are not as big as they are, they wouldn’t have enough layers to cushion shots. Overall, these big gloves offer protection to goalkeepers’ fingers, hands, and wrists.
The comfort and confidence it provides
The cushioning effect of these gloves can also fall rightly under what makes them comfortable. Since much of it has already been explained, let’s examine what it does or how it affects the goalkeeper.
Trusting the cushioning feature of these gloves, soccer goalies wear big gloves to boost their goalkeeping confidence. Just like boxers can throw harder punches with their hands because they’re confident the glove’s cushion will protect their knuckles, the same goes for soccer goalies.
Big gloves are more comfortable to parry and catch balls and provide the needed confidence to run or jump towards these shots.
Although the gloves are big and well-cushioned, to avoid causing heat/sweating and discomfort to the hands, manufacturers use modern technology to design the glove’s backhand with breathable materials.
The grip benefits
Merely looking at the size of the gloves, you would think it may not allow for better grip functionality. However, glove manufacturers consider this a basic necessity by ensuring a well-fit design.
The grip is an important feature for soccer goalies. Goalkeepers are known to engage in different practices like spitting on the gloves to improve glove grip during gameplay.
To enhance soccer gloves grip, manufacturers make use of any of the four primary cuts to allow for easy finger and palm movement. So ideally, any of these big soccer gloves will have either:
- Traditional cut
- Negative cut
- Roll cut
- Hybrid cuts (a combination of two cuts)
Big gloves are an excellent choice for soccer goalies. This is because they get the protection and confidence from the gloves and can function with them as though they were using their hands.
Additional hand size advantage
This may not come off as a primary reason for using big gloves in soccer, but it offers a great advantage that can come in handy when needed.
As already discussed, gloves are padded with foam-like materials to give the necessary cushion to the gloves. This makes the gloves abnormally larger than the hand.
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Last update on 2023-11-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How can this be an advantage? Imagine a situation where a goalie tries to parry a ball out of the goalmouth by barely touching it with the tip of his or her fingers.
Without the big gloves, fingertip saves will almost come with injuries to the goalkeeper. That extra length from the gloves padded cushion, albeit small, is significant to influence the ball’s movement.
Soccer goalies wear big gloves to provide protection, comfort, and good grip when carrying out their defensive role in front of the goal. As an added advantage, these big gloves help them catch, stop, and parry balls that may be difficult with the ordinary hand.
Also, soccer gloves are not still listed among the compulsory equipment in soccer. From its history, it is clear many goalies struggled with its adoption.
However, as ever-evolving and dynamic as the game itself, goalies are much more suited for their role with these big gloves.
Will there ever be a time in the future when goalies will move to thinner gloves or ditch the equipment entirely? Only time will tell.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!