The beauty - and popularity - of football lies in its simplicity: two teams of 11
players each attempt to kick a ball into the opposing team’s goal. Compared with
more complex team sports such as cricket or rugby, there are few rules, and matches
are often free-flowing and highly exciting spectacles. Considered the world’s most
popular sport , foot ball is enthusiastically played and watched by men and women
in just about every country in on Earth.
Footballers are mostly lean and athletic with excellent ball skills. They are strong
and balanced runners, able to quickly and repeatedly change direction. Players have
impressive sprinting skills with huge reserves of energy required for 90 minutes
of almost non stop running. As football is a contact sport - players particularly
the goalkeeper - require a degree of courage, especially when tackling or competing
for a header.
The dimensions of the ball are specified in the laws of the Game. If the ball bursts
or becomes defective during the course of a match, play is stopped, and the referee
will request a replacement ball.
Need to Know
Football has been officially known as “association football”since the formation of
the Football Association in 1863. “Soccer” as the sport is also known , was originally
derived from “association”.
A football match is played by two teams of 11 players on a rectangular pitch. The
game consists of two “halves” of 45 minutes separated by a short interval.
According to FIFA’s (Federation Internationale de Football Association) global “big
count” in 2006 there were 265 million male and female players and 5 million officials.
This total of 270 million people actively involved in football represents 4% of the
Football is played on a flat, rectangular grass or artificial turf pitch., the dimensions
and markings for which are shown opposite. The outer extremes of the pitch are delineated
by the touchlines and goal lines, and if the ball wholly crosses any of these lines
it is out of play ( or a goal is scored if the ball crosses the goal line between
the the goalposts). If part of the ball is on the line, it is still in play. While
most matches are played on grass, artificial turf is increasingly used in countries
such as Africa where conservation of natural resources, especially water, is an acute
issue. But whatever the surface, anyone can play social football: all that it needs
is two teams, a ball, two makeshift goals, and a flat playing surface - anything
from a park or field to a street or beach.
This structure consists of two securely anchored vertical goalposts joined along
the top by the horizontal crossbar, all of which are white, if a net is attached
it must be properly supported and not interfere with the goalkeeper.
A football team is divided into forwards,midfielders, defenders and one goalkeeper.
Team members take positions that match their skills and style of play. The main job
of the forwards, or strikers, is to score goals (although any player, including the
goalkeeper,may score a goal). Strikers have excellent speed , a decisive header,
skilful footwork and an accurate shot. The midfielders provide the link between the
defenders and the forwards: their role involves both defensive and attacking play.
Defenders assist the goalkeeper in protecting the goal. These players have an effective
tackle , a powerful kick , and a good header. The goalkeeper, the sole player allowed
to handle the ball, (but only within the penalty area), has good catching and kicking
skills combined with a considerable agility and sharp reflexes. Substitutes are permitted
during a match, but once substituted, a player may not rejoin the game.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Although a team of 11 people plus substitutes takes the field on match-day, leading
football clubs rely on the work of dozens of “back-room” staff to get their first
team primed and ready. Specialist fitness trainers keep the players in physical condition,
while teams of physiotherapists and medics help to keep the players in at their best
and to recover from injury. On the technical side, clubs employ a variety of coaches
to to work with the different sections of the team, while at the helm is the manager,
the chief tactician and team selector.
One of the enduring appeals of the sport is that so little equipment is required.
An informal game can therefore be enjoyed by all people , no matter what their means.
For an official match, it is compulsory for players to wear a shirt with sleeves,
shorts, socks, shinguards and boots. It is forbidden to wear anything , such as jewellery,
that could present a hazard. A player incorrectly attired will be asked to leave
the field by the referee and may only return when the referee has confirmed that
the attire is correct.
FOOTBALL BOOTS. Footballers need comfortable, lightweight, and durable footwear.
On grass, players wear studded boots: on artificial turf, trainers with rubber pimples
on the soles provide good grip.
LEG PROTECTION. Guards protect the shins and are made of plastic, rubber or similar,
and must be covered entirely by the socks.
GLOVES. The goalkeeper wears gloves that provide extra grip when catching the ball.
The back of the glove is breathable and a wrist strap gives extra support.
PLAYING THE GAME - IN ATTACK
Before the match commences, the two teams take their positions in their respective
halves in any one of a multitude of set formations. Play begins with the kick-off,
whereby the ball is placed on the centre-mark and kicked off in any direction by
one of the attackers. Then, very simply, each team attempts to kick the ball into
the opposition’s goal. The ball may be moved about the pitch using any part of the
body except the hands and arms, and the winning team is the one that has scored the
most goals after ninety minutes. If, at the end of play, neither team has scored,
or if both teams have scored the same number of goals, the game is a draw. However,
in order to find a winner, some competitions allow for “extra time” followed by,
if necessary, a penalty shoot-out.
A well-executed pass consists of three elements, correct weighting,(power used) appropriate
direction, and good timing. Three parts of the foot can be used when passing: the
inside for short swift passing, the instep for long, powerful passes; or the outside
for short disguised passes on the run.
Running with the ball under close control, mostly using the outside ant top of the
foot, is known as dribbling. The player dribbling should look up often to assess
attacking options and defensive dangers.
The cross pass, where the ball is quickly moved from the edge of the pitch to the
centre, is used to deliver the ball towards players in attacking positions. Well
hit crosses are very hard to defend against.
As the ball will arrive to the player at a variety of speeds and angles, there are
many shooting techniques. However, the most common method is a low , hard shot struck
off the instep of the boot.
PLAYING THE GAME - IN DEFENCE.
This player saves goals by catching the ball, tipping it over the crossbar or beyond
the goalposts, or punching or kicking it away. The goalkeeper then starts the next
attack ,with a kick or throw.
The job of the defending team is to prevent the attackers from scoring and to win
back possession so as to mount an attack in return. Defenders can do this by intercepting
attacking passes, closing down the space available to the ball holder and other attackers,
close marking of players in the hope of forcing a mistake, and by gaining possession
of the ball directly by tackling. Football teams employ defensive strategies t help
combat attacking moves. One example is the zone defence system, whereby the defenders
are assigned a set area in which to work and mostly move in relation to each other.
Another strategy is man-to-man marking, where each defender is assigned a specific
attacker to mark.
Using the feet to take the ball away from a player is known as tackling. The slide
tackle (opposite) can be highly effective, but the defenders timing must be perfect,
and there is a risk of conceding a foul.
When a defender intercepts an attackers pass, this is often the result of the pressure
applied by the defending team as a whole, through persistent marking and closing
If the referee stops play for an infringement, or if the ball crosses a touch or
goal line, a predetermined, fixed move - such as a corner kick or a throw-in - executed
by the attacking team follows. This is called a set-piece. As a high percentage of
goals come from set piece, the attacking team will take up positions and adopt patterns
of movement designed to produce a goal, while the defending team will do everything
in its power to stop this happening. For example, when a free kick is awarded near
the goal, the defenders might set up a line of players (called a defensive wall)
in front of the kicker to try and block the ball. For a throw-in or corner kick
the attackers look for free space to run into and the defenders closely mark the
When the ball crosses the goal line having last touched a defender, a corner kick
is awarded. The kick is taken from the corner arc nearest the point where the ball
crossed the line, and a goal may be scored directly
There are two types of free kick. With a direct free kick - awarded for a more serious
offence, such as tripping - the kicker may score a goal directly. For an indirect
free kick - given for a less serious offence such as obstruction - a player other
than the one taking the kick must touch the ball before a goal can be scored.
If any of the offences that would normally incur a direct free kick are committed
inside the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded. Until the kick has been taken,
the goalkeeper must remain on the goal line. Because a goal is the expected result
from a penalty kick, there can be enormous pressure on the kicker, particularly in
a penalty shoot-out.
The referee has full and final authority during a match. This includes enforcing
the 17 laws of the Game and acting as match timekeeper. The referee may play “advantage”
by allowing play to continue after an offence if it is felt that to stop play would
disadvantage the team offended. A good referee will encourage a free-flowing good-spirited
If a serious breach of the Laws of the Game has occurred, such as showing dissent,
the referee may issue either a caution (indicated by a yellow card) or send the player
from the field (indicated by a red card). Two yellow cards in the same match automatically
incur a red card.
PLAYING BY THE RULES
In 1863 the first uniform set of rules for football were devised. Today there are
17 Laws of the Game and these are administered by the Federation Internationale de
Football Association (FIFA). They have been modified over time, including the most
recent revision in 2006. The Laws regulate everything from the dimensions of the
field of play and the equipment used to the referee’s role, and set pieces.
COMMITTING A FOUL. Law 12 covers fouls and misconduct and the associated sanctions.
A direct free kick is awarded if a player kicks, trips, jumps at, charges, strikes,
or pushes an opponent with reckless or excessive force, the same also applies if
a player (except the goalkeeper) handles the ball, makes contact with the opponent
before the ball during a tackle, or holds or spits at an opponent. An indirect free
kick is awarded if a player impedes an opponent, stops the goalkeeper throwing or
rolling or plays in a dangerous way. It is also given for a variety of infringements
specific to the goalkeeper, for example if this player takes more than six seconds
to release a ball held with the hands.
If a defender tackles the player rather than the ball, this is a foul. Because it
is difficult to play the ball first when tackling from behind, tackles are best made
from the front or side. A mis-timed side tackle (opposite) can easily result in a
If one player holds another’s clothing or person, this is a foul. Referees keep a
sharp watch for holding, which is very frustrating for the player held.
THE OFFSIDE LAW
Law 11 “Offside” is probably the most controversial and regularly modified rule in
football. According to FIFA’s Laws of The Game 2006 “A player is in an offside position
if he is nearer to his opponents goal line than both the ball and the second last
opponent”. Or, put another way, , if there are not two defenders ( one of which will
usually be the goalkeeper) between an attacker and the goal line, then the attacker
is offside. For offside offences, an indirect free kick is awarded. Although it is
not against the Laws to be in an offside position , it is an offence if - when the
ball is played by a team-mate - a player gains an advantage from being offside or
interferes with play or an opponent while offside. A player receiving the ball directly
from from a goal kick, throw-in, or corner cannot be offside. The Law was introduced
to prevent attackers hovering around the goal area, which could result in games consisting
mostly of long kicks from one end of the pitch to the other - an unappealing proposition
for spectators and players.
Footballers must be able to control the ball - mainly with the feet but also with
any other body part except the hands and arms. A team that controls the ball retains
possession. Key techniques include kicking and passing, close control (including
“trapping” where the ball is stopped “dead” with the feet, head, chest or thigh)running
with the ball (dribbling) shooting, tackling and heading. To become a leading player,
it is essential that the following skills are mastered
The player’s chest can be used to control or even pass the ball. When controlling
the ball, the chest ‘cushions’ the ball as it falls; when used to pass the chest
is thrust out to meet the oncoming ball.
The thigh is used for balls arriving above knee height but too low for the chest.
To control the ball, the thigh is lowered slightly before impact to cushion the ball.
Kicking the ball before it bounces is called a volley. Because the ball is not brought
under control prior to being kicked, the direction is less easy to manage, but the
ball is redistributed very quickly.
This is an important skill in football because it gives the player the opportunity
to reach a ball too high to be controlled by means other than the head. It is mainly
used for passing and shooting at goal.
When a player in possession is positioned between the ball and a defender, this is
known as shielding or “screening”. So long as the person in possession is playing
the ball, then this is perfectly legal.
BENDING THE BALL. To curve the ball from right to left ( from the players perspective)
using the right foot, the player strikes the bottom half of the right side of the
ball with the inside of the boot. To curve the ball from left to right with the right
foot , the player strikes the left side of the ball with outside of the boot. In
both cases the foot and leg follow through in the opposite direction from that of
the intended flight path so as to slice across the ball thus imparting a spin on
A team’s on-field formation is represented by a set of three or four numbers. For
example 4-4-2 describes four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards. The numbers
always add to ten because the goalkeeper is not included in the formation. A team
usually starts a match with a formation based on its style of play but according
to the match situation, this might change. If, for example, a team with a lead does
not want to risk conceding a goal it might employ a more defensive formation. There
are many combinations and shown below are three common examples.
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Made of a durable synthetic material football shorts allow good freedom of movement
. While shirts may feature stripes, hoops or other patterns, shorts are usually one
Usually made of polyester, a football shirt is light and breathable. All the players
on a team (except the goalkeeper) wear the same colours and patterns.
Socks and shin guards.
The stockings must completely cover the shin guard, which is now a compulsory part
of the players equipment
Studded or cleated, football boots provide increased grip on sometimes muddy and
If player B passes the ball forward and player A moves beyond the last defender before
B strikes the ball player A is offside