Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Organized soccer is played in 144 nations, with nearly 20 million players participating.
Soccer`s final match of the World Cup, held every four years, is televised around the world and always attracts over a billion viewers.
Soccer stadiums such as the Maracana Stadium in Brazil, Stadio Olimpico in Italy, Stade de France, Nou Camp in Spain which has held crowds of more than 200,000, are built to accommodate the multitudes of spectators who enjoy the game. Soccer has experienced extraordinary growth in the United States since the 1970s.
Soccer's essence is its simplicity. Known as football in much of the world, it is still a game for the masses, speaking a language that knows no international barriers. The object of the game is to ge
t the ball, by any means except using the hands or arms, into the rectangular goals at each end of the field. The team scoring the most goals is the winner.
Soccer, which evolved from centuries of different ball games, did not always allow only the goalkeepers, or goalies, to use their hands to touch the ball. Formal rules and distinctions among players of the game did not emerge until the late 19th century. Rugby and U.S.-style football developed out of the division that came with decisions to prohibit certain actions in soccer, such as handling the ball, tackling with the arms, and hacking.
Soccer's dimension fields must conform to certain limitations, but need not be uniform. The length may vary from a minimum of 100 yards to a maximum of 120 yards (91,110 meters). The width of the field must never exceed the length. The field is divided in half crosswise by a centerline. At the middle of this line is the center spot, from which point the game is initially started and then restarted following goals. The center circle has a radius of 10 yards (9.1 meters) from the center spot. The field is bordered by touchlines on the sides and by goal lines on the ends.
Soccer is played at a professional level all over the world, and millions of people regularly go to football stadia to follow their favourite team, whilst billions more avidly watch the game on television. A very large number of people also play football at an amateur level.
Each team consists of a maximum of eleven players (excluding substitutes), one of whom must be the goalkeeper. Competition rules may state a minimum of seven players are required to constitute a team. There are a variety of positions in which the outfield players are strategically placed by a manager/coach, though these positions are not defined or required by the Laws.
One player on each team must be designated as that team's goalkeeper. The goalkeeper is the only player allowed to handle the ball with his hands or arms, but is restricted to doing so within the penalty area (also known as the "box" or "18 yard box") in front of his own goal.
The basic equipment players are required to wear includes a shirt (or jersey), shorts, socks (or stockings), footwear and adequate shin guards. Players are forbidden to wear or use anything that is dangerous to themselves or another player (including jewellery or watches).
A number of players may be replaced by substitutes during the course of the game. The maximum substitutions permitted in international games and in national level leagues are three, though substitution numbers may be varied in other leagues. The usual reasons for a player's replacement include injury, tiredness, ineffectiveness, a tactical switch, or to waste a little time at the end of a finely poised game. In standard adult matches, a player who has been substituted may not take further part in the match.
At each end of the field is a goal 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide and 8 feet (2.4 meters) high, consisting of two uprights joined by a crossbar. In front of each goal are two rectangular boxes. The smaller box, measuring 20 yards by 6 yards (18.3 by 5.5 meters), is the goal area, in which the goalkeeper cannot be charged and where the ball is placed for goal kicks, which are taken by the team defending the goal area. The larger rectangle, measuring 44 yards by 18 yards (40.2 by 16.4 meters), is the penalty area. It designates the area where the goalkeeper may use his or her hands to touch the ball without being penalized, and within which any one of the nine direct-free-kick offenses committed by a defensive player will result in a penalty kick. A penalty kick is a free shot at the goal from the penalty spot, 12 yards (11 meters) from the center of the goal.
Soccer's 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.
The world's first football league was founded in England in 1888 by Aston Villa director, William McGregor. The original format contained 12 clubs from the Midlands and the North of England.
Soccer's World Federation is called The Federation Internationale de Football Association FIFA, the international football body, was formed in Paris in 1904 and declared that they would adhere to the rules laid down by the IFAB. The growing popularity of the international game led to the admittance of FIFA representatives to the IFAB in 1913. Today the board is made up of four representatives from FIFA and one representative from each of the four British associations.
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