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football guide EB

A Beginner's Guide to Football

Football is one of the nation's favourite sports, and you probably know a few die-hard fans of the game too! But all that passion can be a little overwhelming when you're getting into the sport, especially when you're not 100% sure what's going on or the rules. If you want to take up the sport or better understand it whilst watching it on TV, this guide should help!

The Pitch

Shaped like a rectangle, the pitch is around 105x60m, and the long sides are called 'touchlines' whilst the short sides are 'goal lines'. The goals are placed at the centre of each goal line, and pitch corners are marked with a flag. In front of each goal are two rectangular boxes - the smallest of these is the 'goal area', and the larger is the 'penalty area.' Players may take goal kicks and free kicks anywhere in the goal area, and the penalty area is where the goalkeeper may handle the ball and where, if the defender makes a foul, it's punishable by a penalty kick. On top of the penalty area, you'll find a semicircle called the 'penalty arc.' No player is allowed in this arc except for the penalty kicker and the defending goalkeeper when a penalty kick is taking place. 


The pitch is split in two by the 'halfway line', and players must be in their own half during the kick-off. In the centre of the halfway line is the 'centre mark', where the ball must be kicked off from at the start of the match, and around the centre mark is a 10-yard circle called the 'centre circle.' The circle indicates to the players how far opposing players need to keep back at kick-off.

football guide ECI

Positions and Players

Each team will have 11 players on the pitch, with several more on the sidelines for substitutions. There are four main positions in football:

Goalkeepers - They are the only person allowed to touch the ball with their hands during play, and their primary aim is to stop the opposition from scoring a goal by defending the goal and blocking the ball.

Defenders - These players will try to prevent the ball from getting past them. Usually, they're the last players someone will encounter before trying to score a goal, except for the goalkeeper.

Midfielders - Help out the defenders, pass the ball to the forwards, head towards the opposing goal, and can try to score.

Forwards - You'll probably hear these players get called 'strikers'. Their main job is to try and score, and they'll often take penalty kicks and corner kicks and will kick-off at the beginning of each half.

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Game Length

Each game is 90 minutes with two 45-minute halves, separated by a short 15-minute break. Extra time might be added at the end of the game if the teams draw in knock-out competitions to force a winner. Extra time is usually half an hour, split into two 15-minute halves with a minute's break between. The game moves to a penalty shoot-out if no winner emerges after extra time. There may also be additional 'added time' to a match. This is used if the game has needed to be stopped due to an injury, foul, or other factors. Depending on how long the pause in the game was, added time can extend the match beyond 90 minutes without it being in extra time.

Penalty Shoot-Out

Teams take turns shooting at the goal from the penalty mark, where the goal is only defended by the goalkeeper. Each team has five shots, all of which must be taken by a different player, and teams must have a lead impossible to take over to win. Any goal scored as part of a penalty shoot-out is tallied separately from the goals scored in the game and will not count towards the final goal total.

The Off-Side Rule

This rule has a reputation as being the most confusing one in football. However, it's easier to understand than you may think! A player is off-side when they're in the opponent's half of the pitch, behind their last outfield player (anyone who isn't the goalkeeper), and has been passed the ball. To put it another way, a player can't receive the ball unless they're standing level with an opponent or there's another player between them and the goal. A player is only off-side if the ball is being played forwards; if the ball is played backwards, it's considered on-side. Additionally, a player can only be penalised and called off-side in active play.

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