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Soccer is a team sport played by millions of people world wide, and is known as football in most of the world. The sport involves two teams of 11 players each, working against each other to get a ball into their team's designated goal area, using primarily their feet (although any body part can be used with the exception of the hands and arms - but even this has exceptions as noted below).


The current version of the sport is generally agreed to have began in 1863 in England (1). On May 21st, 1904 the Fédération Internationale de Football Association - known commonly as FIFA (pronounced "feefa") - was incorporated (3). FIFA has remained the definitive authoritative body for soccer since that time.

Leagues and tournaments
Soccer is played at nearly every organizational level, from local teams and leagues, to nationally sponsored teams. Arguably the most popular soccer from a viewing standpoint is played in European leagues, although players for these leagues come from around the world - although heavily weighted towards Europe and South America. Some of the most popular leagues include:

* English Premier League (England)
* Serie A (Italy)
* Liga (Spain)
* Bundesliga (Germany)
* Ligue 1 (France)
* Eredivse (Holland)
* Russian Premier League (Russia)
* Champions League (Europe)

Game Play

A game of soccer traditionally is 90 minutes in length, broken up into two 45 minute halves. At the beginning of the game a team will start with the ball in the middle of the field. They must first kick the ball in a forward direction to start the play. Generally this is done by passing the ball to a teammate who stands within a few feet of the player. From this point on, the ball can be kicked in any direction to other players, or the player can "dribble" the ball, which entails kicking the ball in small increments and catching back up to the ball themselves. When a player is near their designated scoring goal, they can attempt to get the ball into this designated area, thereby earning their team a single point. At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins the game.

Field layout
An official field can be anywhere from 100 to 130 yards in length, and 50 to 100 yards in width .

Bisecting the field lengthwise is a single line called the mid-field line which is solely used to separate the two teams at the beginning of each half, and after a goal is scored. At each end of the field is a goal that measures 24 feed wide, and 8 feet high. The goal is enclosed on the back, the two sides, and the top by netting. The front of the goal is placed in the middle of each end of the field (called the goal line). A field is traditionally made of grass, but recently artificial astroturf (often called just turf) that is made to resemble grass in look and playability has become popular.

While there are many rules that dictate the play of soccer, some of the most important rules are laid out here:

* The ball can touch any part of a player's body, except their arms or hands, with the following exceptions:

  • One player is designated as a goalkeeper. This player is allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms as long as they are inside of the designated penalty area which resides in front of the goal they defend.
  • A player can and must use their hands to throw the ball back into the playing field if the ball has gone outside either of the side line boundary areas.

* The ball must stay within the 4 bounding lines of the field - the two side lines, and the two goal lines. If a ball is hit out of this area by a team, the possession is turned over to the opposing team.

  • If the ball goes out over the side line, the other team places the ball back into play by throwing the ball with their hands. Their are specific rules to how this must be done - specifically both of their feet must be touching the ground during this action, and the ball must be held in both hands, and must be thrown overhand from behind the players head to in front of their head in an arc-like motion.

  • If the ball goes over the goal line and is touched last by the defending team, the ball will be placed in the corner of the field on that same goal line, and the attacking team will be given an opportunity to kick the ball back onto the field.

  • If the ball goes over the goal line and is touched last by the attacking team, the ball is will be placed on the corner of the goal area box, and kicked by the defending team back into play.
  • If the ball crosses the goal line and into the goal, a point is given to the attacking team, and the ball is turned over to the defending team in the middle of the field.

* A player is not allowed to intentionally injure another player, nor are they allowed to push, check, tackle, kick, or punch a player.

Recreational Play Variations
While strict regulations do exist for official play of soccer, many people play with modified rules and setups - often in a more recreational atmosphere. Some example differences from official rules include:

* Smaller (or sometimes bigger) fields to fit the available space, or number of players

* Playing with more or less than 11 players on a team - dictated by the number of players available

* Playing with improvised goals, such as cones or other objects when traditional goals are not available

A soccer player in a game situation will wear the following clothes and equipment:

* Shirt/Jersey (matching their teammates)

* Shorts (matching their teammates)

* Soccer socks - long socks made specifically for soccer that go to one's knees (matching their teammates)

* Shin guards - used to protect the player's shins from stray kicks. These are worn under the soccer socks.

* Footwear

  • For very wet conditions, shoes with replaceable cleats (~0.75 inches) are sometimes worn.
  • For standard outdoor conditions, shoes with smaller molded cleats (~ 0.5 inches) are worn
  • In some conditions such as very hard ground, or indoor surfaces, a shoe with very short cleats (0.2 inches) - often called "turf shoes" or "turfs", or shoes with no cleats - often called "flats" are worn.
* In addition to the above, a Goal keeper will also wear padded soccer gloves, and often will wear long sleeve pants and a long sleeve shirt that have a small amount of padding built in.

The game is played with an inflated soccer ball. Official size balls are labeled Size 5. Smaller sizes may be appropriate for younger players.