In 2016 soccer is everywhere, no matter what continent you visit you will find people playing some form of it. In Brazil and the UK they call it football, in parts of South America it's often called kick or kick ball. When you think about the word football, it actually makes more sense than soccer, as most other versions of football include a lot of using your hands and throwing the ball. Even though in soccer, a sport primarily dominated by the use of one’s feet, a lot of countries have grown up calling other sports, such as NFL, football. Therefore we just find it easier to call it soccer. And right now there are more people up taking the sport than ever before, especially Canadians. So I've put together a nifty little guide that should help in giving you an introduction to the game.
The basic concept behind soccer is simple. There are 10 players and 1 goal keeper per team, total of eleven. The goal keeper is the only player on the turf allowed to use their hands to touch the ball, everyone else has to use their feet, head or chest to interact with it. The aim is for each team to kick the ball to and from their team mates, working together to get it past the oppositions goal keeper and into the net, thus scoring a point for your team. Soccer is a relatively low scoring game on a professional level and while a score of 1-3 or 3-4 would be considered normal, a score of something like 2-8 or 10-5 is very rare.
If the goal keeper catches the ball, they are allowed to stand inside the goal square marked on the field and keep using their hands. Often you will see the goal keeper roll the ball to a team mate or drop-kick it a huge distance down the field. Once the goal keeper has the ball most players expect the massive drop-kick to happen and quite quickly make their way back to the centre of the ground, so sometimes you'll see the goalie play smart and roll it to themself and tap the ball down the field some distance before doing a running kick and trying to lunge it over everyone’s head into the other teams half.
The one rule that tends to catch people out who are playing offensively and going for the goal is offside. Canadians will be somewhat familiar with offside thanks to hockey. It's straight forward enough but still, some people just struggle to grasp it. Basically you can't run past all of the players on the enemy team and receive the ball while standing in front of just the goal keeper. If you imagine two players standing in a line next to each other, if you need to receive the ball you can't run past the other player and get it when you’re trying to score. Someone can pass you the ball while you’re in line with the other player and then when you have touched it you can run past them with a clever little trick of the feet. But if the player is clever and knows you are about to receive the ball, they can run up the field towards the middle and you'll be caught off side. The difference between being caught offside and not caught offside in soccer can literally be the difference between winning and losing. There are a lot of mind games played in regard to offside and some really clever strategies used to help score the winning goal.
Compared to a lot of other sports soccer has kept a ‘zero tolerance’ stance in relation to contact and rough play. For a ball game it’s nothing like the other sports we’re familiar with that involve physical contact, such as tackling another player to potentially retrieve the ball. If you are rough in soccer, such as verbally abusing or touching another player, you will quickly receive yourself a yellow card. If you do it again you will be given another yellow card and then immediately a red. Being given the red card means you are to leave the ground immediately. If you did something absolutely unjustified, like head-butting another player, you’d immediately skip the yellow card and be given an instant red. So in soccer, you ultimately get one warning, the first yellow meaning you should change your behaviour.