If you’re reading this, I assume that you’re either new to football, unfamiliar with a specific concept, or just want to broaden your knowledge on the sport. My goal is to teach you everything you’ll need to know about the game.
We’ll start with the very basics of the sport, like how the pitch looks like, how many players are there, how do the players position themselves, then move on to the technical stuff like offsides and many more. I want to make this, your football Bible. So, without wasting your time, let’s start.
Each of us has played a form of game at some point in our lives. So, I believe most of us are aware of the elements that make for a good game. For those who don’t, I’ll do this through an example. We all know hide and seek. It’s a game where one person closes their eyes and counts to a pre-determined number, while the rest hide. Once done with counting, the person has to find where the rest of the players are hiding. If he/she finds you first, you’ll be the seeker and if found last you’ll have won the game.
It’s so simple yet reveals so much of what a game entails—a couple of players, a set of rules and an aim. This are the very elements with which you understand a sport.
1. The Goal
Every sport needs to have a goal, or a way of winning. A game without an aim to strive towards is dull and unfulfilling. In football, the objective is not just to get the ball inside the net of your opponent, but to do so more times than them. That’s how you win.
How Many Minutes Are in a Football Match?
Every time a player gets the ball inside the opponent’s net, he’s said to have scored a goal. When this happens, the score line changes. So, if you come across a match that’s Team A 2 -1 Team B, this means Team A has put the ball inside the net of Team B twice, while Team B has done so once.
The goal is not all that easy. For starters, you do not have unlimited time. A football match goes for 90 minutes. This is divided into 45 minutes each. After the first 45 minutes, there is a 15 minute break where players go back to the dressing room to rest, and in most cases receive more instructions from their coach.
What Is Added Time?
Added time, injury time, or stoppage time refers to extra/additional minutes instituted outside the normal football time. This is due to delays within the normal times. Football players tend to waste time as the game nears conclusion as a way of holding on to a fragile lead. Other reasons for added time could be injuries, lengthy celebrations, pitch invaders, substitutions and Video Assistant Referee (VAR) checks.
What Is Extra Time?
Added time should not be confused with extra time. While added time is determined based on events during the match, extra time is normally a standard 30-minute play time. This is divided into 15 minutes each and usually happens during knock-out competitions. Unlike Domestic Leagues, these tournaments reach stages where a winner must be found. In case the normal time is concluded, and the scores are still even, then the two teams must play an extra 30 minutes. If after 120 minutes no winner is found, then a penalty shoot-out is mandatory.
What Is a Penalty?
To understand what a penalty is and when it happens, you must first know what a free kick is. A free kick is a way of penalizing the opponent’s team for an illegal act by allowing the other team, through one player, to recommence the game through a kick either towards an attacking area or to their own player. This is done where the act is committed, and the ball has to be still.
Now, in case the opponents commit the act within their own keeper’s penalty area, then the other team will be awarded a penalty kick. A penalty kick is different from a free kick because it’s taken 12 yards from the line on the keeper’s goal and without a human wall to obstruct the ball. It’s just one player and the goalkeeper.
The keeper must always have one foot on the goal line when the penalty is taken, and the other players must not infiltrate the penalty area before the penalty is taken. Failure to adhere to both usually results into a retake. Penalties give rise to rebounds. A rebound occurs where the penalty is missed but keeper fails to hold on to the ball and it comes back into play thereby giving the opponents a chance to direct it back and attempt to score again.
A penalty can also be taken as tie breaker after 120 minutes of play. Here, each team will select 5 players to take the penalties for them. In case a winner is not found, then other players among the 11 will continue to take the penalties until one scores and the other misses. This is usually referred to as sudden death shootout.
Every sport needs to have a specific number of players.
How Many Players Are in a Football Match?
In football, the players that can be on the field during the game are 22, 11 for each team. Simply put, we have 2 teams with 11 players each. The only other person allowed on the pitch when the game is in progress is the referee. Currently, a coach is allowed to make 5 substitutions during the game. He, however, does not have to use them. Before a substitute player enters the field, the teammate leaving has to be outside the pitch.
Coaches use different formations with the aim of outsmarting their opponents. We’re going to find out what name is given to players occupying various positions on the field. To do this, we’ll need an illustration, and I know just the one.
The figure above clearly demonstrates a perfect uniformity between positions and jersey numbers.
No. 1 – This jersey is traditionally worn by goal keepers. It’s almost impossible to find a defender, mid-fielder or forward don this. The goalkeeper is allowed to handle the ball with his hands, but only within the penalty area. If he does so outside this area, then a free kick will be awarded to the opponent and either a yellow or red card shown to the keeper depending on the denied attacking potential.
No. 2, No. 4, No. 5 and No.3 – Players that wear these jersey numbers are called defenders. Their work is to protect their goal at all costs. The opponents attack from all positions. No. 2, popularly known as the Wing-back, prevents attacks from the right side while the full-back No. 3, stops attacks from the left. Coaches tend to place speedsters in these positions as they are prone to move forward and can create some dangerous attacks. No. 4 and 5 are the sweeper and the centre-back respectively. Unlike the wing-back and full-back, they tend to stay back as they are the defenders directly protecting the goalkeeper.
No. 6, No. 8 and No. 10 – These are midfielders. They are normally situated around the centre of the football field. No. 6, is a defensive midfielder and his job is to stop the opponent’s attacks early before reaching the defenders. He also connects his defenders with the midfielders upfront. No. 8 and No. 10 are central and attacking midfielders respectively. They push the ball forward and try to set-up opportunities for the forward or striker to score.
The Forward, Winger, and Striker
No. 11, No. 7 and No. 9 – No. 11 is a forward, No. 7 is a winger and No. 9 is the striker. These 3 people are the ones mostly responsible for scoring goals. Actually, the striker’s core responsibility is to score goals.
What is an assist?
An assist is a pass that results into a goal. Although this can come from any player on the field, the forward, the attacking midfielder, and the winger, are traditionally responsible for creating assists. The wing back and the full back are also very instrumental in creating them these days.
3. Set of Rules
Every sport has a set of rules that need to be followed strictly. Failure to do this usually results in a form of punishment.
Red Card and Yellow Card Offences
In football, a player is penalized through a red card or a yellow card. A yellow card is shown for minor offenses, while a red card is shown for serious misconducts. A yellow card acts as a sort of warning from the referee, so if you get two in one match, then you will be required to leave the field immediately.
A red card does not give second chances, upon receiving one, you’ll have to leave the field. The punishment does not end here though, when shown a red card, you may miss 1 to 3 subsequent matches for the competition in which you got the card.
Now that you know what red cards and yellow cards are in football, what are some of the offenses that may result in one getting such cards?
Players receive yellow cards for hand balls, bad tackles, simulation (attempting to trick the referee into wrongly penalizing your opponent), time wasting, multiple non-card warnings, disrespecting the referee either through word of mouth or action, taking your shirt off while celebrating a goal, and dissent (an angry reaction often caused by frustration).
In some instances, a player may get a red card for the actions mentioned above. For example, a deliberate hand ball to prevent a goal scoring opportunity normally results into a red card. A famous case of this is Luis Suarez’s hand ball in the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Ghana. The ball was clearly going in, but he used both hands to prevent this. A red card was given and a penalty awarded to Ghana as the act was done inside the penalty area.
Other red cards offenses include serious tackles that leave the opponent injured, fouls that deny a goal-scoring chance, fighting, and verbal misconduct.
What Is a Corner?
When a player takes the ball out of play through their own goal line, then the opponent will be awarded a corner. A player from the opponent’s side will be allowed to place the ball along the corner arc and either kick it into the penalty area or pass to their teammate in any other position on the field.
What Is a Throw-In?
A throw-in is taken when the ball goes out of play through the touch line and involves restarting the game through a throw. Your opponent will be awarded a throw-in if you take the ball out of play through the touch line. Each touch line has a referee who monitors when the ball goes out of play. They’ll point their flag towards the side of the team that takes out the ball to signal that their opponents have a throw-in.
When Is a Player Offside?
This is where many football newcomers and even old-timers get confused. So, I want you to be keen. The football field is divided into 2 by a centre line or halfway line. If your team’s goal post is on the left side of the field like Team A, then that means that your defending half is from the goal line on the left up to the halfway line. Once you cross the halfway line, then you enter the attacking half. You cannot be offside in your defending half, but your opponent can be caught offside while here, because technically they will be in the attacking half.
Other situations, where one cannot be offside are during throw-ins, corners and goal kicks. A goal kick is where the ball goes out of play but does not result in a corner or throw-in, so the goalkeeper has to restart the game.
Now with that settled, what is offside? An offside occurs when a player in the attacking half receives a ball from his teammate while any of his goal-scoring regions—which includes everything, except the hand and a large part of the arm—are in front of all the opponent players, save for the goalkeeper. But first here’s a couple of things you need to know. Let’s say, I’m your teammate. The time my foot touches the ball to make a pass to you matters as much as the position you are in. An offside is only valid if, by the time my foot touches the ball to make the pass to you, you were in the attacking half and also in front of all our opponents with the exception of their goalkeeper. If you were in line with their defenders when I made the pass, then you’re onside. If you waited until the pass was made, then ran past their players, then you are onside.
In this scenario, white’s No. 9 was in front of the opponent players, except the goalkeeper, by the time the ball left the feet of his teammate. The teammate cannot be seen from the view, but the line was drawn immediately his feet touched the ball. This was ruled as offside. The new technology used in the Qatar 2022 World Cup maps all the goal scoring regions in front of the last opponent by the time the pass is taken.
This is a close call though; here’s one that’s more noticeable. You can see from the illustration that two players are clearly offside by the time the player close to the referee (in black) makes the pass.