One thing that I’ve always found satisfying about playing soccer is making a last-minute slide tackle on an opponent just as they are about to take a shot. But when you watch soccer, you notice that sometimes a referee will penalize a player for making a slide tackle, and sometimes they won’t. So, can you slide tackle in soccer?
Slide tackles are allowed in soccer, and any soccer player can attempt one. A referee will only penalize the tackle if a player attempts one in a manner that is judged by the referee to be careless, reckless, or using excessive force.
The rules of soccer don’t specifically mention slide tackles, but they do make clear what a player can and can’t do. Keep reading, and you’ll find out in what circumstances a slide tackle is permitted as well as discovering how to do a one effectively.
When a Slide Tackle Is Legal and When It’s Not
The rules of soccer don’t cover each and every action a player can make during a game. Instead, they give an overview of how the game should be played and guidance on how the referee should treat specific actions.
When it comes to a slide tackle, the manner of the player making the slide tackle is more important than the slide tackle itself.
Law 12 of the rules of soccer says that if one player tackles another player in:
“…a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless, or using excessive force.”IFAB Laws of the Game
Then a free-kick should be awarded to the opposing team. [source]
As you can see, this applies to any type of tackle and not just a slide tackle. When a player makes a slide tackle, the referee is ultimately responsible for making a judgment over whether the slide tackle falls into one of these categories. If it doesn’t, then there is no reason to penalize a player for making a slide tackle.
Slide Tackle Injuries
What counts as careless, reckless, or using excessive force is, roughly speaking, anything that does not consider the welfare of the player’s opponent and risks causing them an injury. This lack of consideration is why you often see slide tackles penalized by the referee.
A poorly timed slide tackle puts a player at high risk of being injured. In fact, researchers have said that highly aggressive moves, such as slide tackles during soccer games, are one of the leading causes of injury in soccer players. [source]
Referees are aware of this and will be on the lookout for players who commit a slide tackle in a reckless manner, such as going into a slide tackle with their studs up. This causes unnecessary risk to the soccer player on the receiving end of the tackle.
But remember, this doesn’t make a slide tackle illegal. A slide tackle is a perfectly legal move in soccer as long as the player making the tackle follows the rules designed to protect the opposing player.
When to Slide Tackle and When Not To
To clarify what we are talking about when we talk about a slide tackle in soccer:
A slide tackle is an attempt to tackle an opposition player by sliding along the floor towards them with one leg outstretched. A player performs a slide tackle in an attempt to take the ball away from their opponent.
A successful slide tackle is a lot of fun. Especially on a rainy day when you can slide for ages!
But for a slide tackle to be effective, it has to be timed perfectly. If you launch into a slide tackle and discover you have mistimed it, then your opponent may have scored a goal or be 10 yards in front of you before you’re back on your feet again.
A slide tackle should be a last-ditch attempt to get the ball. Whenever possible, try and stay on your feet when attempting to tackle an opponent. Staying on your feet will give a far higher possibility of correcting any mistakes made in an attempted tackle.
Once a player has committed to a slide tackle, there’s no possibility of a quick response to an opponent if they still have the ball in their possession.
I would also not recommend attempting a slide tackle in the penalty area unless you are confident you will succeed and connect with the ball.
It’s one thing to mistime a slide tackle and give away a free-kick outside the penalty area, but a mistimed slide tackle within the penalty area will likely lead to you conceding a penalty kick against your team.
However, weigh up your options. Sometimes the risk of a penalty kick is preferable to the risk of a guaranteed goal. At least with the penalty kick, there’s a chance your team’s goalie my save the shot!
Youth soccer, high school soccer, and u10, u11, and u12 soccer often ban slide tackles due to the high risk of injury to the players. However, each soccer league at this level has jurisdiction over its own rules, so it is best to check with the individual league to confirm this.
When a Slide Tackle Is the Best Choice
I would suggest there are three situations where a player should consider a slide tackle.
- When a faster player than you has the ball and is about to get away from you
- When an opponent is about to take a shot at goal
- To reach the ball before an opponent.
If you’re defending against an opponent who can run faster than you, stay on your feet and as close to them as you can when they have possession of the ball. Staying close to them allows you to keep constant pressure on them and gives you time to pick the right moment to attempt a tackle.
Sometimes you will find yourself defending against a player who you know is faster than you and given half a chance will disappear down the touchline away from you. In this situation, a slide tackle my be your only option for stopping them before they get away from you.
But make that decision carefully and stay aware of what other players are around you. It may be the case that another player on your team is close to you, and they are in a better position to make a tackle on your opponent if they get away from you. In this situation, it is better to leave the player to deal with it rather than risk a slide tackle.
Another occasion where a slide tackle may make the most sense is when an opponent is about to take a shot on goal. Scoring more goals than the opposition is the aim of the game of soccer, and a team must do all they can to stop the opposition scoring against them.
If an opponent is in front of the goal with the ball at their feet, launching into a slide tackle may be the only way a defender can get to the ball before the player takes a shot.
The last situation where a player may use a slide tackle is to reach the ball before an opponent when both players are in a race from the ball.
If it looks like both players will get to the ball at the same time, then one player may throw themselves forward in a slide tackle to reach the ball before their opponent. This action can make all the difference between an opponent getting away from them or not.
How to Slide Tackle
So, now we’ve looked at if and when you can slide tackle, let’s talk about how to slide tackle.
To start with, check out this compilation of the best slide tackles and be inspired by how effective they can be.
My Top Tips for Performing a Slide Tackle
Slide don’t jump
When they are first learning how to slide tackle, many people make the mistake of jumping at the ball rather than staying low and sliding towards the ball.
There are two reasons why a player should slide and not jump into a tackle.
- Jumping into a slide tackle is usually considered reckless and dangerous by the referee, and the player is likely to be penalized.
- Jumping rather than sliding into a slide tackle offers far less control, and the player is more likely to make a mistake.
Timing is everything
Completing the perfect slide tackle requires perfect timing. A moment too late or too early and the player attempting the tackle may only succeed in crashing into their opponent.
Make sure you judge the speed of the ball and your opponent as you begin to slide, allowing you to make contact with the ball at the exact moment you intended to.
The best way to improve in this area is to keep practicing. Find a friend or teammate and get out on the training field. Ask your friend to dribble the ball up and down the ground while you run alongside them practicing your slide tackles.
The more you don this, the better you’ll get.
Hook the ball
As you slide into the tackle, aim to hook the ball with your foot. You don’t want to prod it with your toe or the bottom of your cleats.
Hooking the ball gives you much more control over the ball as you come into contact with it. It gives you multiple advantages, such as:
- being able to keep the ball close to you after you have regained possession of the ball
- Placing a barrier behind the ball if your opponent gets there foot to it and tries to kick the ball forwards
- It allows you to put the maximum power behind the ball if you are attempting to kick the ball away during the slide tackle.
Don’t slide tackle from behind
To perform a successful slide tackle, a player should avoid sliding in from behind their opponent. A slide tackle from behind an opponent almost always results in the referee penalizing the player.
Near the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the reason for penalizing a player for a slide tackle is due to the manner of the tackle not because soccer has banned slide tackles.
A soccer player can slide tackle an opponent from behind if they can perform the move without engaging in careless or reckless behavior. Occasionally you will see a soccer player achieve this, but it’s not something you see regularly.
If you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to either find an alternative way to tackle the player or let another player on your team make the tackle. The risk of giving away a free-kick is too high.
Keep your trailing leg out of the way.
When sliding into a tackle, it is crucial to leave your trailing leg out of the way. The last thing you need is to make perfect contact with the ball with one foot while your other leg comes into contact with your opponent, knocking them over and giving them a free-kick.
As you slide into the tackle, make sure you keep your trailing leg tucked under your leading leg or body. Keep it as far away from your opponent as possible.
Hopefully you now feel you understand when it is acceptable to slide tackle an opponent.
To find more out about the rules of soccercheck out my Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer.
Find out when you can use your arms in soccer by clicking here
Or click here to find out if it’s OK to tackle from behind in soccer.