Understanding referee signals in a soccer game is as important as a new army recruitee understanding his commander’s instructions is. On the pitch, there’s one boss, the referee. A referee controls and makes sure that the rules of the game are followed.

A referee is authorized to take disciplinary actions against the involved parties i.e. players and officials. The decisions made are final; however, a referee may change his decision when he realizes it is wrong. Whether you are a fan or a player, understanding referee signals will help you understand what is happening on the pitch every moment play is stopped. Following is a simple guide to understanding these signals.

Yellow Card

This is a referees way of cautioning a player. The card is meant to calm the player down because if the player gets another yellow card, he will be sent off the field.

Red Card

When a player commits a serious foul, the referee shows him a red card and sends him off the field. Once sent off, you cannot enter the field again.


An advantage is given when the defending team commits a foul but the ref’ sees it advantageous on the part of attacking team to continue play rather than give a foul. He indicates this by extending his arms outwards and forward from his mid-section.

Direct Free Kick

A referee signals this by extending one arm to the side of his torso in the direction of the kick. The free kick is awarded when a player commits a harsh foul or handles the ball intentionally.

Indirect Free Kick

Whenever a player handles the ball unintentionally or commits incidental fouls, the referee awards an indirect free kick. To signal this, he extends his arm straight up in the air.

Goal Kick

When the referee points to either corner of the goal post, it means he is awarding the defending team a goal kick. It is awarded when the attacking team kicks the ball over the defending team’s goal line.

Corner Kick

The referee indicates a corner kick by pointing to the defending team’s corner flag. It is awarded when the defending team kicks the ball over their own goal line.

Penalty Kick

When the referee points to the penalty spot in the goal box it means he is awarding a penalty. It is awarded when the defending team commits a foul inside their own penalty box. As well, the referee awards a penalty for intentional handling of the ball inside the penalty box.

Thus, make sure you understand these rules and as well research on others so as not to complain unreasonably whenever the referee stops the game. In addition, you will understand the game more and enjoy it even better.

Paul Koroma

I learned all about life with a ball at my feet. Soccer allows me to push the limitation of creativity and express myself without saying a word. Soccer is my addiction. I train. I play, and I repeat every single day.

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