There are only two types of people – football fans and soon-to-be-football fans. The only thing that stands between the two is a bit of football 101.
Perhaps you are looking to follow the beautiful game closely or even to get into some football playing yourself. Whatever the case, these are the basics you should know about the world’s most popular sport.
What is football?
Football or soccer as it’s called in America is a team sport that is played between two opposing sides using one spherical ball. The game is played on a rectangular field or pitch with two goal posts on each end. During the match, each team tries to put the ball inside the opposing goal without using their hands or arms, except for one player on each side that is defending the goal called the goalkeeper.
There are 11 players on the field per side, 10 field players and one goalkeeper, who as we mentioned before is the only one allowed to use his hands and stays defending the net. Each team is allowed to make three substitutions during the game.
The standard match is a duration of 90 minutes, divided in two halves of 45 minutes each, and the team that puts the ball in the opposing net–the most times (scores the most goals) is the winner. If both teams score the same amount of goals at the end of the match, a draw is declared. The game goes into extra time or a penalty shootout depending on the format of the competition being played,such as knock out stages of tournaments like semi-finals and finals.
A total of 4 referees or officials oversee the game and ensure that rules are followed. One is located inside the pitch called the first official, and follows the action wherever the ball is being played. Two other referees (linesmen) follow the plays along the parallel opposing sidelines and use a flag to signal the first official if they see the ball leave the field, see a foul, or offside play. The fourth referee is located next to the teams benches called the fourth official and is tasked with supervising the Manager’s conduct and other administrative tasks of the game like managing substitutions and game time.
The Basic Rules
There are many rules to the game of football that can change depending on the format, surface or amount of players that are on each team, but it is safe to say that regardless of the form, any game of soccer follows the next basic rules:
Players cannot use their hands or arms to touch the ball, except for the goalkeeper. However, the goalkeeper is only allowed to use his hands inside the 18 yard box located next to his defending goal. Players are not allowed to tackle opposing players without a clear attempt to win the ball over. They are also not allowed to tackle using excessive force. Tackling players who do not have the ball in their possession is also forbidden.
The ball cannot leave the outside markings of the field. If the ball leaves the field, it is given back to the opponents of the player that touched the ball last, and the game restarts with them. A throw-in is awarded if the ball leaves the sidelines. A corner kick is awarded when the ball leaves through the goal line and the last one to touch the ball is the team defending. If the last one to touch the ball is the attacking team, then a goal kick is awarded to the defending team, to put the ball back in play.
There is also an offside rule that prevents players from scoring goals without giving the defenders a fair chance to attempt to stop them. To better explain, according to the official “Laws of the game” rule book from the English Football Association: “an offside infraction is called when a player receives the ball or attempts to receive the ball, from a forward pass from a team mate, inside the opponent’s half of the pitch positioned closer to the opponent’s’ goal line than the second-to-last opposing player, usually meaning the last defender that is in front of the goalkeeper.” (thefa.com, 2017)
If any of these rules are broken or if there is an incident of misconduct, a foul is called and a free kick can be awarded to the team opposite of the one that made the infraction. Depending on how severe the foul is, a yellow or red card can be awarded to the player. According to the official FIFA referee handbook: “A yellow card is awarded for mild severity and a red card for strong severity. If a red card is issued the player is expelled from the game, and his team will be forced to play with one man less on the team, not being allowed to call in a substitute to take his place. If a player receives two yellow cards during the same game, he is automatically issued a red card and is expelled from the game” (Fifa.com, 2017). A penalty kick can also be awarded if this infraction is made by the defending team inside their own penalty area.
So when exactly is a goal scored? As stated by the official FIFA rulebook: “A goal is scored only when the full body of the ball crosses the goal line through the air or on the ground, as long as it goes through the three goal line posts”. (Fifa.com, 2017)
The first thing to note is that not all pitches have the same exact measurements. However official FIFA rules state that “the length of a pitch must be between 90 meters and 120 meters and the width not less than 45 meters and not more than 90 meters.” (fifa.com, 2017)
The goal posts and nets must be placed at each end of the pitch, along the goal lines.
The distance between the posts must be of about 7.32 meters. The distance from the lower part of the crossbar to the ground must measure 2.44 meters. Both the goalposts and the crossbar must also have the same width and depth, which can’t exceed 12 centimeters.
Markers and lines
Inside the football pitch there are several markers and lines that aide the players and the referees to follow the rules, and keep the game flowing correctly way.
- The center mark or circle is located at the midpoint of the pitch, right at the halfway line. This marked circle has a radius of 9.15 meters and is used to execute kick-offs.
- The goal area or small box are two lines that are drawn at right angles to the goal line, 5.5 meters from the inside of each goalpost. These lines extend into the field for a distance of 5.5 meters and are joined by a line drawn parallel with a goal line.
- The penalty area or penalty box are two lines drawn at right angles to the goal line, 16.5 meters from the inside of each goalpost. These lines extend into the field for a distance of 16.5 meters and are joined by a line drawn parallel with a goal line. An arc of a circle with radius of 9.15 meters is also drawn outside of this box. A penalty mark is located inside this box 11 meters from the midpoint between the goalposts. This box is used to determine penalty kicks, and the penalty mark, like its name implies is the spot used to execute it.
The corner arcs are quarter circles with a radius of 1 meter located in each corner of the field. These are used as the spots to execute corner kicks and have flag posts next to them that measure 1.5 centimeters in height.
And most importantly… the ball
Football balls today are usually made of twelve regular pentagonal and twenty regular hexagonal panels positioned in on top of a spherical geometry. The inside of the football is made up of a latex bladder that enables the football to be filled with pressurised air. The panel pairs are stitched along the outside of the ball.
There are 3 different sizes of balls depending on the type of competition:
- Size 3 which has a circumference of 58 centimeters and a weight of 11 to 12 ounces is used for U8, U7, and U6 official competition.
- Size 4 which has a circumference of 63 centimeters and a weight of 12 to 13 ounces and is used for U9, U10, and U11 official competition, as well as for beach soccer, indoor soccer, and futsal.
- Size 5 which has a circumference of 71 centimeters, and a weight of 14 to 16 ounces and is the ball used for competition in U12 and up, including professional play.
Did you know?
The traditional black and white hexagonal ball is called Telstar and was made by Adidas. It made its first appearance during the 1968 European Championship and then it was used in the 1970 World cup in Mexico where it gained popularity and became a symbol for the sport. It was the first ball that used the now standard hexagonal panels. The ball had black colored panels to aid viewers during black and white television broadcasts of football matches. (fifa.com, 2017)