Games similar to soccer have been played around the world since the time of the Ancient Greeks. The sport’s international governing body, FIFA, however, claims that none of these games played outside of Europe were soccer’s true predecessors. The official rules of soccer (or “association football”) were set down in the mid-nineteenth century in England.
Description of the Playing Area
Soccer is played on a rectangular field (“the pitch”) about 120 yards long and 75 yards wide, though this varies depending upon level of competition. The pitch is divided equally length-wise by the half-way line and a center circle (about 20 yards in diameter). Each end of the field has a rectangular penalty area symmetrically surrounding a smaller rectangular goal area, which surrounds a netted goal whose opening is 8 yards wide and 8 feet tall.
A match consists of two 45-minute halves, each of which may be extended by injury time, as determined by the officials. Depending upon the level of play, a tied game may be extended with an additional period of play and/or with a series of penalty kicks to determine the winner.
Each team consists of eleven players, one of which is the goalkeeper, who is the only player allowed to touch the ball with his hands during play. Physical contact between opposing players is allowed, provided it is not unnecessarily rough, willfully injurious, or violent. Players advance the ball toward their opponent’s goal without allowing it to touch their hands or arms. If the goalkeeper takes full possession of a ball in his penalty area, he is awarded a free kick toward the opposite end of the field. A goal is scored when the ball is kicked or headed into the goal completely over the goal line.
One referee and two linesman maintain player compliance with the rules. Possession is reversed and a free kick awarded each time a player is violates the rules. Examples of such violations include rough play, hand or arm contact with the ball, and playing an offside ball. Rough play may be additionally penalized first with a yellow card and, on a second incident, with a red card and ejection from the game.
Any time a ball is kicked or headed across a boundary line (but not into the goal), possession is taken from the team that sent the ball out of bounds. In the special case in which the defending team propels the ball over its own end line, possession is given to the attacking team in the corner closest to the place the ball went out of bounds, and a free kick (called a “corner kick”) is awarded.
Soccer Play Worldwide
Soccer is played in over 200 countries by more than 250 million players. Top leagues in Europe include the English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, and the Italian Serie A. The Americas also feature world class soccer, including Liga MX in Mexico and Major League Soccer in the USA.
Every four years, FIFA sponsors the World Cup. National teams spend three years in regional qualification tournaments. The thirty-two qualifiers then meet for one month in a host country to determine a true world champion. Given the worldwide appeal of the championship, the World Cup is the most viewed of any sporting event.
This brief article can only touch on the highlights of soccer itself and of the many competitions found worldwide. Anyone with a greater interest can certainly seek out more specific information online.
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