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What is pushing in soccer? Definition, Result, Referee Signal, Examples

pushing in soccer

In soccer, pushing an opponent with reckless or excessive force results in a pushing foul. A pushing foul results in the fouled player being awarded a direct free kick or a penalty kick if the foul has taken place in the penalty box. If a player commits too many fouls in a game, they may get a yellow or even red card.


A pushing foul results from a player flagrantly and recklessly pushing their opponent with any part of their hands, arms, or upper body. It results in the opponent receiving a direct free kick from the spot of the foul or a penalty kick if the foul has been committed in the penalty box. If the offending player has repeatedly made personal fouls such as pushing within the same game, it can also result in a yellow or even red card.

Soccer certainly involves some forms of contact, and bumping or charging the opponent within reason is legal. Small bumps, incidental pushing, or players jostling next to each other when competing for the ball are all considered legal contact. Fair charging, when two players get close and push into each other when trying to gain control of the ball, is also common and permissible so long as players don’t directly shove with their arms.

Determining what physical contact is excessive or legal and within reason is up to the referee’s discretion. In some instances, a referee may not call a pushing foul and allow the game to continue due to play advantage. Play advantage comes into effect when calling a foul will give the team of the offending player an unfair advantage, such as when the fouled player’s team has just gained control of the ball.


When the referee determines a pushing foul has occurred, they will award the offended player with a direct free kick from the spot where the penalty took place. If the foul took place in the penalty box, the player who was pushed will be awarded a penalty kick instead of a direct free kick. The rules for a pushing foul are the same across all leagues and age groups.

Referee Signal

The referee will stand with both hands in front of their chest, palms facing away from them, and mimic a pushing motion to signal a pushing foul. They will halt the game and signal a direct free kick to the player who was pushed by pointing with a raised arm in the direction of the goal. If the foul took place within the penalty box, the referee will point to the penalty spot to signal a penalty kick.


  • A player gains possession of the ball, and an opponent shoves them from the side to knock them away.
  • While crowded together to regain control of the ball, one player stops playing the ball and starts pushing their opponent directly.
  • One player charges recklessly and slams hard into another player with their shoulder while trying to take the ball.
  • A player shoves an opponent from behind and knocks them over.