|Fédération Internationale de Football Association|
Association football (alternatively known as Soccer) is a team sport played between two teams of eleven players each; modern rules allow five substitutes to be picked, with three eligible to be used in each match. It is adjudicated by a referee, and two linesman who concentrate their attention each at one goal. These three are overseen by an individual called the "Fourth Official". It is widely considered to be the most popular sport in the world. A ball game, it is played on a rectangular grass field, or occasionally on artificial turf or hybrid grass/artificial turf, with a goal at each end of the field. The object of the game is to score by manoeuvring the ball into the opposing goal; only the goalkeepers may use their hands or arms to propel the ball in general play; if a player is judged to use their hands in any way during play, this offence is called handball. In some leagues, a system called VAR (video-assisted referee) has been introduced to assist the referee in making goal decisions. If the system records that a clear and obvious error (such as the offside rule not being noticed by a linesman) has allowed the scoring team an advantage, then the goal is disallowed. Likewise, for goals that have been disallowed, if the system records that no error took place, a goal can be awarded.
There are three levels of man penalties on the pitch: foul, yellow card offence and red card offence. A foul is a minor infraction that grants an advantage, while a yellow card is used for more serious offences that have the potential to cause injury, or bring the game into disrepute, like handball, time-wasting or simulation. If two yellow cards are awarded to a player, that player is immediately given a red card. Red cards are immediately handed out for serious foul play, reckless conduct, dissent, or causing serious injury to a player. If a player is handed a red card, they must leave the pitch, and the player cannot be substituted by another, meaning the affected club is reduced in the number of players they can field on the pitch, placing the club at a disadvantage. Yellow cards tend to be treated cumulatively, and penalties may be awarded to the club or player if a player is awarded too many of them within a set number of games, such as suspending the player for one match. Red cards typically carry an automatic financial penalty to the player and/or club, and often carry an automatic ban for the next few games, usually three. Red cards can be appealed, and the appeal is seen by a three-man arbitration panel; if they rule unanimously or with a two-to-one majority to rescind the award, the red card is removed from the player's statistics.
If an infraction is committed, there are specific penalties that can be awarded. The most common is a free kick, in the direction of play for the team disadvantaged by the infraction, in the area where the infraction took place. Indirect free kicks are a long way from goal, and cannot lead to a goal directly, while direct free kicks are close enough to the goal that it is possible for the free kick taker to score a goal directly. For offences that involve taking down a player where the infraction denies a legitimate goalscoring opportunity, penalty kick is awarded. If the ball is kicked out of play behind the goal by that goal's team, then a corner kick is awarded to the opposition, where a kick can be taken from the corner spot towards the goal. If a player kicks the ball out of play on the left or right side of the field, a throw-in is awarded to the opposite team, where a player is able to pass the ball as best he can to a member of his own team. Free kicks, penalty kicks and corner kicks are collectively referred to as set pieces.
The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time, depending on the format of the competition. Extra time may be one of two formats: 'Golden Goal awards a win to any team that scores first, while Silver Goal declares a win if a team is leading at end of either the first or second extra time half. If the game remains drawn after two extra time halves, then the match goes to a penalty shoot-out. Five players at least from each side must attempt to score a goal from the penalty spot. If after five attempts from each side the score is tied, the game proceeds to sudden death, where a winner is declared if a team is declared as leading after the first two penalty kicks. If after those two penalty kicks the score remains tied, then two further kicks are awarded repeatedly until at the end of the granted set of kicks a team is leading. That team is then declared the winner of the match.
In a league situation, three points are awarded for a win, while only one is awarded for a draw. Goals are also kept track of, and are expressed as goal difference; if two teams are equal on points awarded, then the team with the highest goal difference is placed higher. If teams have equal points and equal goal difference, then other factors come into play, such as the number of wins. Penalties to to a team's points total may also be awarded, for offences such as serious misconduct, or financial irregularities. League systems usually have a promotion and relegation system in play between the leagues of that country's football pyramid. Teams that are promoted are done so either automatically, or after being declared the winner of a mini-league play-off for a promotion spot. Relegated teams are usually relegated immediately.
Football leagues are divided into three groups; Professional, Semi-Professional and Amateur. Amateur leagues are generally kept separate from the other two, although teams may apply to the relevant football league to become semi-professional. Semi-professional and amateur clubs are collectively called non-league clubs. However, there may be promotion opportunities between league and non-league football divisions. In this case, to be promoted, a club must not only qualify for a promotion place, but their stadium and training facilities must also satisfy the minimum requires of the league division they are seeking promotion to. If these requirements are not met, the team is denied promotion, and promotion is either given to the next team down who does meet the requirements, or a team from the higher division is granted a reprieve from relegation.
Cup competitions may also be run between leagues using a knockout formula, and often consist first of qualifying rounds before moving to rounds proper. In general, cups tend to stick to the above categories of league, although some competitions, such as the FA Cup, allow every club in the pyramid to participate, regardless of their status. Confederations may also have their own cup competitions that run alongside the domestic season.
The modern game was codified in England following the formation of the Football Association, whose 1863 Laws of the Game created the foundations for the way the sport is played today. Football is governed internationally by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The most prestigious international football competition is the World Cup, held every four years. This event, the most widely viewed and famous in the world, boasts twice the audience of the Summer Olympics. In additional, each confederation holds a championship of their own every four years that alternates with the World Cup. Once a World Cup has been played, a Confederation Championship is played two years after that, another World Cup two years later, and so on.
Each country has its own football association, and each continent has their own confederation(s).