The Pitch

This is what a regular football pitch looks like. It is made up of a centre circle, and two penalty boxes at either end of the field. In each penalty box is a penalty spot and what is called a 6-yard box. Not all pitches are the same size, but the length of the pitch must be between 90m and 120m, and the width between 45m and 90m. The penalty box is approximately 16m by 40m, and the centre circle has a radius of about 9m. There is a set of goalposts at either end of the field, with the penalty spot being 11m (12yds) directly in front of them


The Players

There are 11 players on each team on the field, although both sides have substitutes on the side lines. Although there is no required formation for the players on the field, typically you will see something like a 4-4-2, which denotes four defenders, four midfielders, and two strikers.

Below is a diagram of a typical line up. Although a team might take this formation, players are allowed to be anywhere on the pitch. You might commonly see the wingers switch sides to unsettle the defence.

There are some common positions not listed on the picture below.

CDM: Centre Defensive Midfield. These players play in the midfield, but are defensively minded, so always make sure to sit back a bit more when the ball is being played forward. These players are usually playmakers, but also great tacklers.

CAM: Centre Attacking Midfield. Similarly, these players play in centre midfield, but are more attacking minded, making them excellent when shooting at goal.

RWB/LWB: Right and Left Wing Backs. These are defenders who love running up the wing get involved with the action. They are still defenders though, so have to rush back quickly if a counter-attack is launched.

RW/LW: Right and Left Wing. These are actually attacking positions, but these players play out wide on the wing, commonly in a 4-3-3 situation, allowing them to run up the wing and then either cutting inside or crossing the ball towards the striker waiting in the middle.

CF: The centre forward. This position is virtually no different from a striker, but it means that he plays slightly more forwards towards the goal, and also has no definitive area of the field he needs to remain in.


The Basic Rules

The aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposition, which is done by kicking the ball into their goal, whilst also defending your own. A player can pass the ball to anyone else on the field, and unlike some sports, is allowed to run with the ball. There are only a few rules to abide by when it comes to passing. The first is the offside rule, which we’ll come to later. The next one is when passing back the goalkeeper. If you pass the ball to your keeper using your feet, he must play with his feet too. If you head the ball back to him, then he is allowed to pick it up.

Quickfire rules

  • The ball is kicked off from the centre spot at the start of each half and after a team scores. Up until recently, you had to initially pass the ball forwards before passing it backwards, but it is no longer the case.
  • No players can be in the opposition half when kick-off occurs.
  • Any foul can result in a free kick, or a penalty if the foul takes place in the penalty area. There can be free-kicks in the area as well under the right circumstance.
  • If the attacking team kicks the ball beyond the goal line, this results in a goal kick. If the defending team kicks it behind their own line, the attackers are awarded a corner kick.

Tackling is the skill of taking the ball away from the players’ feet. What’s important when you tackle is that you touch the ball. If you make contact with the player rather than the ball, that is a foul. Be careful when you tackle, as keeping both your feet in the air when you lunge can result in hurting another player. Do not elbow, tug on shirts or push the player, as that again would result in a foul.

A goal kick must be taken on the edge of the 6-yard box, but can be taken by either a defender or the goalkeeper. A corner kick is taken by the attacking side, where the ball is placed in a corner, where there is a small quarter-circle.

There are various types of fouls, but here are some examples of play to avoid.

  • Dangerous Challenges: Even if you don’t make contact with anyone, a referee might call for a free kick.
  • Handball: You can touch the ball with your feet, head, chest, thighs and even shoulder, but it cannot touch any part of your arm.
  • Diving/Simulation: If you pretend you were fouled, then referees are allowed to call a free kick against you.
  • Being offside: Not a foul you will be booked for, but it will result in a free kick for the other team.
  • Physical violence: Starting or participating in any sort of fight (even if you didn’t start it) could result in a form of punishment from the referee.
  • Foul throw: This is another non-bookable foul, and is an easy one to avoid. When you throw the ball in from the side lines, keep the ball behind your head before you throw the ball, and make sure not to drop the ball at your own feet.

If you break these rules, referees are allowed to book you. What this means is that you will be given a yellow card or a red card. If you are given two yellow cards in a game, you receive a red card. A red card means an immediate dismissal from the match, and your team now has to play with less players.

The Offside Rule

The offside rule is a basic concept, but is by no means difficult for players and linesmen to judge, which is why you’ll commonly hear offside decisions being discussed by commentators and during highlight shows.

The simple rule is this: a player is deemed offside if the head or feet is beyond the last defender and is interfering with play.

Below are a few diagrams to help you understand the offside rule. In situation #1 (top left), you can see that the red player is standing between the last defender and the goalkeeper. This means he is offside. The second situation (top right) is perfectly legal, as although the red player picks the ball up behind the last defender, he is in an onside position to start with. Running onto the ball is perfectly allowed.

If the ball is kicked and bounces off another defender or post and lands in front of a different attacker, that person must still be in an onside position when the ball was initially kicked. If he strays into an offside position when the ball is flying through the air then that is allowed as his initial position for that play is onside.

An attacker can be in a clear offside position and still not be penalised, namely when a defending player, in clear control of the ball, passes poorly and the attacker gains control of the ball.

There are also a few rules when it comes to being offside, which makes this rulesuch a debatable point amongst pundits and is why there are very many people advocating for there to be video referees to help the referees make the correct decisions on the field.

  • There is no offside during a corner kick, throw-in or from a goal kick.
  • A player cannot be offside when standing in his own half or on the half-way line.
  • When considering offside, referees look for only heads and feet, not arms or hands, as these are parts of your body you cannot score with.
  • A player who is in an offside position but does not interfere with play is not punished.

A person can be interfering with play if they obstruct other players, or even look as though they are a passing option, pulling defenders’ and the goalkeeper’s attention away from the main attacker.


Advanced Rules

Substitutions are a great way to change the game up, and you do this by taking one of your players off the field and sending a new player on. This gives you a chance to change game tactics, or if you can tell one of your players is not playing at the top of his game. Once a player comes off the pitch though, he cannot come back on. You also do not have to replace a player with someone in the same position. If you want to start pushing for a win, you might want to take off a defender and put on an attacking player.

If your goalkeeper gets injured or is issued a red card and is sent off, you can not possibly want to continue the game without someone in goal, so what you should do is substitute off an outfield player for your secondary goalkeeper to come on.

There are two different types of free kick: indirect and direct. The direct free kick means that you can have a clear shot at goal from a dead ball. The indirect option means that you have to touch the ball first before any shot at goal can take place. Offences that might result in an indirect free kick is something like play in a dangerous manner, or impeding the progress of an opponent without any physical contact, or using offensive language.

There is an unusual and rare way for there to be free kicks, and that is when there are indirect free kicks inside the penalty area. Not every single foul means that there is a penalty. The most common one you see is when a defender passes back to his goalkeeper, and he uses his hands to control it, rather than his feet. Another way a free kick might be given in the area is if a keeper holds onto the ball with his hands for more than six seconds.

A drop ball may occur when there has been an injury on the field. Naturally most injuries happen in a collision, and the majority of the time result in a free kick or penalty. This does not happen all the time though, and sometimes the ball is half way down the pitch before the rest of the team notices. In that case, the player in possession is encouraged to kick the ball out of play so that the medics can attend to the person injured. However, it is important to note that this is a goodwill gesture, and not written in law, so do not assume the player will kick the ball out. When attackers have one of their own players down, they might still go for the attack on goal in the hopes it will result in a goal, after which they can attend to the injured player.

When the injured player has been dealt with, the team who were not in possession when the ball left play now kicks the ball back beyond the half way line so that the attacking team who were in possession can now start their attack again.


Football tournaments are some of the biggest in the world, with the number of people tuning into the Premier League in the US dwarfing the number of people in the UK who tune in to the weekend’s games.

There are three major tournaments in the UK: The Premier League, The FA Cup, and the League Cup.

The premier league is a table based tournament where the top twenty teams in the country play each other twice – a total of 38 matches every year – and are awarded points depending whether they win, lose, or draw. Both the FA Cup and the League Cup are knock-out tournaments that do not just include the top teams in the country, but a lot of lower league teams, making for some very interesting matches and a lot of upsets as teams beat others twenty or more places above them.

There are also tournaments that cover continents. In Europe, we have the UEFA Champions League, which pitches the best teams from Spain, France, the UK and more all against each other to fight for the coveted trophy. There are similar championships in each continent:

Asia: AFC

Africa: CAF

North America: CONCACAF

South America: Copa Libertadores

Oceania: OFC

The winners of each of these tournaments then compete in the Club World Cup in a mini tournament.

The world’s largest tournament though is of course the FIFA World Cup. 32 of the best international teams in the world come together to play it out. With millions of people coming together, this is a period of celebration and heartbreak everywhere in the world.

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