Football, (official but largely unused name: Association Football) also called soccer and occasionally known colloquially in Britain as footy, is the most popular team sport in the world in both number of spectators and number of active participants. The international governing body of football is the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). In many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, South America and ever increasingly in Africa, football is more than just a game: it is a way of life. Millions of people play for amateur clubs or regularly go to a stadium to follow their home team and avidly watch the game on television. Countries from these areas dominate the international game.

Table of contents
1 Name
2 The Laws of Football
3 Events
4 Violence
5 National leagues
6 National football teams
7 See also:
8 External links


The name Association football was first used when the sport was codified by the Football Association to distinguish it from the numerous versions of football that were around at the time. The word soccer is a colloquial abbreviation of 'Association' and first appeared in the 1880s. The word is sometimes credited to a student at Oxford called Charles Wreford Brown. He is said to have often referred to breakfast as 'brekkers' and rugby football as 'rugger,' etc. He went on to play for the England national side and became vice-president of the Football Association. The term 'Association football' is rarely used today, though some clubs still use Association Football Club ("AFC") in their names.

In the late 19th century the word 'soccer' tended to be used by the upper-classes who played the game under that name at public schools, whilst the majority of working class people used the word 'football'. The sport was exported by expatriate Britons to much of the rest of the world and many of these nations adopted the common English term into their own language. Accordingly, it became Fußball in German, voetbal in Dutch, fotball in Scandinavian languages, futebol in Portuguese, and fútbol in Spanish. In French the word remained unchanged as le football (but is often shortened to le foot), although in Quebec the word is le soccer. In Italy, a ceremonial Florentine court ritual known as il calcio storico ("kickball in costume") bore enough similarly to the imported game for the word calcio to be accepted instead.

Partly as a result of Australian, football is colloquially known in Britain as footie, although in Australia itself, the word footy means either Rugby League or Australian Rules never soccer. The term 'footer' was once used, but is now obsolete.

Today the word 'soccer' is predominantly used by English-speaking nations that have evolved their own native codes of football not directly related to the Association game.

However, this was not always the case. Indeed, the first Association football team formed outside Britain was the Oneida Football Club of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Early leagues in the US mostly called themselves football leagues, including the American League of Professional Football, National Association Football League and the Southern New England Football League.

The governing body of the sport in the US did not drop the word 'football' from its name until 1974, and did not have the word 'soccer' in its name until 1945. What is now the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) was originally the US Football Association, and was formed in 1912 by the merger of the American Football Association and the American Amateur Football Association. In 1945 the word 'soccer' was added to the official name of the organization and the word 'football' was kept, resulting in the name of "US Soccer Football Association".

The USSFA later dropped the word 'football', replacing it with another word beginning with "F" to become what it is today, the USSF or US Soccer Federation. Similarly in Australia the early governing bodies used the term 'British Football' (i.e. the Southern British Football Association in New South Wales, the Anglo-Australian Football Association in Victoria and the British Football Associations of Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

In countries that didn't develop a rival sport with a claim to the name football the word 'soccer' was very rarely used. Today the growing use of the word may well owe much to the cultural dominance of the USA, which is shaping language and definitions well beyond its borders. However football remains by far the most common word used worldwide to describe the sport.

The Laws of Football

The rules of football are known as Laws of Football[1] and are based on efforts made in the mid-19th century to standardise the rules of the widely varying games of football played at the public schoolss and universities of England. The first set of rules resembling the modern game were produced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1848, at a meeting attended by representatives from Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Winchester and Shrewsbury, but it was far from universally adopted. In particular, the width of a football goal is defined as the distance between two trees in a Cambridge park. A number of revised rules were subsequently proposed, most notably by the Sheffield football club (formed by former pupils from Harrow) in 1857 and the rules of JC Thring in 1862. These efforts culminated in the formation of the Football Association in 1863 which first met on the evening of October 26 1863. Between October and December the Freemason's Tavern in Great Queen Street, London, was the setting for a series of six meetings which eventually produced the first comprehensive set of rules. At the final meeting, the representative from Blackheath withdrew his club from the FA over a rule outlawing hacking (kicking an opponent in the shins). The Blackheath club later went on to form the Rugby Football Union.

Today the laws of football are determined by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The board was formed in 1882 after a meeting in Manchester of the Football Association, the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) (now the governing body in Northern Ireland and not to be confused with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) the governing body in the Republic of Ireland). The International football body FIFA was formed in Paris in 1884 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 British associations.

The official rules of the game are

  • Law 1: The Field of Play
  • Law 2: The Ball
  • Law 3: The Number of Players
  • Law 4: The Players' Equipment
  • Law 5: The Referee
  • Law 6: The Assistant Referees
  • Law 7: The Duration of the Match
  • Law 8: The Start and Restart of Play
  • Law 9: The Ball In and Out of Play
  • Law 10: The Method of Scoring
  • Law 11: Offside
  • Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct
  • Law 13: Free Kicks
  • Law 14: The Penalty Kick
  • Law 15: The Throw-In
  • Law 16: The Goal Kick
  • Law 17: The Corner Kick

Object of the game

Two teams of eleven players on each side contend to get a spherical
ball into the other team's goal. The side which does this the most frequently is the winner. The primary rule for this objective is that nearly all players cannot use their hands or arms in any way while on the field.


The game is presided over by a referee, whose decisions are final, assisted by two linesmen, now officially referred to in these days of PC as referee's assistants. In many games a replacement is available, and he or she is commonly known as the fourth official


Each team has a goal keeper that is allowed to touch the ball with his arms and shoulders when he is standing within the outer marked area around the home goal, which is called the penalty area (aka the "box"). The penalty area or the 18 yards box, has limits set 18 yards to each side of the goal, and 18 yards in front of it.

The ten outfield players on either side are not allowed to touch the ball with their arms or shoulders whilst the ball is in play, but may however play it with any other part of their anatomies. The sole exception to this is when the ball is kicked out of play and a throw in results.

A number, (variable by league and nation), of players may be replaced by substitutes during the course of the game. 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.

Playing field

Standard football pitch measurements () ()
According to IFAB regulations the length of the football field (or "pitch") for international matches should be in the range
100-110 metres and the width should be in the range 64-75 metres. (For other matches the constraints are looser: 90-120 metres length by 45-90 metres width.) The area is under a hectare.

The pitch is divided at the centre: this is the halfway line. Exactly halfway across the halfway line is the centre spot (this is where the ball commences play from). A circle is drawn around the centre spot, the centre circle which has a radius of 10 yards (9.144 m) from the centre spot.

At either end of the pitch is a goal. This is a letterbox-shaped receptacle with a net behind it whose dimensions are: 8 feet (2.44 m) in height and 24 feet (7.32 m) in width. Two boxes are marked out on the pitch in front of the goal. The smaller box, which is laid out to surround the goal at an equal distance of 6 yards (5.5 m) denotes where the goalkeeper can take goal kicks from. The outer box is known as the penalty area or the 18 yard box, and is set 18 yards (16.5 m) to each side of the goal, and 18 yards in front of it. A small semicircle is also drawn at the edge of the penalty area, the D, 10 yards (9.5m) from the penalty spot. This is an exclusion zone for all players other than the one taking the kick in the event of a penalty being awarded.

The penalty spot is immediately in the middle of and 12 yards (11 m) in front of the goal.

In each corner of the pitch a small quarter circle with a 1 yard radius is drawn where corner kicks are taken from.


Ordinarily a match lasts 90 minutes (two halves - 45 minutes each) plus any additional time for stoppages. There is usually a 15 minute break between halves. The only events for which time may be added are for the assessment of injured players, the removal of injured players and time wasting (which may include time for substitutions). Some games, particularly knock-out competition matches, provide for 'extra time' in the event of a tied result at the end of normal time. Other variations on a theme such as the 'golden goal' or 'penalty shoot-outs' may also be involved in concluding a game.


The major international competition in football is the World Cup organised by FIFA. The World Cup competition takes place over a two year period. Over 160 national teams compete in regional qualifying tournaments for a place in the finals. The final tournament which is held every four years, now involves 32 national teams (increased from 24 in 1998) competing over a 4 week period.

The major national competitions of the continents are:

The major club event in Europe is the Champions League, while the major club event in South America is the Copa Libertadores.


This has a bad side, as groups of fanatics have often caused disturbances and sometimes tragedies (see hooligans, Heysel Stadium disaster and Football War).

National leagues

Here is a list of links to national league football teams:

Standard for football club information

National football teams

Here is a list of links to pages relating to national football teams:

See also:

External links