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Association Football (Soccer)

Association Football (Soccer)

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a team sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. It is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to score by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal. Association football is governed internationally by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA; French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association), which organises World Cups for both men and women every four years. The rules of association football were codified in England by the Football Association in 1863 and the name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other forms of football played at the time, specifically rugby football. Association football is now usually called football in the United Kingdom and mainly soccer in Canada and the United States. People in Australia, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand use either or both terms, although national associations in Australia and New Zealand now primarily use "football" for the formal name.

The laws of the game are determined by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The board was formed in 1886 after a meeting in Manchester of The Football Association, the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association of Wales, and the Irish Football Association. FIFA, the international football body, was formed in Paris in 1904 and declared that they would adhere to Laws of the Game of the Football Association. The growing popularity of the international game led to the admittance of FIFA representatives to the International Football Association Board in 1913. The FIFA Women's World Cup was inaugurated in 1991 and has been held every four years since, while women's football has been an Olympic event since 1996.

Laws of the Game: Association football is played in accordance with a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game. IFAB currently acknowledges 17 laws of soccer that are the standard for any professional or international match played. They are as follows:

Law 1: The Field of Play: Soccer can be played on either grass or artificial turf, but the surface must be green in color. The field must be rectangular in shape, and distinctly marked by two short goal lines and two long-touch lines.  The field is divided into halves, separated by the halfway line, which runs from the midpoints of each touchline. At the midpoint of the halfway line is a marked center point surrounded by a lined center circle with a radius of 10 yards. Opposing players are not allowed to enter this circle during the possessing team’s kick-off. The length of the touch line must be greater than the length of the goal line.

Law 2: The Ball: A soccer ball must be spherical in shape and made of leather or another comparable medium. Its circumference must be in the range of 27 to 28 inches. This rule is only applicable for official sanctioned matches, as youth leagues often employ the use of a smaller ball that is better suited to children.

Law 3: The Number of Players: Matches are generally played by two teams of 11 to a side. The goalkeeper is included in the 11-player total. If a team cannot field at least seven players at match time, the game is a forfeit.

Law 4: The Players’ Equipment: All players are required to wear a jersey, shorts, shin guards, socks and cleats. The socks must cover the shin guards entirely. If the referee deems a player’s equipment unsatisfactory, the player can be sent off until the issue is remedied.

Law 5: The Referee: The referee is the authority on the field, and his word is law. If you question a referee’s decision, you can be disciplined further simply for dissent.

Law 6: The Assistant Referees: The assistant referees are primarily responsible for assisting the referee in performing his duties – this includes signaling with a flag when a ball goes of play, when a player is fouled, or when a player is in an offside position.

Law 7: The Duration of the Match: A soccer match is comprised of two 45-minute halves, with extra time added for each at the referee’s discretion. The halves are separated by a half-time period not to exceed 15 minutes. The extra time generally corresponds with the referee’s determination of how much time was taken up due to substitutions and injuries. The amount of extra time is announced and displayed at the half line at the end of each 45-minute period.

Law 8: The Start and Restart of Play: Kick-off is generally determined by a coin toss, whereby the winning team can either choose to start with the ball or choose which goal they would like to attack. The losing team is then afforded whatever choice the winner does not elect to take. Kick-off occurs at the start of each half, and after each goal scored, and is taken at the center of the halfway line. If a team scores a goal, the opposing team is given the kick-off to restart the match.

Law 9: The Ball In and Out of Play: The ball is out of play when it fully crosses either the goal line or the touch line. It is also out of play if the referee stops play for any reason. If, for any reason, the ball strikes the frame of the goal or the referee and remains within the goal and touch lines, it is still in play.

Law 10: The Method of Scoring: A goal is scored when the entire ball has crossed the goal line within the frame of the goal. At the end of the match, the team with the most goals is the winner, barring the circumstantial necessity for extra time.

Law 11: Offside: When an attacking player receives the ball while on his opponents half, he must be level or behind the second to last defender (the last typically being the goalkeeper). However, this rule only applies if he is involved with the play.

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct: A direct free kick is awarded when a player:

  1. Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  2. Trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  3. Jumps at an opponent
  4. Charges an opponent
  5. Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  6. Pushes an opponent
  7. Tackles an opponent
  8. Holds an opponent
  9. Spits at an opponent
  10. Handles the ball deliberately

If any of these are fouls are committed by a player in their team’s penalty area, the opposing team is awarded a penalty kick. Indirect free kicks are awarded if a player:

  1. Plays in a dangerous manner
  2. Impedes the progress of an opponent
  3. Prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his/her hands
  4. Commits any other unmentioned offense

Yellow cards are awarded as a caution or warning to a player and can be issued for the following offenses:

  1. Unsporting behavior
  2. Dissent by word or action
  3. Persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
  4. Delaying the restart of play
  5. Failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick,free kick, or throw-in
  6. Entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission
  7. deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission

Red cards are used to send a player off the field, and can be issued for the following offenses:

  1. Serious foul play
  2. Violent conduct
  3. Spitting at an opponent or any other person
  4. Denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (the goalkeeper being an exception)
  5. Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
  6. Using offensive or abusive language and/or gestures
  7. Receiving a second caution (yellow card) in the same match

Law 13: Free Kicks: Free Kick is broken into two categories, direct and indirect. A direct kick can be shot directly into the opponent’s goal without touching another player. An indirect free kick is indicated by the referee raising his hand during the kick. An indirect kick can only go into the goal if it has subsequently been touched by another player before it enters the goal. The ball must be stationary for both types of kicks.

Law 14: The Penalty Kick: A penalty kick is awarded either when a defensive player fouls an attacking player or commits a handball in his/her team’s penalty area. The penalty kick is placed at the penalty spot, and all players on both teams must remain outside the penalty box during the shot. They may enter the box immediately after the shot is taken. The goalkeeper may move horizontally along the goal line before the shot is taken, but he may not come off the line until the ball is struck.

Law 15: The Throw-In: A throw-in is awarded when the possessing team plays the ball out of bounds over the touchline. While taking a throw-in, a player must release the ball with both hands simultaneously and keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. If these conditions are not met, play is stopped and the throw-in is given to the opposing team. Players are not allowed to score directly off a throw-in.

Law 16: The Goal Kick: A goal kick is awarded when the offensive team plays the ball out of bounds over the defensive team’s goal line. After the ball is out of play, the defender or goalkeeper may place the ball anywhere within the six-yard goal box and kick the ball back into play.

Law 17: The Corner Kick: A corner kick is awarded to the offensive team when the defensive team plays the ball out of bounds over its goal line. The ball is placed within the corner area and is kicked back into play by the offensive team. Players can score directly off a corner kick.

Governing bodies: The recognised international governing body of football (and associated games, such as futsal and beach soccer) is FIFA. The FIFA headquarters are located in Zürich, Switzerland. Six regional confederations are associated with FIFA; these are:

  • Asia: Asian Football Confederation (AFC)
  • Africa: Confederation of African Football (CAF)
  • Europe: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
  • North/Central America & Caribbean: Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
  • Oceania: Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
  • South America: Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol/Confederação Sul-americana de Futebol (South American Football Confederation; CONMEBOL)

National associations oversee football within individual countries. These are generally synonymous with sovereign states, but also include a smaller number of associations responsible for sub-national entities or autonomous regions.

International competitions: The major international competition in football is the World Cup, organised by FIFA. This competition takes place every four years since 1930. The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world as well as the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games.  FIFA Women's World Cup has been held every four years since 1991. After the World Cup, the most important international football competitions are the continental championships, which are organised by each continental confederation and contested between national teams. These are the European Championship (UEFA), the Copa América(CONMEBOL), African Cup of Nations (CAF), the Asian Cup (AFC), the CONCACAF Gold Cup (CONCACAF) and the OFC Nations Cup (OFC). The FIFA Confederations Cup is contested by the winners of all six continental championships, the current FIFA World Cup champions and the country which is hosting the Confederations Cup.

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