Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Gloves?

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The evolution of soccer over the years has seen goalkeeper gloves become a key set of equipment in the sport.

Goalkeeping gloves have become a common standard in the game of soccer and even though there is no official rule stating they have to be worn, no goalkeepers in the top-flight leagues play without them.

This article will delve deeper into the main reasons goalkeepers wear gloves as well as look at whether official goalkeeper glove rules exist.

So, let’s begin!

The main reasons goalkeepers wear gloves are to provide protection for their hands and getting better grip on the ball. Without gloves, there’s a slightly higher chance of injuries occurring, and attackers would take advantage of ball spillages with practically no grip available.

With that out of the way, let’s have a look a more in-depth look into why goalkeepers are persistent on wearing gloves.


What are the main reasons why soccer goalies wear gloves?

If you’ve played the goalkeeper position on the pitch, you’ll know exactly how handy a good pair of goalkeeper gloves can be.

On the other hand, if you’ve never had the chance to be a shot stopper in goal, you may find it difficult to understand why goalkeeper gloves are part and parcel of today’s game.

This article will now enlighten you on the benefits that this piece of gear offers its wearers.

Starting with…


1. Basic hand and wrist protection against injury

why goalkeepers wear gloves - basic hand and wrist protection

Professional soccer players play at a very fast tempo and it is important that goalkeepers have some basic protection from this intense part of the game.

The average speed of a soccer ball is around 80 miles per hour, and that number tends to be even be higher when the ball is kicked by forward players known for striking with immense power.

As a result, it is crucial that a goalkeeper wears gloves to offer adequate protection for their hands as well as their wrists.

Even though a good pair of gloves are an effective way to prevent injuries focused on the hands, goalkeepers are still able to get injuries due to the sheer force generated upon impact.

A practical example of this is when Nautico FC goalkeeper – Julio Cesar – dislocated his finger after saving a header from the opposing team.

You don’t believe me?

Take a look at the clip that’s been embedded below:

This just illustrates that even with the right saving technique, injuries can still happen so you can just imagine what condition his finger would have been in if he wasn’t wearing any gloves.

At times goalkeepers have to face incoming shots from different angles and its important they carry out saves with the right technique.

In the event of a cross or shot from a set piece, goalkeepers tend to punch out the ball instead of catching it and this can in turn put more pressure on their fingers.

As the majority of the ball is parried by the fingertips of the goalkeeper, it’s important that the gloves have a firm layer of padding to protect their fingers from dislocations and even possible fractures.

Goalkeeper gloves are made with a foam padding on the fingertips in order to prevent this by cushioning the impact of the ball.

If you’re looking for a good pair of goalkeeper gloves, I’d really recommend the Renegade GK Eclipse Professional gloves, as these offer excellent protection for finger saves and top of the line contact grip latex.


2. Improved grip on the ball

why goalkeepers wear gloves - improved grip on the ball

In order to make those fine saves you see in a soccer game, goalkeepers need to have a certain level of grip on the ball to grasp it cleanly.

Grip is generated when the goalkeeper’s palms are able to match the shape of the ball and this is possible due to a material known as latex.

Latex is fundamentally a polymer that is similar to synthetic rubber and can display properties of rubber such as flexibility and durability. This material is comprised of thousands of tiny holes that are covered on the surface of the palm.

Upon impact from an incoming shot, these holes will expand accordingly and the palm of the gloves will shape themselves to match the outline of the ball.

As a result, the gloves will produce a suction effect that generates the right amount of friction to get a good grasp on the ball.

Without professional gloves, goalkeepers would be unable to generate the necessary grip required to catch the ball and this could result in more goal-deciding errors.

In wet conditions this is even more impactful as it’s harder to generate grip on slippery surfaces.

So, a goalkeeper playing without gloves would probably be the equivalent a kid trying to catch a wet balloon.

On a separate note, have you ever wondered why goalkeepers spit on their gloves?

Well, this action improves their glove grip as the saliva adds the necessary moisture required to provide that extra stickiness on the latex of the glove.

You can read more about that in the article I linked to.

And as important as it is generating grip from gloves, a goalkeeper’s catching technique also plays a crucial role in catching shots.

You can check out my guide on how to catch a soccer ball, as this piece highlights the main catching technique that goalkeepers should be replicating on the pitch.

Professional goalkeepers tend to train more intensely on this but for any beginners out there, this is a very good starting point.


3. Keeping hands warm

Another less common reason for goalkeepers to wear gloves is to keep their hands warm.

As soccer games are played in different weather conditions, goalkeepers can be affected in one way or another, which may impede their performance levels.

Being in the best condition to perform saves is the ideal situation for goalkeepers, and having to worry about cold hands is a pretty significant stumbling block to their saving chances.


Do goalkeepers have to wear gloves?

On the matter of whether goalkeepers have to wear gloves, it all comes down to personal preferences as it’s not really necessary for them to wear them.

An example of this was evident in the quarter-final of Euro 2004, when Portugal’s former goalkeeper Ricardo took off his gloves before a penalty shootout.

Take a look at this video:

In this particular case, Ricardo’s decision to take off his gloves was a tactic to boost his confidence as he said:

“I felt that I had to do something after conceding three penalties all in the centre of the goal. Taking the gloves off was what occurred to me at that moment and I did it to try and motivate myself and to put Vassell off.”

Source – The Guardian

This is one of the only records in top-flight football of a goalkeeper intentionally taking off their gloves, and in Ricardo’s case it yielded unconventional results.


Are there any official goalkeeper glove rules that exist?

According to FIFA’s rulebook, there is no rule or regulation that states that goalkeepers must wear gloves.

The whole topic regarding mandatory goalkeeping equipment such as gloves is quite open, leaving the decision to be made by the goalkeepers themselves.

For a more in-depth breakdown of the rules why not check out the FIFA equipment regulations.


Final thoughts

That brings me to the end of this post!

Not only are goalkeeper gloves here to stay in the game of soccer, they provide important health and performance benefits for the goalkeepers that wear them during matches.

I’ll now just offer a quick recap of the article topic.

The primary reasons for goalkeepers wearing gloves are to provide basic hand and wrist protection; and enhance grip on the ball. Additionally, goalkeepers may wear gloves to keep warm when playing in cold weather.

Having said all that, I’d highly recommend that you look through our article on the best goalkeeper gloves that we’ve reviewed.

See if you can find something that matches your taste.


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Samuel Waihenya
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