Indirect Kicks in Soccer: Fouls That Lead to Them and How They’re Taken

Indirect free kicks are an important part of the game of soccer. They restart play after certain fouls and violations, giving the opposing team a chance to gain possession and mount an attack. In this article, I’ll explain what indirect kicks are, the types of fouls that lead to them, how they differ from direct free kicks, and some tactics for taking them effectively. As an avid soccer player and fan for over 20 years, I’ve seen my fair share of indirect kicks. While they may not be as exciting as direct free kicks where you can score directly, indirect kicks still provide crucial opportunities to create chances.

In all my years playing and watching soccer, I’ve found that many fans don’t fully understand the nuances around indirect kicks. But gaining a deeper knowledge of the rules and tactics can really enhance your appreciation for the intricacies of the beautiful game. Indirect kicks, when taken cleverly, can unlock a stubborn defense and change the complexion of a match in an instant.

Let’s dive into the details of indirect kicks in soccer.

What is an Indirect Free Kick in Soccer?

An indirect kick in soccer is awarded to the opposing team after certain fouls or violations. On an indirect kick, the player cannot score a goal directly from the kick. The ball must first touch another player before going into the goal, whether that’s a teammate or an opponent. If the ball goes directly into the goal without touching anyone else, the referee would disallow it and award a goal kick to the defending team.

This is the key difference from a direct free kick, where the player can shoot directly at the goal. With an indirect kick, one of your teammates must get a touch on the ball, even if it’s just a slight redirection, for a goal to count.

When an indirect kick is given, the referee will raise one arm straight up to signal that it’s indirect. This lets the players know that a goal cannot be scored directly. The referee keeps their arm raised until the second player touches the ball.

Fouls That Result in an Indirect Free Kick

There are a number of fouls and violations in soccer that lead to an indirect free kick being awarded. Many of these are for technical infringements of the rules or unsportsmanlike conduct. Here are some common examples:

  • Offside – When an attacking player is in an offside position and becomes actively involved in play, an indirect free kick is given to the defending team.
  • Dangerous play – If a player attempts a challenge or plays the ball in a way that could injure themselves or an opponent, the referee can call dangerous play and award an indirect kick to the other team.
  • Obstructing an opponent – When a player impedes an opponent’s movement or blocks their run without playing the ball, it’s obstruction and leads to an indirect kick.
  • Goalkeeper violations – If a goalkeeper handles a deliberate kickback from a teammate, holds the ball for more than 6 seconds, or touches the ball with their hands after releasing it before another player touches it, the opposing team gets an indirect kick.
  • Off-the-ball incidents – Fouls that happen away from the play, like dissent towards the referee or entering the field of play without permission, can be penalized with an indirect kick.

While many of the most obvious fouls, like tripping, pushing, or kicking an opponent, lead to direct free kicks, indirect kicks serve as punishment for these more minor or technical offenses that still unfairly impact the game.

As an experienced defender, I’ve found that being aware of potential indirect kick situations and avoiding them is crucial. Conceding too many indirect kicks in your own half can put a lot of pressure on your team’s defense. It’s all about staying disciplined, keeping your hands and arms in tight, and not getting caught out of position or reacting overly aggressively in the heat of the moment.

Difference Between Direct and Indirect Free Kicks

The main difference between direct and indirect free kicks is that on a direct kick, the player is allowed to shoot at the goal and score without the ball touching anyone else. On an indirect, the ball must be touched by a second player before a goal can be scored. If a player scores directly from an indirect kick without it touching another player, the referee would disallow the goal and award a goal kick to the defending team.

Direct free kicks are generally given for more serious fouls like kicking, pushing, tripping, or holding an opponent. Think of fouls that clearly deny a goalscoring opportunity or use excessive force.

Indirect kicks are for the less black-and-white offenses – things like dangerous play, obstruction, offside, and technical infringements by the goalkeeper. There’s more of a subjective grey area around indirect kick fouls.

How to Take an Indirect Free Kick

When your team is awarded an indirect kick, there are a few procedures to follow. The ball must be stationary for the kick and the opposing players have to be at least 10 yards away from the ball (or on the goal line if the kick is within 10 yards of the goal).

As the player taking the kick, you cannot touch the ball a second time until another player has touched it. Doing so would give an indirect kick to the other team. Common techniques are to either pass the ball to a nearby teammate to continue the attack, or to chip the ball over the wall of defenders to a teammate attacking the far post or back of the penalty area.

The key is to be creative and decisive with your kick. Catch the defense off guard with a quick restart before they have time to set their wall. Vary the pace and positioning of your kicks to keep them guessing.

I’ll always remember this one indirect kick from my college days. We were tied late in a playoff game, battling against our rivals. I was hovering right outside the box when my teammate drew a foul just a few yards outside the penalty area. On the indirect kick, I faked like I was going to run over the ball, but pulled away at the last second. The opposing wall jumped, and my teammate slid a perfect ball right behind them to me. I met it with a first-time left-footed volley into the side netting. The goalkeeper never even moved. That creative misdirection on the indirect kick made the goal possible.

Common Indirect Free Kick Fouls

Some of the most frequent fouls and violations that result in indirect kicks are:

  • Intentionally kicking or attempting to kick the ball when it’s in the goalkeeper’s possession
  • Deliberately pushing or charging at an opponent in an aggressive manner away from the ball
  • Throwing an object at the ball, an opponent, or a match official
  • Using abusive, insulting or offensive language or gestures
  • Impeding an opponent’s progress without contact by deliberately blocking their path
  • Playing in a dangerous manner without making contact with an opponent, like a high boot

While some of these, like dissent or unsporting behavior, are judgment calls by the referee, others like the goalkeeper holding the ball too long are clear-cut violations of the rules that will always lead to an indirect kick.

Tactics for Indirect Free Kicks

Indirect kicks, with their requirement that the ball touch a second player, lend themselves to creative team play. One common tactic is to chip the ball over the defensive wall to a teammate making a run at the back post. This takes the defenders out of the play and creates an opportunity for a header or volley on goal.

Another option is a pass to the side to a teammate in space, allowing them to cross the ball into the box or dribble at the defense. The key is quick and decisive ball movement to unsettle the defense before they’re set.

You can also use indirect kicks to shift the angle of attack. Pass to a teammate for a quick one-two to get the ball to the other side of the field and switch play.

Indirect Kick TacticAdvantages
Chip over the wall to back postTakes defenders out of play, creates heading or volleying opportunity
Pass to side and cross inAllows teammate to deliver ball into box from better angle
Quick one-two passShifts point of attack, gets ball to other side of field quickly

The most important thing on indirect kicks is to avoid being predictable. Vary your restarts, sometimes going short and other times putting the ball into the box. The less the defense can anticipate what you’ll do, the more dangerous your indirect kicks will be.

Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was quoted as saying, “Indirect free kicks are an important tool to create goal-scoring opportunities. It’s a part of the game where you can catch the opposition by surprise with a bit of imagination and audacity.”

In conclusion, indirect free kicks are a crucial part of soccer. While they may result from less blatant fouls than those that cause direct free kicks, indirect kicks still provide valuable opportunities to mount an attack. By understanding the rules around indirect kicks, the common fouls that lead to them, and effective tactics for taking them, you can add a dangerous weapon to your team’s attacking repertoire. As with anything in soccer, creativity and decisiveness are key. Use indirect kicks to your advantage, and you just might find the goal that makes the difference in a tough match.

Photo of author

Bart Coach