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In many team sports which involve scoring goals, the goalkeeper (sometimes termed goaltender, netminder, goalie or keeper) is a designated player charged with directly preventing the opposing team from scoring by blocking or intercepting opposing shots on goal.

Such positions exist in bandy, rink bandy, camogie, association football, Gaelic football, international rules football, floorball, handball, hurling, field hockey, ice hockey, roller hockey, lacrosse, ringette, rinkball, water polo, and shinty as well as in other sports.

In most sports which involve scoring in a net, special rules apply to the goalkeeper that do not apply to other players.

These rules are often instituted to protect the goalkeeper (being a target for dangerous or even violent actions).

This is most apparent in sports such as ice hockey and lacrosse, where goalkeepers are required to wear special equipment like heavy pads and a face mask to protect their bodies from the impact of the playing object (eg. ball or puck.)

In some sports, goalkeepers may have the same rights as other players; in association football, for example, the keeper is allowed to kick the ball just as any other player, but may also use his/her hands to handle the ball in a restricted area.

In other sports, goalkeepers may be limited in the actions they are allowed to take or the area of the field or rink where they may be; in the NHL, for example, goalkeepers may not play the puck in the restricted areas behind the net or take the puck across the red line.



In bandy, the goalkeeper defends his team's goal and has special privileges within the game, which is regulated in section 6 of the Bandy Playing Rules set up by the Federation of International Bandy[1] The goalkeeper's main job is to stop any penetration of the ball into the goal. He is allowed to hold the ball for six seconds before he has to release it. He may drop it to a defender or chuck it directly into attack.

If the ball passes the goal line, it is followed by different actions:

  • If the ball is last touched by a defender, the reaction is an own goal if the ball goes between the goalposts.

  • If it passes outside the goalposts, the reaction is a corner stroke.

  • If last touched by an attacker's stick, and passes between the posts, the reaction is a goal, or

  • a disallowed goal (offside or an infringement from the attacking team).

  • If the ball passes from an attacker over the goal line outside the goalposts, the goalkeeper may retrieve a new ball from a cage hanging on the goal's either side, and put the new ball in play with no signal from the referees.

The goalkeeper is the only player who may use his or her hands to play the ball (although only within his/her own penalty area). According to Rule 6.1 the goalkeeper is required to wear a jersey with a different color from either team's jersey color to avoid confusion for the referee. Goalkeepers wear padded gloves to aid in catching the ball, large shinpads, a padded sweater, and a helmet with a face mask.[1]

He is the only player in the team who can pass the ball to a teammate by aid of his skates.

The team might have a reserve goalkeeper, and the two may switch at any time during the game, without the need to notify the referee.

There is no time-out in bandy, but an exception is sometimes made when the goalkeeper is hurt, especially if they don't have a designated reserve keeper.

As the goalkeeper is usually the team's only player who can see the entire field, they often act as an organizer of the team when it is defending, especially for free strokes against them.


In handball, the goalkeeper is the only player in the team who is allowed to stay in the 6-meter zone throughout the whole competition. A goalkeeper is allowed to save the ball with all parts of his body, including two hands, trunks, two legs and so on, only within the defending 6-meter zone.

Whenever the ball is left on the ground within the 6-meter zone, the goalkeeper owns the possession of the ball; while whenever the ball is in the air above the 6-meter zone, the opponent can still jump in to grasp the ball without stepping in the 6-meter zone.

A goalkeeper can participate in offense by long-passing the ball to a teammate in the opposing half court for a fast-break score.

Common handball goalkeeper clothing:

  • Long-sleeve jersey

  • Long trousers

  • Any body protection (such as base layer or protective cup)


In hurling, the goalkeeper's main task is to prevent a goal from being scored against his side by directly defending the team's goal. He also takes "puckouts" after a score or wide ball. A goal occurs when the ball passes through the goal; the attacking team is awarded 3 points. The goalkeeper has one special rule pertaining to him, opposing players may not directly physically challenge him while he is in possession of the ball in the small parallelogram, although they may harass him, while if he leaves the small parallelogram he is subject to the same rules as all other players. He wears a different color jersey, e.g., if a team has blue jerseys with white font, the goalkeeper will wear a white jersey of the same design with blue font. Most goalkeepers use a special hurley with a wider bas (flat face) to aid shot-stopping.

Association football

In football, each team's goalkeeper defends his/her team's goal and has special privileges within the game. The goalkeeper's main job is to stop any penetration of the ball into the goal. The goalkeeper is the only player in the side who may use his or her hands and arms to catch, throw and save the ball, but only within his/her own penalty area. Goalkeepers are required to wear a distinctive colour jersey, separate from the referee's jersey colour and either team's regular jersey colour, so the referee can easily identify them. There are no other specific requirements, but goalkeepers are usually allowed to wear additional protective gear such as padded clothing. Most goalkeepers also wear gloves to protect their hands and enhance their grip of the ball. Like every player on the pitch, they are required to wear shin guards.

The goalkeeper is allowed to catch the ball, and is also allowed to punch or deflect the ball away from the goal.

The goalkeeper generally has a significant advantage on a ball high in the air, as he or she can raise their arms and play the ball before an attacker can attempt a header.

When the keeper picks up the ball, they are allowed to kick it or throw it, or to place it on the ground and play it with his feet.

The official Laws of the Game stipulate that once the goalkeeper has picked up the ball, he or she must redistribute it within six seconds; however, referees often use their discretion as long as the goalkeeper is not obviously attempting to waste time. Once the keeper establishes possession of the ball, opposing players are not allowed to attempt to play the ball and must give the goalkeeper room to attempt a kick.[citation needed] If a ball is in the air and both the goalkeeper and a field player of the opposing team are challenging for the ball, advantage usually goes to the goalkeeper because he or she is not able to protect themselves.

Though the goalkeeper is generally allowed to use their hands in the penalty box area, they are not allowed to use their hands on balls that have been intentionally kicked to them by a teammate (it does not have to go backwards).

In such situations, the goalkeeper may play the ball with their feet, but cannot pick the ball up.

The rule applies only to a ball which is kicked.

A ball which is headed or otherwise not kicked may be picked up by the goalkeeper without penalty.

An infringement of this rule results in an indirect kick to the opposing team.

The referee has some discretion in making this call.

For example, a ball which is merely deflected by a teammate may still be picked up by the goalkeeper.

The "back-pass" rule has been followed in international football and in most professional and amateur leagues since the early 1990s, but leagues for younger players may choose not to enforce the rule.

The back pass rule is listed in Law 12 of the Laws of the Game.

As the goalkeeper is usually the team's only player who can see the entire field, they often act as the organizer of the team when it is defending, such as on a free kick or a corner kick.

This means the goalkeeper needs to be loud, with a voice that can project over the defensive area of the pitch.

In turn, the players on their team need to be able to listen and respond to directions called to them.

International rules football

In International rules football, a hybrid game between Australian rules football (which does not have a goalkeeper) and Gaelic football, the goalkeeper's main task is to prevent a goal from being scored. A goal occurs when the ball comes off any part of an attacking player and passes through the goal; the attacking team is awarded 6 points.

Gaelic football

In Gaelic football, the goalie's main task is to prevent a goal from being scored against his side by directly defending the team's goal. A goal occurs when the ball passes through the goal; the attacking team is awarded 3 points. The goalie is the only player who may handle the ball on the ground, and only inside the small rectangle.

Gridiron football

The term "goal-tend" was used in early descriptions of American football positions to describe the defensive position farthest back from the line of scrimmage. Eventually the term became obsolete and was replaced by the term fullback, then to its modern term free safety (or punt returner in kicking situations). Unlike in soccer or Gaelic football, the goal-tend/safety does not physically protect the goalposts, as they are elevated above the ground and mostly out of the reach of any player (the National Football League also explicitly outlawed goaltending in 1985; no such rule exists in other levels of the game). Also unlike other codes of football, goal-tends have no special ball-handling privileges.

One situation in which a goalkeeper-like responsibility can arise is in Canadian football, where a single point is awarded for a kicked ball that is not returned out of the end zone. While standard practice is for defending teams to concede the single point, situations often arise where conceding that point could jeopardize a lead. A goal-tend can thus be employed to recover the ball and either return it out of the end zone or, generally if it is in the closing seconds of a game, punt the ball back into play or out of bounds to ensure the point is not conceded.


In floorball, the goalkeeper defends his team's goal and has special privileges within the game. He is the only player who may use his hands to play the ball. Goalkeepers do not have sticks, and they move in the goal crease on their knees, attempting to save the shots on goal. When the goalkeeper has possession of the ball, he has 3 seconds to throw it back into the game. He may not control the ball outside of his crease, except when kicking it. Goalkeepers are an essential part of starting plays, as they can throw the ball for a quick offensive chance. When throwing, the ball has to touch the goalkeeper's own side first before crossing the center line. Goalkeepers are also important in organizing their team's games, as they see the whole field better. Any contact against the goalkeeper (slashing, interference etc.) will result in a free shot or a 2-minute penalty. Like in ice hockey, the goalkeeper may be substituted for an extra attacker, if a delayed penalty occurs, or if his team needs a goal to tie the game in the final moments of the game. Goalkeepers may score goals, although this is not the case in some leagues. In floorball games, more goals are often scored than in, for example, ice hockey, because of the extremely quick tempo of the game and fast shots.

The only mandatory equipment for goalkeepers are masks, goalie-shirts, goalie-pants and shoes.

Most goalkeepers also wear gloves.

They may also optionally wear other protective equipment, such as knee pads, elbow-guards, shin-guards, jocks and torso armor.

In some junior/independent leagues, many goalkeepers don't even wear goalie-shirts, but hooded tops.

Field hockey

In field hockey, the goalkeeper generally wears extensive protective equipment including helmet, face and neck guards, chest and leg padding, arm or elbow protectors, special gloves (the left glove is designed purely to block the ball, the right glove also has this function but in addition is designed to permit the goalkeeper to hold and use his or her stick), lower leg guards (known as pads) and shoe covers (known as kickers). The gloves, pads and kickers are almost always made of special high density foam material that both protects the goalkeeper and has excellent rebound qualities. He or she is also equipped with a stick; either one designed for goalies or one as used for normal play. Specialist goalkeeper sticks must conform to the same dimensional limitations as field players' sticks but are designed for optimal use with one hand and for blocking rather than hitting the ball. From 2007 teams may elect to play with 11 field players, and no-one has the privileges of a goalkeeper. If a goalkeeper is used, they fall into one of two categories: a fully equipped goalkeeper must wear a helmet, unless they are nominated to take a penalty stroke against the opposing goalkeeper, wear a different colored shirt and at least foot and leg guards (arm and upper-body protection is optional); or they may opt to wear only a helmet. The goalkeeper is allowed to use any part of their body to play or deflect the ball, although they can't obstruct its play (for example by lying on top of it), and they can only do so within the goal circle (or "D"). Outside the D they are subject to the same rules as field players and may only use their stick to play the ball. Goalkeepers who are wearing a helmet are not permitted to pass their team's 23 m line, with the exception of goalkeepers who take penalty strokes. However a goalkeeper who has elected to wear only a helmet is permitted to remove it and provided it is not left on the field of play, they may take part in the game in any part of the pitch, and retain their goalkeeping privileges, even if they do not have time to replace the helmet before making a save. It is compulsory to wear a helmet when defending a penalty stroke or penalty corner.[2][3]

Ice hockey

In ice hockey, goalkeepers are more commonly referred to as "goaltenders" or simply "goalies". They defend their team's goal zone (net) by stopping shots of the puck from entering the net, thus preventing the opposing team from scoring. The goaltender usually plays in or near the area in front of the net called the goal crease (often referred to simply as the crease or the net). Because of the power of shots, the goaltender wears special equipment designed to protect the body from direct impact. As is true with most other sports, only one goaltender is allowed to be on the playing area for each team at any one time.

Box lacrosse

Since the creation of indoor or box lacrosse in the 1930s, a unique form of lacrosse goaltender was formed for the different dynamics of lacrosse on an ice-less ice hockey pad.

Field lacrosse

In men's field lacrosse, the designated goalkeeper is allowed to have a stick from 40inches to 72inches long and the head of a goalkeeper's crosse may measure up to 12inches wide. This is significantly larger than field players' heads to assist in blocking shots. Once a goalkeeper makes a save and has control of the ball in his crosse (stick), he may only remain in possession of the ball inside the protective crease for four seconds (the length may depend on the level of play). Before the four seconds is up, the goalkeeper must either pass the ball or leave the crease. After leaving, he may not re-enter the crease with possession of the ball.

While inside the crease (nine feet in radius), offensive players may not make contact with the goalie or his stick.

Doing so is declared "goalie interference" and is penalized by a free clear to the half field line.

(There is a significant difference between NCAA/MLL rules and international rules regarding a pass while the goalkeeper is inside the crease: under NCAA/MLL rules, contact with a goalie's stick while in the act of passing, even after the ball is released, is prohibited and considered interference.

Under international rules, protection ends when possession ends.

Therefore, contact with a goalie's stick after the ball is released, is legal.) In addition, a goalie is allowed to make contact with the ball with his hand, although he is not allowed to control it or pick it up.

In women's lacrosse, once a goalkeeper makes a save and has control of the ball in her crosse, she may remain in possession of the ball inside the crease for ten seconds. The interference rule is similar to men's lacrosse; unlike in the men's game, a woman goalkeeper is allowed to control or even pick up the ball in her hand.

In both men's and women's lacrosse, goalkeepers are required to wear a helmet and 4-point chinstrap, a throat protector, gloves, and a chest protector.

Use of a protective cup is, for obvious reasons, required in the men's game; thigh pads and shinguards are also being required for women goalkeepers as of 2007.

Although they are permitted to, few goalkeepers elect to wear optional protective equipment, including elbow and shoulder pads, thigh pads and shin guards, and long sweat pants.

Water polo

Goalkeepers in water polo are granted some special privileges when inside the five meter area:

  • The ability to touch the ball with two hands.

  • The ability to stand (that is, if he can.

  • Most Water polo pools are at least two meters deep)

  • The ability to punch the ball with a clenched fist

However, they have one limitation that field players do not have: they may not cross the half-distance line.

Rule change in 2006:

The four and seven meter lines were merged to a five-meter line.

A goalie may now under revised rules:

  • Go beyond the 5m line according to the field rules (one hand) and not pass the half line.

  • Use two hands

New cap rules:

  • A goalie cap must now be in quarters alternating red/dark for home and red/white for away

  • The goalie must be number 1, 13, or 15

  • For females: a red swim cap must be worn under the goalie cap, a team's dark swim cap is no longer acceptable as it is hard to distinguish a goalie from field players if official cap is off.

These revisions are according to the NFHS 2006-2007 swimming/diving and water polo rulebook.

USWP and NCAA rules may vary slightly.

The water polo goalkeeper is the least protected goalkeeper with no gloves or body protection.


In netball, the Goal Keeper (denoted GK) must stay within the defensive third of the court. A goal keeper is one of four positions allowed within the shooting circle (along with the Goal Defence, Goal Attack and Goal Shooter). The Goal Keeper often matches up against the opposing side's Goal Shooter.

Goalkeepers on coins and postage stamps

Goalkeepers have been used on some collectors' coins and medals such as the Austrian 5 euro 100 years of football coin that was minted on 12 May 2004. The coin depicts a successful shot by a footballer, shown in the background, with the ball just passing the goalkeeper (still in the air) into the goal.


Citation Linkwww.worldbandy.com"Bandy Playing Rules" (PDF). Federation of International Bandy. 1 September 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.fihockey.orgHockey Rules Board (2007). Rules of Hockey 2007–2008 (pdf). International Hockey Federation (FIH). Rules: Rule 4, Players' clothing and equipment, paras 4.3–4.4, page 15, Rule 10, Conduct of play : goalkeepers, all paras, page 24. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
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Citation Linkwww.fihockey.orgFIH Umpiring Committee (January 2008). "2008 FIH Outdoor Umpires Briefing" (PDF). FIH website. FIH. pp. 11–13. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
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Citation Linkweb.archive.orgFINA water polo rules
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Citation Linkwww.seriousgoalkeeping.netSerious Goalkeeping
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Citation Linkwww.keeperportal.co.ukGoalkeeper Website
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Citation Linkweb.archive.orgFootball Goalkeeper warm up routine
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Citation Linkwww.goalkeepersaredifferent.comGoalkeepers are different
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Citation Linkwww.goalkeeping-museum.comGoalkeeping Museum
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Citation Linkpro1keeper.co.ukGoalkeeper Training Website
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Citation Linkweb.archive.org"Bandy Playing Rules"
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Citation Linkweb.archive.org"2008 FIH Outdoor Umpires Briefing"
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Citation Linken.wikipedia.orgThe original version of this page is from Wikipedia, you can edit the page right here on Everipedia.Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.Additional terms may apply.See everipedia.org/everipedia-termsfor further details.Images/media credited individually (click the icon for details).
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