Why Do Soccer Players Raise their Hands?

A close look at a soccer player kicking the ball with his hands up.

If you have been watching soccer, you may have noticed that players frequently raise their hands for whatever reason.

If you watch enough games, you can almost predict when players would raise their hands—but why do they do it? Does it help them in any way? Is it just for style points? Or is there some hidden meaning behind this signal?

Well, you better stick around if you want to learn the reasons behind this gesture. I will explain the most common reasons why players do this.

Reasons Why Footballers Put Their Hands up During the Game?

You will notice that I put “reasons” in there. It’s because there isn’t a sole reason why soccer players do this. There is a plethora of reasons why players raise their hands during the game.

During a Corner

Usually, the most times you would notice this hand-raising is during a set-piece or corner kick.

The rulebook has no definite rule about this, so it’s not like players are following a guideline. This raising of hand is entirely at the player’s discretion.

The answer is simple—this is a signal for their teammates. They are now ready to strike. It’s akin to a race flag guy waving a flag before the race starts.

We will go into this aspect of the game further down in this article.

Referee Deception

Part of the game of soccer is trying your best to get all the referee calls to go down your way.

Deceiving the referee is just part of the game. Players raise their hands to signal that the ball is theirs. Most of the time, this is true. However, watch enough soccer games and notice that even the guys on the opposing teams would raise their hands even when the ball is clearly not theirs.

It’s just a cheeky way of distracting the ref. If it works, then good. If not, it’s still worth a try.


A female player raising her hand to avoid penalty.

This is almost the same as the above.

When the players think that they should be awarded a penalty, they would raise their hands.

What’s funny is both players of each team would raise their hands when a penalty is called. It doesn’t matter if the penalty is obvious or not. Players just want to give a slight advantage to their team at all costs.

Players claiming that the penalty is theirs would put pressure on the ref to decide. Some newbie referees succumb to this pressure and call it for the hand-raisers.

But now, with all players raising their hands against or for a call, the effect seems to have canceled each other out.


When a player is injured on the field, players would put their hands up to signal the team or the referee.

Once the signal is confirmed to be for an injury, the opposing team’s action should be stopped immediately. This is to avoid any advantages they might have played with one less opponent on the field.

Ultimately, it’s up to the referee to decide if the game should be stopped or not. More often than not, the game will be halted for a bit until the injured player has received medical assistance.

Offside Calling

Back in the day, offside calling was entirely on the referees on the field. VAR (video assistant referees) was not available then.

Due to this, players would put their hands up when they think a player is offside. It’s basically snitching to the ref that a player is offside. 

VAR is a football technology that tells the referee on the field whether the player is offside or not with a great degree of accuracy. It certainly beats the old method of “eye judgment” by the referees.

Does Hand Raising Put Pressure on the Referees?

The referee observing the players from the side watching out for fouls.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to quantify the effect of putting pressure on referees since there’s not a metric that is used to grade their calls.

But knowing how pressure works, I’d imagine the frequent opposition of calls will have an effect on the referee.

There are only two ways a referee can look at your opposition. One is they ignore it completely. And second is they overturn their original call, which almost always never happens.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from opposing a call. Your opposition to a call now can potentially pay dividends down the line when the referee pays better attention to the game.

Why Do Soccer Players Raise Their Hand When Taking a Corner Kick?

As I’ve stated above, it’s just a signal for their teammates.

Now, you may be wondering why they would even need a signal when they could begin their runs ahead of the signal. I mean, they’ve probably practiced that play a thousand times, so why even bother with the signal?

It’s because players are jumbled together in the box. It’s hard to see the corner kick player. A raised hand is easier to see than a foot kicking the ball.

Do You Need to Raise Your Hand When Taking a Corner Kick?

There’s actually no rule in the game about this. It’s all up to the player.

David Beckham, arguably the greatest corner kicker in the game, does not raise his hand before he kicks the ball. Beckham just starts his kicking motion as soon as he’s ready and it’s the players that have to time the kick.

Not raising the hand is as valid as raising the hand in the game of soccer. It just depends on what the play is. If your teammates are more prepared than the defense, then not raising a hand for a signal can catch them off-guard.

Advantage of Not Raising Hands During a Corner Kick

A player doing the corner kick with his arms raised.

There have been countless corner kicks that are done without raising the hand of the player.

One of the most infamous “no hand raised” kicks happened on May 7, 2019, in the Champions League.

Apparently, a boy who was on the side noticed that the defense has not been set. The kicker took note of that and kicked the ball “prematurely.” This led to an easy goal. While some would say that’s a cheeky kind of goal, it doesn’t really matter because the defense was the one to blame.

It’s just one example of not raising the hand working out for the attacking team.

Is Hand Raising Here to Stay? 

There are no indications that hand-raising will go any time soon.

I would even go as far as saying that this gesture has been ingrained in the sport, especially in pro play. Everybody does it.

And besides, it’s hard to keep your hands down in a game like a soccer. An added possession in soccer is worth raising your hands every time a call is made, regardless of who it’s for. 

When arguing a call can sway the momentum opposite ways, you do whatever it takes, even if it means putting your hands up at every call.

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