Here’s What This Small Rectangle In The Penalty Box Really Represents

As a football fan, you can help but notice that there are two drawn boxes on the field. The larger one, we all know as the Penalty box and the smaller one within. You may wonder what purpose this smaller box serves. But that smaller box is very important in football matches. 

In this article, we will explore the importance of this small rectangle within the penalty box and its various functions in the game.

What is the small rectangle in the penalty box?

The small rectangle in the penalty box is commonly referred to as the goal area or “six-yard box.”  It is a restricted zone that plays a vital role in defining specific actions within the game of football. 

On the pitch, this area is defined by two lines originating 6 yards from the goalposts and extending another 6 yards into the field from the goal-line. The lines are joined to form the perimeter of this rectangular space within the larger 18-yard Penalty area.

Why is this small rectangle important?

The small rectangle in the penalty box holds significant importance in the game of football. Its relevance can be attributed to several reasons, as defined by the Laws of the Game established by the International Football Association Board (IFAB):

Determines the position of the penalty box

The goal area serves as a defining element in positioning the penalty box on the field. By establishing the dimensions of the goal area, which extends 6 yards into the pitch, the penalty box’s width is determined as 18 yards on either side of the goal. 

Thus, the line markers can use the goal area to determine how far and wide the entire penalty box should be drawn.

Indirect free kicks

When an attacking team is awarded an indirect free kick within the goal area due to an infringement by the defending team, the kick must be taken from the point on the line parallel to the goal line nearest to where the foul occurred. This rule ensures that the ball is not placed closer to the goal line, thus providing a fair advantage to the defending team.

Remember that an indirect freekick will be awarded within the box after the goalkeeper makes a mistake in handling the ball. This includes: 

  1. Violating the Back Pass rule, which states that goalkeepers must not handle the ball once it is deliberately passed backwards from a teammate via kicking or throw-in. Once a goalkeeper picks up the ball again after receiving a pass from a teammate, an indirect free kick will be awarded unless the teammate passes the ball with another part of the body (head, chest, etc.)
  2. Holding the ball for any more than six seconds. Some goalkeepers might be negligent of this simple rule and concede an indirect freekick.
  3. Picking up the ball after putting it on the ground for a goal kick will also be penalized with an indirect freekick. 

The rules were put in place to avoid situations like these. 

As a goalkeeper, you must be aware of these rules to avoid conceding unnecessary disadvantages for your team. Indirect freekicks are not easy to score, but they could pile on a lot of pressure on the team.

Goal kicks

During a goal kick, the defending team is permitted to place the ball anywhere within the goal area before the kick is taken. Opponents must remain outside the penalty area and maintain a distance of at least 10 yards from the ball until it is in play. 

This ensures that the defending team has ample space to initiate their play without interference. By placing the ball within the goal area during a goal kick, the defending team gains the advantage of creating a strategic starting position for their play.


In a nutshell, the small rectangle within the penalty box, also known as the goal area or “six-yard box,” is pretty important in football. It not only determines the position of the penalty box but also plays a crucial role in the execution of indirect free kicks and goal kicks. 

Understanding its significance helps ensure fair play and strategic moves on the field. So, whether it’s placing the ball during a goal kick or taking an indirect free kick, this little rectangle plays a big role in the game of football.

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