Darrell is a soccer referee for over 10 years with experience as an assistant referee at the pro level in Trinidad.
While football has laws and rules that escape the attention of fans—and even players—it is a fundamentally simple game. As Kevin Keegan suggested, you can only score when you have the ball.
Well, that’s not entirely true where an own goal results from an errant back-pass. Anyway, when not in possession, the aim must be to retrieve the ball; that’s where tackling comes in.
Tackling is one of two ways to regain possession of the ball in association football, with interception being the other. The difference with the interception is that it does not involve a challenge on the opponent, whereas tackling does. The ability to restrict attackers enables the defender to make a controlled tackle, which can be a block, poke, or slide tackle.
Sometimes going to the ground for the spectacular sliding tackle is not only unnecessary but unwise. The objective of the “block tackle” is to stop a shot or pass, usually with the leg or feet, and in close proximity to the opponent.
When the advancing opponent has passing options, it’s best to remain standing. The block tackle is not a tactic to gain possession as much as it seeks to legitimately break-up the opponents’ attack.
For the block tackle, the defender should be in the path of the attacker or in a position to move into the path or the opponent or the pass/shot. The defender should also be able to change direction easily, which can be done by staying on the toes and with the knees bent. Over-extending the leading leg is not advisable since it prevents the change of motion and allows the opponent to ghost past that leading leg.
This type of tackle is usually executed from a trailing position, from the side of the opponent or behind the opponent. The angle of the challenge leaves no margin for error, but the poke is especially effective when the ball is only partially shielded from you. The poke tackling involves a thrust of the leg to meet the ball. Balance is critical to recovery, so coordination of body movements should ensure that you don’t fall ingloriously after making this challenge.
The slide tackle is the most fun and effective challenge; it can be the riskiest and the most dangerous challenge as well. As with other tackles, control is important. Sliding to one side of the body improves control, maneuverability, and increases the chances of making a fair slide tackle. Bending the supporting leg is also vital in preventing the “studs up” challenge and also facilitates faster recovery from the tackle. The slide tackle should be a last resort and should not be attempted too near to your own goal.
A challenge or tackle can be fair or unfair, but the likelihood of a challenge being unfair is greater. A fair tackle is just a fair one, but unfair tackles actually have grades. According to FIFA Law, they can be careless (just a free kick), reckless (warrants a yellow card), or dangerous (red card). In addition, remember that making contact with the ball first does not mean that the challenge is fair. Proper judgment is critical. Using the right tackle at the right time and in the right context leads to fair challenges.
© 2011 SpiffyD
SpiffyD (author) from The Caribbean on March 29, 2012:
Thanks tazz. Glad you enjoyed it.
SpiffyD (author) from The Caribbean on November 04, 2011:
Thanks Sam. It is interesting that some folks only associate tackling with American football, when it is a common sports term. Thanks for the comment and I look forward to reading some of your hubs.
samtenabray from uk on November 03, 2011:
Love the way you have described every tackle, a lot of people in America especially look shocked when i mention a tackle and soccer in the same sentence. It isn't quite the same tackling association soccer but it does have the same goal, to stop the opposing player.
SpiffyD (author) from The Caribbean on July 22, 2011:
Never too late to discover the beauty of association football. Thanks.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 13, 2011:
I didn't even know there was such a thing as tackling in soccer. Voting this Up and Useful.