All You Need to Know about the World’s Favourite Sport: Football

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Football, also known as Association Football or Soccer, is a field sport where two teams of 11 players each, try to manoeuvre the ball into the opposition’s goal using any part of their bodies except for the hands and arms. Only the goalkeepers of the teams are permitted to handle the ball, albeit within the penalty area around the goal only. The team that scores the most goals is the winner of the contest.

Football is the world’s most popular sport, both in terms of participants and followers. The sport is simple in its principal rules and requires minimal equipment to be played, thus leading to its huge popularity.

Moreover, the sport can be played on almost any playing surface (playing fields, lawns, artificial turfs, tar or beaches) or playing condition (rain, fog, snow, spring), further leading to its global reach.

In fact, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), football’s global governing body, estimated that there were roughly 250 million football players across the world with a further 1.3 billion ‘interested’ in the sport.

The total viewership for the 2018 World Cup final between France and Croatia was watched live by over 1.12 billion people, with FIFA claiming that a combined 3.572 billion viewers tuned in to watch the extravaganza for at least a minute from June 14 when it started.

Did you Know?

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Championship club Aston Villa was once more successful than Manchester United before Sir Alex Ferguson took charge in 1986. By that time, Villa had already won 7 domestic league titles and FA Cups, 3 League Cups and the European Cup. However, United went on to win 20 league titles (overall), 12 FA Cups, and 4 European Cup.

Football History

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Historically, football was played in some form or the other in at least half a dozen different games in varying to different degrees. It can be safely said that people have been kicking the humble ball about for thousands of years.

The earliest traces of the game can be dated back in the second and third centuries BC in the Han Dynasty China in an exercise from a military manual. Back then, football was called as Tsu’ Chu and involved kicking a leather ball that was filled with feathers and hair. The posts were made of long bamboo canes.

Another variation of the game can be found in neighbouring Japan – the Japanese Kemari. The sport that began roughly 500-600 years later is still being played today.

The only major difference between Tsu Chu and Kemari is that the latter lacks the competitive element of former with the least struggle for possession involved. The sport involves a group of players standing in a circle and passing the ball to each other without letting it touch the ground.

The third major variation of football, and much closer to the modern sport, was the Roman game called ‘Harpastum’. Harpastum was played out with a relatively smaller ball between two teams on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a center line.

The objective of the game was to get the ball past the opposition’s boundary lines. It involved players passing the ball between themselves with trickery being the order of the day. The game enjoyed popularity for 700-800 years before the Romans took it to Britain.

It was there that the modern sport of Football evolved. The modern history of the football, however, spans over a century. It all started in 1863 in England, as the ‘rugby football’ and ‘association football’ split and the Football Association (F.A.) was born, becoming the sport’s first official governing body.

Dimensions and Equipment Rules

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1. Field surface

Matches may be played on a natural surface or an artificial surface. The colour of the artificial surfaces should be green.

2. Field markings

The field of play should be rectangular and demarcated with lines. These lines represent the boundaries of the play area. The two longer boundary lines are known as touch lines whereas the two shorter lines are known as the goal lines. The length of the goal lines should be between 90 m to 120 m. The length of touch lines should be between 45 m to 90 m.

The thickness of these lines should not exceed 12 cm and should always be the constant for all the lines on the pitch.

The field of play is divided into two halves through a halfway line. The half line joins the midpoints of the two touch lines and is of the same length as the goal line.

The centre mark of this line is marked and the play starts from this mark.
A circle of 9.15 m radius is marked around this mark, indicating no opposition players should enter it during the kickoff.

3. Penalty Area

Two lines of 16.5 m each are drawn at right angles to the goal line from the inside of each goal post. These lines extend into the field of play for 16.5 m and are then joined by a line drawn parallel with the goal line. The area thus bounded by these lines along with the goal line makeup penalty area.

Within this penalty area, a penalty mark is made at a distance of 11 m from the midpoint between the goalposts and equidistant to both of them.

An arc of a circle 9.15 m in radius is drawn from the center of each penalty mark and outside the penalty area.

4. Flag Posts

A flag post is used to differentiate between a corner kick and a throw in. It should not be less than 1.5 m high and should be placed at all the four corners. It should be made of a non-pointed top.

5. Goals

A goal should be placed at the center of each goal line. A standard goal consists of two upright posts, also called as the ‘woodwork’, that are equidistant from the corner flag posts.

They are joined at the top with a horizontal crossbar. The goalposts and crossbar should be made of metal, wood, or any other approved material.

They may be square, round rectangular, or elliptical in shape but should not be dangerous to players.

The distance between the posts should be exactly 7.32 m with the distance of the lower edge of the crossbar from the ground being 2.44 m.

Also Read | U-20 Indian Football Team shocks Argentina with a miracle

Ball Specification

A standard soccer ball should be perfectly spherical in shape. It may be made of leather or any other suitable material.

The circumference of the ball should be more than 68 cm but not exceed 70 cm. It should not weigh less than 410 g and more than 450 gm.

The pressure in the ball should be between 0.6 – 1.1 atmosphere (or 600 – 1,100 g/cm2) at sea level.

Football Jersey

A standard football jersey includes a shirt, a pair of shorts. If undershorts or undergarments are worn, they should be of colours matching with the jersey colour. The jersey colour of goalkeeper should be distinguishably different from the on-field players. Moreover, the apparel colour of two opposite teams should be contrasting.

Football Rules

Periods of play

A standard football match lasts two equal halves of 45 minutes each, excluding the extra time.

Half-time interval

Players are entitled to an interval at half-time. The standard half-time interval should not exceed 15 minutes. If this duration has to be altered, the consent of the referee is necessary.

Also read5 Current Indian Football Players Who are Giving Their Best

Extra Time (or Injury Time)

The referee has the power to allow the play to extend over the threshold period of 45 minutes all time lost either through:

  • substitutions
  • assessment of players’ injury and/or his/her subsequent removal for treatment
  • time wasting
  • field invasion
  • any other cause

Substitution

Substitution is a procedure of replacing an on-field player with the one on the bench due to injury, strategic or any other reasons. Teams can make a maximum of 3 substitutions per game, irrespective of any circumstances.

Both the teams should submit the names of the substitutes to the referee prior to the commencement of the match.

Procedure of Substitution

  • the referee should be informed before any proposed substitution is made
  • the substitute should enter the field of play only after the player being replaced has left
  • the substitute should enter the field of play only from the halfway line and only during any stoppage in the match
  • a player cannot be part of the play again once he/she is substituted

Dropped ball

A dropped ball is a method of restarting the play while the ball is still in play and the referee stops the play for reasons not mentioned in the Laws of the Game. In this, the referee resumes the play by dropping the play with only two opponent teams in the immediate vicinity.

Offside

A player is announced as being in an offside position when he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the last opponent (excluding the goalkeeper). The offside position is calculated from the time the pass was triggered.

Linesman, the primary referee’s assistants, are the ones who continuously discern the players position for offside position.

A player isn’t in an offside position if:

  • he is in his own team’s half of the field of play or
  • he is in line with the second-last opponent

Moreover, it is not an offside if a player receives the ball through a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick.

Although being in an offside position is not an offence directly, the referee can penalize the player in an offside position he interferes with the play, interferes with an opponent, or gains an advantage by being in the said position.

Penalty kick

A penalty kick is a free kick awarded in the penalty area and from the penalty mark, where the awarded team’s player gets a chance of scoring a goal with only the goalkeeper between the posts. A penalty awarded if a foul is committed by the opponent.
No on-field player from either side should enter the penalty area until the player hits the ball.

Cards

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Yellow Card

The yellow card is used by the referee to communicate that a player has been cautioned. Two yellow cards make for a red card.

Red Card

The red card is used by the referee to communicate that a player has been sent off. The player awarded with the red card does not hold any power to challenge the decision. In most of the leagues, a direct red card attracts a suspension from up to three consecutive games, if found guilty.

Direct free kick

A direct free kick is awarded to a team if a foul is committed by the opponent team. The players are allowed to kick the ball in any direction of the field without any intervention from the opponent.

If the ball from a direct free kick enters :

  • the goal opponents’ goal, a goal is awarded
  • the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opponent.

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