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Yellow Cards and Red Cards

What are they?
Yellow and red cards are used as a means to discipline players for misconduct during the game.  A yellow card is used to caution players, while a red card results in the player's dismissal from the field of play.  Thus, yellow cards are used to punish milder forms of misconduct than red cards.  However, if a player receives two yellow cards in one game, he gets an automatic red card.

When are they used?
A player receives a yellow card for committing any of the following offenses:
  • is guilty of unsporting behavior
  • shows dissent by word or action
  • persistently infringes the Laws of the Game
  • delays the restart of play
  • fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner-kick, free-kick, or throw in
  • enters or re-enters the field of play without the referee's permission
  • deliberately leaves the field of play without the referee's permission
A player receives a red card for committing any of the following offenses:
  • is guilty of serious foul play
  • is guilty of violent conduct
  • spits on an opponent or any other person
  • denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball
  • denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player's goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or penalty kick
  • uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
  • receives a second yellow card in the same match
During the match: A player who receives a yellow card may continue to play in the match.  If a player receives a red card, he is immediately dismissed from the field of play and can play not further part in the match.  The player who is dismissed cannot be replaced; his team must play the remainder of the game with one fewer player.

Post-match: Although rules vary from league to league, yellow cards and red cards are often accompanied by suspensions.  Generally, one red card results in an automatic suspension of one to three games.  Additionally, receiving many yellow cards throughout the season can also result a suspension, depending on the league / tournament.