Association football

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Association football (a.k.a. soccer in North America and Australia) is the correctly specific title of the type of football that is played almost wholly with the feet. The sport originated in England and takes its name from The Football Association (the FA), which formulated the Laws of the Game in 1863. Association football is the world's most popular spectator sport and is generally known worldwide as football (as in Great Britain, France, and Ireland). This translates as Fußball (Germany and Austria), fútbol (Spain and Latin America), futebol (Portugal and Brazil), and футбол (Russia). A major exception is Italy where the sport is known as calcio (to kick; from a medieval version of the sport called Calcio Fiorentino).

Pitch and dimensions

A football match is played on a large, grassy field called the pitch by two teams of eleven players each. Normal time for a match is ninety minutes with a half-time break after 45 minutes. Any stoppage time (usually because of injuries) is added on at the end of each half. Broadly, a team consists of one goalkeeper, three or four defenders, three or four midfielders, and two to four forwards. Apart from the goalkeeper, no player is allowed to handle the ball during play. Dimensions vary but the rectangular pitch is generally 110 to 120 yards long and 70 to 80 yards wide. The goalkeeper defends a rectangular goal which is 24 feet wide and eight feet high. The goal is constructed of wood and has two upright posts with a crossbar mounted above them. In professional football, there is always a net attached to the back of the goal.

Match control

The boundaries of the pitch are marked by painted lines. Down each long side of the pitch are the touchlines, drawn from corner to corner. Along the ends of the pitch, again drawn corner to corner, are the dead ball lines. The goals are situated in the centres of the dead ball lines so there is one at each of the pitch. When the ball crosses a touchline (is in touch) or a dead ball line, play is momentarily halted and then restarted by one of three processes: a throw-in (from touch) and either a corner or a goal kick (dead ball). The match is controlled by the referee who is on the pitch and has two assistants, usually known as linesmen because they patrol a touchline each to judge if the ball has gone out of play.


A goal is scored when the ball, which is spherical, goes under the crossbar and completely crosses the goal line (i.e., the section of the dead ball line between the two goalposts). Hitting the woodwork (posts or crossbar) is not a goal unless the ball then rebounds into the goalmouth and crosses the goal line. The winning team is the one scoring the most goals. If the teams are tied with the same number of goals, the match is a draw, although some matches then go into extra time and, if necessary, a tiebreaker because it is necessary to have a winning team.

In professional football, defences are usually well organised and are mostly capable of preventing their opponents from scoring. Because of this, goalscoring is not easily achieved and it is unusual for a team to score more than two or three times in a match. There are exceptions, however, even at the highest level, as on 5 March 2023 when Liverpool defeated Manchester United by seven goals to nil (7–0) in an FA Premier League match.[1]


  1. Liverpool thump Manchester United 7–0. ESPN Football. 5 March 2023.