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Understanding Football - A beginner's guide

Updated on August 30, 2012

Understanding Football - A beginner’s guide

European Football, also known as Soccer is the most followed game in the world. Around the world children play football in their free time more than any other sport, and in many ways professional footballers are some of the most respected sports’ men in the world. It’s a simple game; two teams try to get the “football” into the other team’s net.

There are two main themes I am going to explore in this article; the first being why many people watch football; and the second being the basic rules of the sport. I write this article for two main reasons; firstly to try to explain why football touches the heart of so many people; and secondly to try and help those girlfriends, wives of families of football lovers to understand the game a little more. In understanding the game a little more hopefully it can help with some bonding for you with your relative / loved one who spends hours a week following the world of football.

Why does football have such a big following?

Soccer is the one industry in the world that all men can relate to. Mostly men, and some women, will follow the sport with more effort and love than they put towards their jobs or families for one simple reason; it’s primal instinct. Sport is a competition; it brings out the very masculine need for superiority and victory. It’s the masculine inner sense of war that is bought out and pacified by watching and taking part in the sport. Battle has always been humanities second favourite pastime, after sex. European football is the perfect solution; it provides several teams from around the world who engage in a “battle” in an arena following stringent rules and the winning team will be treated like gods.

Families will pass down a loyalty to a team; or sometimes people will develop a loyalty based on a specific player due to their skill on the pitch or their social morals. Fans will follow their team’s highs and lows with their whole heart and soul; and when they team loose they feel the pain of defeat, as much as they share in the glory of a victory. There are certain who follow the team with the best chance of victory, known as “victory supporters”.

Men see footballers as the pinnacle of society. They are some of the most highly paid ‘athletes’ in the world, who are in their pride of fitness. Footballers all belong to a club who they play for, they are never independent. They are traded like commodities in a huge business. Many clubs are based in the United Kingdom, some are internationally owned, but they are all there to make a profit. Footballers are bought and sold between teams; their values are truly extraordinary. The most expensive transfer ever was a Portuguese player called Cristiano Ronaldo, he transferred from Manchester United to Real Madrid for a price of £80,000,000.

Footballers are in superb fitness, and spend their lives training, playing matches and earning additional revenue from advertisement. A footballer’s salary can often be in the Millions of pounds per year. They are seen to have a very plush comfortable life. It is not surprising many children aspire to become footballers.

Football: A basic Guide

Football is a very simple game played on a rectangular pitch made of turf (or grass). The image below shows the typical layout of a football field.

The object of the game is for one team, (each consisting of 11 players) to kick the football into the goal on the opposite side of the pitch. Each team will defend one side of the pitch, while attaching the other.

The game lasts for 90 minutes, being split in the middle for a break. During the half time break the players will relax for around fifteen minutes and eat oranges while getting a briefing from their manager before switching sides, and defending / attacking the other side of the pitch for the remainder of the game. There is often additional playing time at the end of the game called ‘stoppage time’ where minutes wasted during the actual game due to injuries or other unforced events can be replayed.

Each team can use only their legs, feet or head to move the ball across the field and force it into the net. The winner of the game is the team the scores the most goals. No player can use their hands to move the ball except the Goalkeeper. Each team has one Goal keeper whose sole purpose is to defend the opposite team from attaching; he can use his hands to defend any ball inside the Penalty area.

There are many rules that affect the cause of play, if a player breaks the rules he is seen as committing a foul. A foul can result in two cards being shown if the foul is serious enough. A yellow card; which represents a warning to the player, and a red card; (usually issued after a warning) which sends the player off the game. This means one team will be down to ten men. No additional player can replace this thrown off player. Some of the most important rules are as follows:

Basic Rules:
The football pitch should be between 90m and 120m long. The football pitch should be between 45m and 90m wide. The football should be made of leather and should be between 410g and 450g in weight. Each team should have a maximum of 11 players of a field (and a minimum of 7) and there can be a maximum of three substitutions per game. Each game should be made up of two halves of 45minutes.

A kick off is taken place from the central line, when a team score a goal, the opposite team gets to kick off from the central line. The team that kicks off to start the match is decided by a coin toss.

The ball is only declared out of play if the referee stops the game. This could be from a foul or from the ball going outside the dimensions of the pitch. Etc.

A player is classified as Offside when they are in the attacking half of the pitch and nearer the goal line then the last defender from the opposition when receiving the ball

If the player in question is actually level with the last opponent, however, then they are not in an offside position.


The following are some examples of fouls (a.k.a. offences) that players can commit. If they commit these fouls they will give a free kick to the opposition or if it’s in the penalty box a penalty.

· Kicking, Tripping, Jumping or Charging at an Opponent

· Striking, Holding or Pushing an opponent

· Tackling an opponent when they don’t have the ball

· Spitting at an opponent

· Using your hand on the ball (deliberately)

A goal keeper can commit a foul by committing the following offences:

· Controlling the ball with hands for over 6 seconds (including touch and release)

· Touching the ball with hands when passed to by a teammate (kick, head or throw)

An indirect free kick may be awarded if a non active player:

· Plays Dangerously

· Obstructs an opponent

· Prevents a goalkeeper from releasing the ball

The referee may show a yellow card for:

· Being unsporting, or rude behaviour

· Persistently breaking the rules

· Delaying the restart of play

· Not standing back enough when opposition is releasing the ball into play

· Entering or exiting the play without permission

The referee may show a red card for:

· Being guilty of a serious foul play or violent act

· Spitting at a player

· Using hands intentionally to stop a goal

· Receiving two Yellow Cards

Free Kicks (and Penalty):

Free kicks are given for certain offences. Opponents are to be at least 10 yards away. A direct free kick is allowed to score; an indirect free kick has to touch another player first. If the free kick is inside the penalty area (known as a penalty) all opponents apart from the goal keeper must be outside the area.

Throw in:

When a player kicks the ball of the pitch; the opposition gets to throw the ball back onto the pitch. The player taking the throw must be off the pitch and must keep his feet firmly on the floor. The goalkeeper cannot receive the ball directly with his hands.

The Goal Kick:

The goal kick is taken when the ball crosses the goal line, but doesn’t enter the goal. The ball is kicked from anywhere within the six yard box by any member of the defending team.

The Corner Kick:

The corner kick is taken when the ball crosses the goal line, but doesn’t enter the goal and is last touched by a member of the defending team. The kick is taken from the corner of the pitch and opponents must stay 10 yards away until the kick is taken.


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