What is football ? Football, which is also often referred to as soccer outside the UK and association football throughout Europe, is a game of two teams and one ball – the football. Each team has 11 players and, using all parts of their bodies apart from their arms and hands, must try to get the ball into the other team’s goal.
The goal is, typically, a large rectangular frame with a net attached to the back. However, amateur games often just use markers such as traffic cones or, if you’re a teenager, sweaters or bags. When it’s not professional football, the rules are often relaxed.
It’s the goalkeeper’s job to stop the football going into the net. Each team has a goalkeeper who, as an exception, can use their hands to obstruct the ball. Although, they’re only allowed to do so in the penalty area – a small area in front of and around the goal.
In football, the team that scores the most goals by the end of the game wins. The standard length of a game is 90 minutes with a short break, known as ‘half time’, at the 45-minute mark. However, youth football games are often shorter – typically, they only last 45-60 minutes.
WHERE CAN YOU PLAY FOOTBALL?
Professional football games always take place on a full-size pitch, which must measure 90-120 metres (m) in length, with a width of 45-90m. However, football can be played anywhere.
Since the game was first played, it has been played in the streets, gardens, community areas, school halls and even in war zones.
One of the most famous examples of football being played under unlikely circumstances in the First World War and the Christmas truce of 1914, where German and British armed forces left their trenches and entered No Man’s Land, where they’re reported to have played football and sung carols for just one day, before resuming fighting.
THE HISTORY OF THE GAME
Football has a detailed history that spans centuries. Some of the most important moments for the game since it was first played include:
Signs of football in China in the third century BC
History books states that the Han Dynasty played Tsu’ Chu, a game with remarkable similarities to football. It involved kicking a feather-stuffed leather ball through a small opening made from cane and netting.
‘Harpastum’, the Greek’s take on football
Greek texts describe a game in which two teams had to try to get the ball over the other team’s boundary line. The game was played on a rectangular field with a marked centre line, which sounds very similar to modern football pitches.
Football chaos in Britain in 1314 and beyond
The Lord Mayor of London banned football, or a similar game as it was known then, in 1314. You could even be sent to prison if you were caught playing football in the city.
Football as a distraction
For the 100 years France and Britain were at war, football was deemed illegal as it made soldiers unfocused.
The modern embrace of football
After centuries of negativity surrounding the game, football thrived in the 19th century and beyond. Villages would come together to play against each other, which is still very much the case today.
Independence in football in 1863
Association football and rugby football used to be under the same umbrella, but they were separated in 1863, which is when the Football Association was born.
Standardising the ball
In 1871, the specifications of the ball used in football were set by the Football Association and have, near enough, stayed the same since.
FIFA takes over
The Association was founded in Paris in 1904 and now dictates the sport, with more than 73 members. It’s since FIFA was started that leagues have been standardised and football has become a global phenomenon. It has been growing ever since; the Association now has 208 international members.
Of course, there are many other significant moments in football, but it’s the above that, for the most part, gets us to where we are today.
There are more than 600 football clubs in England alone, which means there could be hundreds of thousands of clubs across the world.
ESSENTIAL FOOTBALL LEAGUES
There are a variety of essential football leagues you should be aware of, including:
UK & Ireland
Premier League – Top of the English league system, 20 clubs compete
FA Cup – The oldest national football competition in the world
Championship – Second highest league, the two top teams are promoted to the Premier League
Scotland – National league for Scotland
Wales – National league for Wales
Ireland – National league for Ireland
Women’s – The FA Women’s National League was founded in 1992
European – National league for European teams
Champions League – An annual competition involving 32 leading European teams
Europa – A larger European football competition involving 160 teams in total
FIFA World Cup – The largest football competition in the world, founded in 1930
There are many other leagues out there, but the above are the ones you’ll often hear talked about on television, in football publications and down the pub.
Football in various forms spans centuries. It’s the most popular game and sport in the world, watched by billions and played by millions every year. There are hundreds of thousands of football clubs around the world – including local teams you can join. If you’re someone with a flare for competition, it could be the game for you.
THE CONTEMPORARY HISTORY: WHERE & WHEN WAS FOOTBALL INVENTED?
Football’s modern origins began in England more than 100 years ago, in 1863. Rugby football and association football, once the same thing, went their separate ways and the Football Association, the first official governing body for the sport, was established.
GOING BACK IN TIME
History books dictate that people having had a brilliant time kicking a ball around for thousands of years, but not all those games would be recognisable as what we consider football today.
But the different periods of football, or sports involving kicking a ball in more accurate terms, were all crucial to the development of the game. Without the variation experienced over the years, we may have never had football by modern standards.
The furthest back we can track football’s history is to China, as early as the third century BC, where there are mentions of a game resembling football in military manuals.
The Han Dynasty played a game called Tsu’ Chu, which involved kicking a ball through a 30-40cm opening and into what we’d now see as a goal make of canes with a net attached to it. The ball used during these games was made from leather and filled with hair and feathers.
The Greek’s invented ‘Harpastum’, a game which used a ball smaller than that used in football but that had similar rules to the modern game. Play was on a rectangular field marked by boundaries and a centre line and the aim was for one team to get the ball over their competitor’s boundary line.
Based on what we know about the history of ball games where use of feet dominates, we can see clearly the affect different cultures and variations have had on the game we play today.
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