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The game of soccer, or association football as it is properly called, is the world's most popular team sport. Virtually every country on Earth plays the game in some form or another. It is both physically and intellectually demanding, requiring athletic skill and quick thinking. England was the starting place of today's game. In 1863 the Football Association (FA) was created and uniform rules were established there. In 1872 the first international game was played between England and Scotland. It was in England that soccer professionalism was legalized in 1885. From there the game spread throughout the Empire and to the rest of the world.
Rules require that soccer be played on a rectangular field between 100 and 130 yards long and between 50 and 100 yards wide. For international matches the field is 110 to 120 yards long and 70 to 80 yards wide. A goal 8 yards wide and 8 feet high is placed at each end of the field. The lines marking the sides of the field are the touchlines. Those on either end are the goal lines. The field has distinctive markings for the halfway line, the goal areas, the penalty areas, the corners, and the center circle.
There are 11 players to a team; a goalkeeper and ten field players divided into defenders (fullbacks), midfielders (halfbacks), and forwards. The uniforms usually consist of shorts, a shirt, socks, shoes, and perhaps shin guards.
The purpose of the game is to drive the ball into the opponents' goal, using only the feet, head, or body. Only the goalkeepers can touch the ball with their hands. Players get into position to score using a series of passing movements, either kicking, heading, or dribbling the ball downfield. In dribbling, the player controls the ball with the feet. Players run as many as 6 or 7 miles during the course of a game, which is divided into two 45-minute halves. The team scoring the most goals wins.
Each team consists of 11 players, one of whom must be the goalkeeper. A maximum of three substitutes, plus a substitution at goalkeeper, may be used. One referee and two referee's assistants and a fourth official, are appointed for each match. The referee is responsible for control of the game and his/her decisions regarding facts connected with play are final.
A flip of a coin decides which team will kick off. Each team must stay in its own half of the field and the defending players must be at least 10 yards from the ball when it is kicked. After a goal, the team scored upon will kick off. After halftime, the teams change ends and the kickoff will be taken by the opposite team to that which started the game. A second toss of the coin precedes the second overtime. The ball is out of play when it has either wholly-crossed the goal line or touchline, whether on the ground or in the air, or when the game has been stopped by the referee. The ball is in play at all other times.
A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponent's goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent unless he is either in his own half of the field of play, or he is level with the second last opponent or two last opponents. A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play. (interfering with play or with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in that position.) A player shall not be declared offside by the referee if he receives the ball direct from a goal-kick, a corner-kick, a throw-in, or when it has been dropped by a referee. If a player is declared offside, the referee shall award an indirect free kick, which shall be taken by a player of the opposing team from the place where the infringement occurred, unless the offense is committed by a player in the opponent's goal area, in which case the free-kick shall be taken from any point within the goal area.
A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following 6 offenses in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force: (a) kicks, (b) trips, (c) jumps at, (d) charges, (e) strikes, (f) pushes. A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following 4 offenses: (g) holds, (h) spits, (i) deliberately handles the ball, or (j) tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball.
A penalty kick is awarded if any of the above 10 offenses is committed by a player inside his own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play.
An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player, in the opinion of the referee, commits any of the following offences: (a) dangerous play, (b) impedes the progress of an opponent, or (c) prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.
Free kicks are classified into two categories: "Direct" (from which a goal can be scored directly against the offending side) and "Indirect" (from which a goal cannot be scored unless the ball has been touched by a player other than the kicker before entering the goal). For all free kicks the offending team must be at least 10 yards from the ball or the goal line until the ball is kicked. A penalty kick is a direct free kick taken at the penalty mark. All players except the player taking the kick and the goalkeeper must stay outside the penalty area and be at least 10 yards from the ball. When the ball has wholly-crossed the touchline, it is put back into play by a throw-in from the spot where it went out and by a player from the opposite team to the player who last touched it. A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. When the ball has wholly crossed the goal line after being last touched by a player from the attacking team, it is put back into play by a kick from the goal area by the defending team. When the ball has wholly-crossed the goal line after being last touched by a player from the defending team, it is put back into play by a kick by the attacking team from the corner on the side the ball went out.
Finally, the team with the most points or goals at the end of the two halves, is the winner of the regulation game.