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Why Do Soccer Players Grab Their Faces?

Why Do Soccer Players Grab Their Faces?

Soccer has stayed on top as the world’s most-watched sport because of the passion and following it receives. The sheer amount of emotions the sport brings out from players, fans, and soccer enthusiasts is second to none.

Fans often have great expectations from players and teams alike, which puts overwhelming pressure on players. Of course, it’s even more when playing competitive matches.

Stepping onto the pitch and hearing the chants and applause from all over the stadium can bring a range of emotions to players. Of course, it goes without saying that because of this, it’s common to see players grab their faces or perform other gestures in reaction to the emotions felt at the moment.

Soccer players are frequently exposed to various situations while on the field. Part of their job description is to overcome these situations/obstacles to achieve a favorable outcome.

This article takes a closer look at situations where soccer players grab their faces and why they intentionally or unintentionally do so.

Why do soccer players grab their faces?

Soccer players grab their faces in response to certain events on the field of play, which could be shock, disappointment, or celebration.

A lot of preparation, planning, and strategies come into play before each game. Yet, the outcome of events can sometimes be determined by sheer luck.

Thoroughly explained below are some of the significant reasons soccer players are seen grabbing their faces.

When a scoring opportunity is wasted

Soccer player grab his face because of missing opportunity

Every touch of the ball counts in soccer. It is how the ball advances from the defensive third into the final third area. When players cannot complete an attacking play successfully, the consequences can be severe; it can cost a team victory in the game.

Soccer players are all human, and it is in the nature of humans to make mistakes, whether this mistake is an errant kick or an over-hit shot.

Irrespective of what this mistake maybe, players are often overwhelmed with shame and can sometimes be seen grabbing their faces with the palm of their hands. The gesture could be an involuntary way of hiding the shame and disappointment they feel at the moment or trying to avoid facing the fans’ disappointment.

If you have watched soccer long enough, situations like this are a regular occurrence, even for the best players in the world. The player can also hold his head with one hand and bow in agony.

One of the most famous examples occurred during the 2018 World Cup when Brazilian striker Neymar showed disbelief when he missed a shot against Belgium. As a result, his team would eventually lose the match and get knocked out of the competition.

Whether the ball misses the net due to a shooting error or a spectacular save by the goalkeeper, the players’ reaction is nearly identical — hands to the face or head.

When saying a quick prayer

Sports, like religion, have a large following. While both are separate entities, they occasionally cross paths on and off the fields.

Soccer players are as religious as anyone else, and they show it on the field of play. Lionel Messi does it, as do the vast majority of players who extol their faith before, during, and after a soccer game.

Praying is one of the ways these soccer players pay homage or reverence to their God. Some expressions or gestures do occur while making those prayers. Grabbing the face, followed by a short prayer, is one such expression.

It may appear strange at times, but given the competitive nature of the sport, making prayers is always a source of strength and hope for players. It assures them that everything else will work in their favor when the opportunity arises.

As an act of prayer, Muslim soccer players can sometimes make a quick prayer after scoring a goal by placing their hands over their face and kneeling in prayer afterward. Professional soccer players who have engaged in this gesture as an act of prayer are Mohamed Salah, Mesut Özil, and Paul Pogba.

While it is rare for soccer players to grab their faces while praying, the media never misses the opportunity to capture such moments when it does happen.

In reaction to a goal scored by the opposition

Red soccer player grab his face because of score of opposing team

At the beginning of every soccer game, the atmosphere is filled with expectations of success from both teams. However, as the game advances, the overall team mood switches depending on the game’s progress.

When a team is losing, it takes sheer will and determination not to after the players’ morale. Should the opposing team add to the misery by scoring an additional goal, it is commonplace to see the other team players cupping their face in their hands or grabbing their faces in disappointment.

Nonetheless, when this occurs, the fans can feel the emotions in the stadium as well.

During a Copa America soccer match in 2015 between Uruguay and Chile, Uruguayan player Carlos Sanchez reacted dejectedly after Chile scored. The soccer player had his hands over his face and was visibly upset.

In celebration of a scored goal

Soccer player grab his face because of scoring goal

Soccer players can celebrate scored goals by grabbing their faces, although this happens rarely.

Soccer players and fans recognize the significance of goals in the game. It is well understood that victory can only be achieved when a goal is scored. The fans are usually emotional and raucous when a goal is eventually scored.

Soccer players celebrate in different ways. There’s no limit to the extent to which a celebratory gesture can go, as long as it’s not offensive or politicalized.

Players can sometimes grab their faces in shocking excitement when they score a goal. However, the gesture often signifies a combination of disbelief, shock, and excitement.

When they win/lose a major tournament

Some soccer players reflexively grab their faces when they win a major competition or tournament. Overwhelmed with joy and excitement, some players shed tears of joy.

They cover their faces with their hands, so spectators and sports media won’t see them crying. So often, we forget the enormous weight on the shoulders of professional soccer players to deliver in major tournaments. When they can live up to expectations, they are sometimes overwhelmed in tears of happiness.

Brazil international Neymar stands out as one of those players who are not afraid to cry on the pitch. He has been seen many times grabbing his face to hide his emotions.

Goals That Made Neymar Cry | HD

On the other hand, players can be seen shedding tears when a team loses a major tournament, especially one where they were certain to secure the win. Cupping their face in their palms is a go-to way of hiding their tears.

When a player is injured

Soccer players, like athletes in other sports, can sustain injuries. Some can be devastating and quite traumatic. In the history of the sport, soccer players have collapsed, and some lost their lives on the pitch.

Reactions from players and fans can differ in such a situation. Emotions of fear and care can cause players to grab their faces in concern for the health of the player.

It is not a sight to behold. The gloom that fills the air brings the entire stadium to a standstill.

Soccer player grab his face because of injured

When faking an injury

Sometimes players are caught showcasing unsportsmanlike behaviors like faking an injury. They do this for several reasons, like attempting to gain the advantage with ball possession.

After faking an injury, these players pretend to writhe in pain and grab their faces to exaggerate the extent of the injury. It can also be done to shield their true facial expressions from the match referee and onlookers.

Notable mentions here of professional soccer players that have been caught engaging in this practice are Spanish international Sergio Busquets and Brazilian soccer player Neymar.

To conceal communication

When they speak to teammates or the coach, soccer players grab their faces, especially the mouth area. This strange gesture has become common in soccer matches, especially in professional soccer matches.

For many soccer onlookers, when players place their hands on the face, it is done to conceal tactical communication. However, further inquiries have revealed other possible reasons for this gesture.

Some soccer players have admitted that they are not instructed to do this to conceal communication but that their voice can be heard in all of the drowning noise around the stadium. Much like a foghorn, they place the hand on their face to amplify their voice.


Soccer players grab their faces in response to certain events on the field of play. As explained, the action could mean a variety of things ranging from disappointment to celebration.

Beyond soccer players, other sports participants grab their faces to express their emotions. Coaches and members of the technical crew can also perform the gesture.

Typically, they do this in response to a missed scoring opportunity or when the team concedes.