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Articles: Football


Association football, commonly known as football or soccer, is a game based on the simple concept of using any part of the body, except for the hands or arms, to direct a ball into a designated goal area. The game is played by two teams of eleven players who must move the ball around the field of play by dribbling it with their feet or passing it to other players. One player, known as a goalkeeper, must try to stop the ball entering the goal and is the only player allowed to touch the ball with their hands. Although individual skill is required, team strategy also has an important role to play in overcoming the opposition.

The game of football has been played in various formats throughout history but the roots of professional association football (sometimes referred to as soccer) can be traced back to 1888 when the Football League was founded in England. Many other variations of football have evolved around the world and are known as football codes. Some of these other forms of football such as rugby football or American football, allow players to use their hands during play.

Due to the influence of the British Empire in the nineteenth century, association football became a popular pastime all around the globe. During the twentieth century, the sport continued to grow in popularity and today, no other ball game in the world has more participants or spectators.

A football match

The game of football involves two teams, each consisting of 11 players. A team may use up to three additional players as substitutes but cannot have more than 11 players on the field at any time. One player from each team must play as a goalkeeper and try to prevent the ball from entering the goal. The goalkeeper is the only player who is permitted to handle the ball, providing they do so within a designated penalty area.

The other 10 players are known as outfield players and are spread across the pitch in defensive, midfield and attacking positions. These players can pass the ball to each other, or attempt to direct the ball into the opposing goal, using any part of the body except their arms or hands.

Football is normally played outdoors on a rectangular grass (or artificial grass) surface known as a pitch. The longer sides, which have to be equal in length, are known as touchlines; while the shorter sides, which also have to be equal, are known as goal lines. Although there is no standard size for a football pitch, the preferred measurement is 105 by 68 metres.

The official guidelines state that the touchlines must be within 90 and 120 m in length and the goal lines must be within 45 and 90m. To avoid teams having a square pitch, the guidelines also state that the length of the touchline must be greater than the length of the goal line. The football pitch is marked out using white lines and contains various other markings including a goal area, penalty area and centre circle.

A goal is placed at the centre of each goal line and consists of two upright posts joined at the top by a crossbar to form a frame. The frame can be made from wood, metal or any other approved material but must be white in colour. The goal posts must have a space of 7.32 metres between them and the inner edge of the crossbar must be 2.44 metres above the ground. Nets are normally attached to the goals but they are not a legal requirement.

Football is played using an air-filled ball with a circumference of 68–70 cm and a weight of 410–450 g. The ball is normally covered in leather and must be inflated to a pressure of 0.6 to 1.1 atmospheres (8.7–16.1 psi).

Football players wear special boots fitted with studs or blades on the sole to give extra grip when playing on the grass surfaces. Modern football boots are also custom-designed with specialist materials to help players kick the ball with more accuracy. As well as football boots, goal keepers also wear gloves to make it easier to catch the ball.

How a Football match begins

At the start of a football match, the teams begin in opposite halves of the pitch facing towards their opponents goal. The match begins when one team kicks-off from a spot in the centre of the pitch. The spot is contained within a 9.15 metre centre circle and the other team can only enter this area once the ball has been kicked. The kick-off is decided by the toss of a coin.

The match is officiated by a referee, who follows the run of play on the pitch; and two assistants, who patrol opposite touchlines. In some competitions, two additional assistants are used on the goal lines. The referee also oversees the coin toss which also involves the captains from each team.

The main rules of the game

A football match is played in two halves of 45 minutes each and whoever scores the most goals over the full 90 minutes wins the game. If the goal count is level, the match is drawn. In a league situation a team receives three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss.

If the match is part of a knockout cup competition, there are no points awarded; instead, the winning team progresses to the next round. In these games, a drawn match can result in 30 minutes of extra play, a replay or a penalty shoot-out until a winner is decided.

A team is awarded a goal when the ball is manoeuvred into the opposition’s goal by any legal means. The outfield players can pass the ball to each other but they must not use their hands or arms deliberately. The other can team win possession by intercepting the ball or tackling an opponent without using excessive force or foul play. If the referee deems that foul play has been used, he can issue a yellow or red card and award a free-kick to the other team. A foul can also result in a free penalty shot on goal if the offence occurs within the penalty area.

If a player receives two yellow cards (for foul play) or one red card (for excessive or dangerous foul play), they have to leave the pitch and cannot be replaced. The team of that player has to continue with only 10 players.

The rules of association football, known as the Laws of the Game, were originally compiled in 1863 by the English Football Association and have been adjusted throughout the twentieth century. Today, the game is governed at international level by FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).

Strategy and tactics when playing football

As well as having 11 players on the pitch, professional football clubs also employ additional staff to manage and train the players. The head of the coaching staff is normally referred to as a manager or Head Coach. The manager will decide what tactics, formation and strategy the team will use during the game.

The tactics employed by different managers can vary greatly with some preferring an attacking approach and others adopting a more defence-minded attitude. An offensive team that likes to push players forward will try to create many scoring chances, but can often be vulnerable to a fast counter-attack from a defensive side. A defensive team will often concede possession and wait for opportune moments to mount an effective counter-attack.

When two attacking teams meet, it can create an exciting game where the play moves from one end to the other with great frequency. If two defensive teams go head to head it can be more like a chess match where more patience is required to expose the weakness of your opponent.

Competing in football

Most countries involved in professional football have domestic leagues organised by their national associations. These leagues are made up of football clubs that represent different towns, cities or local districts within the country. In most league systems, all the teams will play each other twice in a season and the team with the most points will become champion.

Domestic teams may also qualify via their league system to compete against teams from other countries in continental competitions. Continental tournaments can involve a combination of league and knockout formats.

The very best players can also be selected to represent their national football team and compete for places at major international tournaments. The major international tournaments feature a league-style qualification system, to determine the participants, followed by a round-robin group stage; and a final knockout stage to decide the overall winner.

World football is governed by FIFA, an international organisation that organises the major tournaments and oversees the 6 continental football confederations and the 209 national associations.

The biggest international tournament organised by FIFA is the World Cup which is held every four years at different locations around the globe. Every country with a national team has the opportunity to qualify for this tournament and become football world champions.

Each continent also has a major tournament to decide the overall continental champions and all the winners compete in an inter-continental tournament called the Confederation Cup.

Site reference: Football: World football governing bodies

Site reference: Football: Competitions and organisers

Betting on football

There are more than 600 professional football competitions played throughout the world. On any given Saturday or Sunday the total number of matches played exceeds 1000 and on each weekday there can be several hundred fixtures scheduled all around the globe. As a result there is a huge amount of football betting options available every day.

The most popular football bet is to predict the overall outcome of the game; this could mean backing a home win, an away win or a draw (Winner market). Another popular alternative is the Asian Handicap bet. In this bet, the less-favoured team is given an advantage in the form of a goal, or a fraction of a goal (Asian Handicap market). As well as backing the outright result, many punters like to bet on the result at the end of each half (Half Time / Full Time market).

Also popular is the goal betting market where a prediction of how many goals will be scored in a game is required. Odds are offered on whether the total amount of goals will be over or under a certain figure, such as 2.5 (Under/Over 2.5 goal market). A fractional amount is used to ensure that the bet can only win or lose.

Other popular bets include predicting the final match score (Correct Score market) or the exact number of goals that will be scored (Total Goals market).