When you are watching a soccer match, you will often see players raising their arms time and again. You might start to wonder, why do they do that?
Whether you are playing soccer for the first time or watching it with your friends, this gesture might bother you. There are different instances during the game where you will see players (or your teammates raising their hands).
I started playing soccer when I was 8 years old. As I used to play with people older than me, I was always confused seeing players with raised hands whenever I had the ball.
But, you get used to it and figure out the meaning when your next move is not what they wanted it to be! (LOL)
This is how I gradually started to understand why my teammates were actually raising their hands. And, with the passage of time, I started doing it as well.
So, here I am – explaining all the reasons why soccer players raise their arms.
- Why do soccer players raise their hands?
- Other Questions
Why do soccer players raise their hands?
Typically, players raise their hands for the following reasons:
- Seeking Attention from Teammates
- Communicating Tactics to your Teammates
- Claiming the Ball’s Possession
- Alerting the Referee Regarding Any Offense
- Celebrating a Goal
- Deliberately raise their hands to break the pass
- Raising hands during set pieces
The above mentioned reasons are performed by players and managers to communicate a different message as per their situation.
In this blog, we will be discussing reasons why soccer players raise their hands during the game and how it can affect their and the opponent’s team.
1. Seeking Attention from Teammates
A normal soccer field approved by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is 110-120 yards long and 70-80 yards wide.
With 22 players on the field, three referees, substitutes and managers on the sidelines, and the crowd – it is not always easy to pick out passes just like that.
This reminds me of a quote from Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer where he claimed the team was struggling to pick out players as the background was red (coinciding with the red shirts of players).
Therefore, in order to stand out from the crowd, other teammates, and people on the sidelines and in the crowd – players raise their hands to draw attention to themselves.
They want their teammates to look their way and pass the ball to either create a goal scoring opportunity or save themselves from getting pressed by the opposition.
Players raise their hands when they are wide open to receive a pass on the flanks or make a run past the defender (off-ball) to create a goal scoring opportunity.
You will also see players raising their hand in the box whenever a free kick or corner is being taken. This is to indicate the set piece taker to kick the ball towards them.
In short, any player raising hand (whether in free space or during a set piece) is indicating to the other teammate that they are open to receive a pass.
2. Communicating Tactics to Their Teammates
Many teams use the ‘raising hands’ gesture to communicate tactics to their teammates. Whether it is a corner kick, a long free kick, goalkeeper kicking the ball from his own box/half, or a throw-in – players use it to communicate their plan.
These are things teams normally practice in their training sessions. Let me share an example of how I utilized this gesture for communicating with my teammates.
I play central midfield which means the majority of the times I am responsible for dictating the game.
So, whenever I have the ball and I see an open space which we can exploit to create a goal scoring opportunity, I would raise my hand to communicate with my teammate to make that run.
End result? I would attempt to give a through ball pass or a lob pass to the player playing forward position who can then turn the opportunity into a goal scoring one.
Similarly, I would try to make space to receive a pass whenever my other teammates have the ball allowing them to set free and make those runs.
Teams practice set piece and corner kick strategies using the ‘raising hand’ technique in their training sessions to gain a competitive edge over opposition teams.
3. Claiming the Ball’s Possession
How many times have you seen players raising their hands whenever the ball goes out of play? Or, whenever there is a stoppage during the game due to any incident such as a foul?
Players raise their hands to claim possession of the ball.
They do this to alert the referee that they should get the ball to restart the game. In soccer, whenever a ball goes out of play – the team that touches the ball last loses possession to their opponent.
Therefore, whenever the ball goes out for a throw-in, corner kick, or a goal kick – players try to signal the referee that it was the opponent player who touched the ball last and they should now have the possession.
Another method players use along with raising their hands is saying the words ‘our ball’ or ‘[shirt color] ball’ indicating that it should be their throw in, corner kick, or goal kick.
4. Alerting the Referee Regarding Any Offense
Another reason why soccer players raise their hands is to signal the referee that they have been fouled. No matter if it is a fair tackle or challenge, they do it to get their attention.
In such situations, normally a player loses possession when they should not have – so, they raise their hands in an attempt to alert the referee of the offense.
Regardless of the legality, doing so makes the referee believe they should pause the game for the foul incurred or continue with the advantage for the right team.
Soccer players love drama and attention!
They do not care if they have been actually fouled or not – they make this gesture to get a free kick or a penalty to turn the match in their favor.
Ever heard why do soccer players fake injuries and act so dramatically? We have discussed how players fake simulations and injuries to gain the referee’s attention. They try to exaggerate and be over dramatic.
You often see players argue with the referee whenever decisions do not go their way.
Referees, however, stay impartial and do not make abrupt decisions on the basis of players’ actions. They are the decision makers, and their calls are final.
5. Celebrating a Goal
Last but not least, players raise their hands to celebrate a goal.
Let’s take a situation – it’s a derby game – or maybe a title decider. Anxiety is building. Tension is rising. Soccer players raise their hands in the air to celebrate a hard earned goal no matter what game it is.
It is the sense of accomplishment and achievement that they have earned a victory or a point for their team.
This action also expresses their happiness and relief.
David Matsumoto SFSU Professor of Psychology claims that this is a body language of ‘victory’ where a player has arms raised above shoulders with head tilted back.
I, too, have celebrated a goal like this so many times – no matter if it was scored by me or someone from my team.
However, you might have seen many players raising their hands to NOT celebrate a goal as well.
This usually happens when a player scores a goal against the team previously were a part of. See a similar example of Cristiano Ronaldo celebrations when he scored goals against his former club.
No matter how many years have passed, sometimes players do have an affinity for their former teams, and they simply do not like scoring a goal against them. However, professionally they have to perform at their best.
Such players raise their hands as a sign of respect to their former club and supporters.
6. Deliberately raise their hands to break the pass
Isn’t this infuriating? Imagine your team is through on a counter attack, but a player from the opponent raises their hands to either break the pass or distract the player receiving the ball, eventually breaking the tempo of that play.
This could really mess up your next move. But, yes players do deliberately raise hands to break the pass to avoid the opponent team from creating a potential goal scoring opportunity.
However, some players are clever to play it cool. They do it deliberately without showing too much of the hand. They just move the hand with their body in an attempt to break the pass.
Any such obstruction is an offence (bookable if it is leading to a potential goal scoring opportunity).
7. Raising hands during set pieces
Most players raise their hands during a free kick or penalty kick to distract the keeper. In soccer, there is a wall of players 10 yards from the ball to protect one of the sides of the goal.
One of the players either tries to get slightly closer to the goalkeeper or raises their hands from behind the wall to distract his/her vision.
The same thing happens whenever there is a corner kick. One or two players always try to crowd the goalkeeper with raised hands to make it difficult for them to get to the ball first.
Why do soccer players raise their hands before a corner kick?
Remember when we discussed how soccer players raise hands to communicate strategy and tactics to their teammates above?
Soccer players raise their hands before a corner kick (or even a long set piece) to tell where they are going to deliver the ball.
Even though every team has its own strategy when it comes to this. I will share an example of how we do it in my team.
It is also the most common reason why players raise hands before or during a corner kick. Let’s break it into two parts – (1) Corner kick taker, and (2) Corner kick receiver.
Corner Kick Taker: If you have had the chance to ever take a corner kick, you would know what I am talking about. Teams drill in their training session to discuss what strategy they are going to implement using this gesture.
In my team, if a corner kick taker raises one of their hands in the air – it means the ball will be delivered to the near post. This gives players [in the box] a chance to be prepared and attack the ball as it comes.
On the contrary, if both hands are raised before a corner kick – be ready to attack the ball on the far post.
You can definitely switch both options or set your own after discussing with your teammates.
Corner Kick Receiver: Players in the box can raise their hand to alert the corner kick taker to deliver the ball in a certain area.
This is not necessarily drilled or practiced as many players like to seize a potential goal scoring opportunity as it comes in the form of free space or poor man marking.
Well, the hands in the air or to the head gesture is not only performed by the players – fans and supporters do it as well for similar reasons mentioned above.
Even though soccer is just a game, it is full of emotions. You act and react according to the situations and in the heat of the moment.
In this blog, we have tried to explain various reasons why soccer players raise their hands. Let us know what you think of it in the comments section!
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!