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The Goalkeeper is the only player that can handle the ball with is hands inside the Penalty Area without being fouled.
But four exceptions exist to this rule.
The first one is when the goalkeeper receives the ball with his hands after a direct teammate pass kick.
The second one occurs when the Goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands after he has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate.
The third one is if the goalkeeper drops the ball inside the Penalty area. In such case, he can not grab the ball again with his hands if the ball was not touched before by any other player.
The fourth one is called the 6 seconds rule and was introduced 20 years ago. In fact, Law 12 of the game (fouls and misconduct), state that after grabbing the ball with his hands the goalkeeper has a maximum of 6 seconds to release it and the interpretation of that law refers that the 6 seconds must be counted since the goalkeeper is in position to do so (e.g. if he is down on the floor time wouldn’t start counting). He can do so by kicking or passing the ball with his hands to another player or drop it on the pitch.
An infringement to any of the four cases above mentioned requires the referee to award an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper’s opponent team.
Iinfringements to 6 seconds rule, as you may already have watched during a match, are several times tolerated by referees. Many times the 6 seconds limit is exceeded.
In some countries, as for instance Argentina, the opponent team fans have the habit, immediately after the goalkeeper grabbing the ball and being able to release it , to start counting loud…1, 2, 3,…6, thus putting pressure on both the goalkeeper and referee! One has to admit that is a nice and funny way to enforce the rule.
But probably not so funny as John Cleese irritation about why football is known as soccer in America. Fair-Play though, soccer or football, football or soccer, it’s a great game, no matter what you call it!