Soccer is a popular sport played all over the world. Even though it has only been popular in the United States for the past 30 years, soccer has been a long time favorite most everywhere else. The sport dates back to the Egyptians, who played games involving the kicking of a ball. Now, the sport has grown to a global pastime, including men’s and women’s teams, and the World Cup (which is played every four years).
Soccer originated with kicking games played by people in ancient civilizations. The modern version came about in the early nineteenth century, in England. It started as a game involving kicking and handing, but later this branched off into two separate sports: rugby and football (which is what the English call soccer). Around the late nineteenth century, English soccer began spreading over Europe. Other countries also caught on, but the United States was one of the most reluctant, and one of the last to implement soccer as a national sport. The North American Soccer League (NASL) was formed in 1968. But it didn’t gain popularity until the 1970’s.
The modern game of soccer has a simple goal: kick or head the ball in to the goal of your opponent’s team. Basically, there is also one simple rule: No one except the goalkeeper may use they’re hands to play the ball. Soccer is a simplistic sport. Eleven members of each team defend their side of the field to prevent the ball from being forced into their goal, which results in a point scored by the team kicking the ball. There are only three officials involved during play: The referee, and two linesmen.
The equipment used in soccer is also very simple. In addition to the field itself, all that is needed for a game is two goals (eight feet high and eight yards apart) and a ball. Each player wears hard plastic or padded shingaurd, covered by long socks, for protection during play. Cleats are also worn for traction on the field. A goalie may also wear a special padded shirt, and gloves to protect his or her hands. A standard field, as regulated by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (or FIFA), has a length between 100 and 130 yards, and a width of between 50 and 100 yards.
The rules of play for soccer have deliberately been kept simple. The referee makes most of the decisions, and attempts to encourage fair play. The game starts off with a kick off, and the teams are allowed to pass, dribble, juggle, head, kick, and shoot the ball to place it down the field, and (hopefully, or eventually) into their opponent’s goal. If the ball is kicked off the field over the length of the field, the other team is given a throw-in, where the ball is thrown over the player’s head, and back onto the field. If the ball is kicked over the goal, or across the width of the field, either a corner kick results (by the offensive team, where the ball is placed on the corner of the field and kicked into play) or the defensive team is awarded a goal kick, where the ball is placed on the corner of the goal box, and kicked back into play. If a goal is scored, the ball is taken back to the center of the field, and the team scored against kicks off.
Other penalties include direct and indirect free kicks, and penalty kicks. For offenses such as shoving and tripping, either a direct free kick (offenses not in the goal box) or a penalty kick (inside the goal box) is awarded. Both allow goals to be made directly from the kicks. If a minor offense is being punished, then an indirect free kick is given, form which a goal cannot be scored.
Most soccer games have 45-minute halves, and the clock is not stopped except for injuries or deliberate time wasting. In professional soccer, only three to five substitutions are allowed per half. Generally, more are allowed in lower leagues.
Soccer is now recorded as being the fastest growing sport in America at high school and college levels. There are also an estimated 13 million girls and boys under 18 who currently participate in the sport. It is not just becoming a national pastime, but a pastime loved and shared by people all over the world.