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FIFA soccer laws and rules: The throw-in

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Soccer player taking a throw

Soccer player taking a throw

The only time that a soccer player can start a legitimate phase of play using the hands is when the game needs to be restarted by a throw-in. Indeed, the throw-in is the reason for the word "touchline." In addition, it is one of three ways of restarting play when the ball goes out of bounds.

FIFA's Laws of the Game stipulates that when the ball fully crosses the touchline—in the air or on the ground— play must be restarted by a throw-in to the opponents of the team that last touched or played the ball.

The idea of a throw-in is to avoid teams getting virtual free kicks from the touchline, although former Irish international Rory Delap demonstrated how potent an effective throw-in can be. Although Rory Delap's "special" is hard to replicate, the Laws of the Game regulates the throw-in via Law 15 to ensure fairness and reinforce the integrity of the game.

Location of the throw

A player should take the throw-in from the point where the ball left the field of play along the touchline. Some persons erroneously believe that Law 15 does not specify any distance from the touchline that the thrower must deliver the ball. As such, some players attempt to throw the ball yards away fro the touchline. However, the reference to the ''point where it left the field of play'' should clear the issue. After all, the ball did not leave the field of play yards away from the touchline. Generally, the thrower's feet should be on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline, i.e. as close as possible to it. In practice, advertising boards at semi-pro and pro levels render this a non-issue.

In addition, players must ensure that they take the throw from the point that the referee indicates or permits. Failure to do this can result in the referee awarding the throw to the opponent or cautioning the thrower for unsporting behaviour (particularly if it is deemed an attempt to delay the restart of play).

Proper hand position for the throw-in.

Proper hand position for the throw-in.

Executing the throw with the trailing leg.

Executing the throw with the trailing leg.


The thrower must face the field of play and have both feet either on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline. Some players (and even match officials) believe that it is improper to have any part of the foot on the field of play when taking a throw-in. This is not entirely correct. Proper procedure dictates that the player's feet must be behind the line, on the line, or touching part of the touchline (even if part - or the majority of the feet are on the field of play).

To gain momentum, top-flight players normally drag the tip of their trailing foot along the surface, which is acceptable. The player must also use both hands and deliver the ball from behind and over his head. Acrobatic throws are only permissible if they conform to the proper throwing technique—something that very few can accomplish.

Ball in play

The ball is in play when the ball, having been correctly executed by the thrower, crosses the touchline on the ground or in the air (in the air usually). Note that the ball can enter the field of play in the air. If the ball swerves sharply in the air after a throw-in and went out of bounds before touching the ground, the other team should restart play from a throw-in.

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Somersault throw

The foul-throw

The foul-throw is a common type of throw-in infringement at lower levels of soccer. This throw does not conform to the throw-in procedure. Conditions and examples of a foul-throw include:

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i) The player not facing the field of play when he takes the throw (especially for acrobats)

ii) One or both feet are completely off the ground when the thrower executes the throw

iii) Throwing to the side of your head (as opposed to directly over your head)

iv) Delaying the release of the ball until the hands are below the forehead.

v) Delivering the ball well beyond the touchline.

To make a long story significantly shorter, a foul throw is any throw that contravenes the proper throwing method or correct procedure.


mhodgeblogger from Glasgow on November 30, 2011:

Nicely done. Very informative. I especially like the fact that you included the Delap special!!

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SpiffyD (author) from The Caribbean on July 22, 2011:

Thanks for the read and comment Jason.

Jason Matthews from North Carolina on July 17, 2011:

This is a very good commentary, or should I say explanation, of the FIFA Laws of the game on free throws. Very good hub!

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