Football, also called soccer in USA, is a game in which two teams consisting of 11 players each, try to put the ball into the opposing team’s goal or net using any part of their bodies except their hands and arms. The only player who is allowed to handle the ball is the goalkeeper, who guards the goal; but may do so only within the penalty area surrounding the goal. The team that scores more goals wins.
Football is managed by an international governing body called FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). The body organises all the major international tournaments including men and women’s World Cup and The Confederations Cup while is responsible for the overall promotion and revenue generation of the sport.
Football is easily the most popular sport in the world, not only in number of participating nations but also the number of viewers worldwide. It is played by an estimated 250 million players in over 200 countries. Not only this, a whopping 3.2 billion people around the world watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. This amounts to roughly 46% of the global population. The popularity of the game is down to its simple rules and low requirement of equipment due to which it can be played anywhere.
The rules of football are governed by a set of rules called Laws of the Game. The game is played by a spherical ball of circumference between 68 and 70 cm. The length of the pitch is 100-110 metres and the width is 64 to 75 m. Rectangular goals are put at the ends of the longer side of the field. The vertical goal posts are 7.3 metres apart while the horizontal posts are 2.4 metres wide. In front of the goal post is the penalty area which is a rectangular box extending 16.5 m from the ends. The goalkeeper is allowed to handle the football only in this penalty area and leads to a foul if handled outside this area.
A typical football match lasts 90 minutes in which there are two halves of 45 minutes each. Extra time in minutes is added to each halve due to injury, substitutions and other stoppages. This is called injury or stoppage time and is at the sole discretion of the referee. There is a 15 minute break in between the halves.
The team that scores more goals wins the match. In the event of a tie, the match can be declared as a draw as is usually the case in league matches but in knockout competitions, it goes into 30 minutes extra time. Extra time is divided into two halves of 15 minutes and just like the in regulation time, the teams change ends. If the score is still tied at the end, a penalty shootout takes place where a player is allowed to take a shot on the goal from 11 metres while it is defended only by the opposing team’s goalkeeper.
The game is conducted by an impartial referee who awards free kicks and penalties when players commit fouls that are listed in the Laws of the Game. Handling the ball deliberately, tripping an opponent, or pushing an opponent are common examples of fouls. The referee may punish a player’s or substitute’s misconduct by a caution (yellow card) or dismissal (red card). A second yellow card in the same game means straight dismissal from the field and a ban on playing the next match of the same competition. The referee’s decision in all on-pitch matters is considered final. The score of a match cannot be altered after the game, even if later evidence shows that decisions (including awards/non-awards of goals) were incorrect.
The sport is most popular in Europe and South America. The national team of Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup a record 5 number of times due to which it is immensely popular in the country. The league competitions in England, Spain and Germany are the one of the most watched leagues around the globe. Club teams like Manchester United of England, Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain, Bayern Munich of Germany are the most successful teams in the world and their fans are upwards of 300 million.