Rules of Football (Soccer) | How it is Played?

Football (Soccer) is the most popular game in the world. No matter where ever you are living, it is impossible that you haven’t come across this game yet. The world’s most expensive game has no borders, it is equally popular in underdeveloped countries of Africa as it is in European countries.

One of the most admitted stories says the game was developed in England, back in the 12th century. Though it wasn’t exactly football but games resembling football were played on meadows and roads in England. Alongside kicking, players were allowed to punch or kick each other. It was a bit of rugby, and a bit of football, but this is where it all began. Whatever it was, it was dangerous for sure.

Rules of Football

The game continued to evolve and on Nov. 6, 1869, the first game of football was played between colleges in New Brunswick, Canada. Today, football tops the list of games with most sponsors and following – no other game is even near.

Objective of the Game

Like every game has some way of choosing the winner, some have points scoring while some have runs. In soccer, we have goals. The more goals a team scores the more it has chances of winning the game. Every goal takes a lot of hassle and effort, it is not easy, therefore only 2-3 goals are scored by each side in every game on average.

How to Play?

As the name suggests, Football is played with feet. By using their feet, players can pass the ball to their teammates or take it forward to ultimately score a goal by sending the ball in the opponent’s goal post. Both teams have their own halves and goalposts to protect.

Before you start playing Football, you need to learn about different fouls and their consequences, apart from feet, what parts of the body can be used to hit the ball and what happens if the game is drawn. Find out everything in the rules below.

Kick Off in Football

Toss is considered important in football as the team that wins the toss decides which goal it will attack in the first half of the match – the goal posts are exchanged after the first half. Both the leaders and the match referee go to the center of the field for the coin toss. The losing side takes the kick-off to start the match.

An Overview of Rules in Football

  • Each team can feature 11 players including the goalkeeper.
  • The whole play takes place in two different halves with each half of 45 minute. After the first half, players take a 15 minutes break to pull themselves together.
  • You can name up to 7 substitute players and substitution can be made anytime during the play. Only 3 substitutes can play at a time and if your 3 substitutes are already playing and you have a player injured, you’ll be forced to play without a replacement for the injured player.
  • There are some restrictions on what kind of football ball is to be used on the field. The ball must be of circular shape and has circumference of 58-61 cm.
  • The size of the pitch must be within 100-130 yards in length and 50-100 yards wide.
  • Free kicks, penalties, and throw ins are declared by the referees, you can’t argue with them. Spotting off side and throw ins is the assistant referee’s job, after watching, he tells the main referee what actually happened there to reach the right decision.
  • A football game can be drawn if both the teams have equal points. While in knock-out games, or if having a winner is mandatory, then the match can be decided on extra time and then in the penalty shots if the score remains the same during the extra 15 minutes.
  • Football has strict rules and a player who commits foul is either shown a yellow card or red card by the referee, if the foul is severe. Yellow card is a warning while a red card tells the player that he is dismissed. Two yellow cards equal one red and if the player has been sent off once, he can’t come back on the field during further play.

Duration of a Football Match

The game continues for 90 minutes with a break after 45 minutes. Or in other words, it is played in two halves, with each half consisting of 45 minutes. After the first 45 minutes, a 15 minutes break is given to the players as a break. This 90 minutes duration can be extended, if the winner is not decided in the first two halves.

The winning team is chosen on the basis of goals, and if both the teams have scored the same number of goals after the completion of 90 minutes, then it goes to extra time – extra 15 minutes.

And if the score remains level even in the extra time, then it goes down to the penalty shootout. Every team gets 5 gos at the goalpost, by individual players and goalkeeper guarding the post for the opposition.

Football Pitch

There are varying pitch dimensions for each ground but are roughly 120 yards long and 75 yards wide. Each pitch has a 6 yard box next to the goal mouth along with an 18-yard box surrounding the 6-yard box and a centre circle.

Football Equipments

There is no specific equipment for football except the football, itself, of course. However, some players wear studded football boots, shin pads and match stripes. Goalkeepers are allowed to wear additional padded gloves as they can touch the ball.

The ball must be of circular shape and has circumference of 58-61 cm.

Legal Goal in Football

Scoring a goal is simple, all you have to do is send the ball into the opposition’s goal. The ball must go over the line, it can be scored from the arm or any part of the body except hands.
The goal area is up to 8 feet high and 8 yard wide.

Although most goals are unambiguous, situations occur when it is difficult for the on-field officials – referees – to tell if the ball had completely crossed the line before rebounded back by the saver.

In such instances, like cricket has third umpires or TV umpires, football has assistant referees whose view across the pitch from the sidelines may come handy in determining whether the ball has crossed the line or not.

Roles of Players in Football

Each team features 11 players along with the goal keeper who’s restricted to the goal post and his job is to defend the post. A professional football team has players with these roles:

Goalkeeper − You can be a football player who can play in any position but not a goalkeeper. Goalkeeping is a tough job and therefore, only a specialist is chosen for this job. A keeper can’t go outside the rectangular penalty area which is 18 yards away from the goal and he holds the unique privilege of being allowed to use his hands to stop or hold the ball.

Defenders – As the name suggests, a defender is supposed to defend the goal. But the difference is, he can’t touch the ball with his hands like a keeper and he stays positioned in front of the goalkeeper to tackle any opposition player with the ball marching towards the goalpost.

Outside Fullbacks – These players stay on the right and left flanks and block the incoming opposition players with the ball. They don’t move much from their positions.

Central Defenders – They have a big role to play in the centre of the field and are supposed to cover the goal scorer of the opposition’s team.

Midfielders – They are versatile players as they form the link between the defenders and attackers. These players are physically fit and stronger than other players on the field because they have to run more than anyone else in the field. They enter the opposing team’s area to attack and they defend when the opposing team retains the ball.

Forwards – Another very important position that is taken care of by fast athletes. A player who plays at Forwards aims to create goals and create an easy situation for their teammates to score a goal.

Center Forwards – They are also called strikers. Their instinct level is of supreme level. Strikers attack the opposition’s goal post and try to score as many goals as possible.

Referees’ Role in Football

The referee’s role is to pass an unbiased judgement in case of foul or misconduct, and take control of the situation if players try to lock horns. Its common in football that players lose their temper during the game, especially when traditional rivals play against each other.

A referee has the authority to show a Yellow or Red card to a player and ask him to leave the field. But it only happens when a player intentionally tries to hurt the opposition player or infringe a law. A Yellow card serves as a warning to a player while a Red card means you are being dismissed from the game.

Other duties of a referee and his assistant include declaring off sides, penalties, and keeping track of time. Football involves emotions of billions, every player tries his ultra best to win it for his team, and for this reason, sledging and shoves are common in Football. If we don’t have referees in football, it can turn into rugby, or Kabaddi in worst cases.

Types of Fouls in Football

Here’s a list of common faults that occur in Football. Their consequences are decided by the referee, and depends upon the severity of the foul. These actions are considered fouls:

  • Tripping an opponent
  • Kicking an opponent
  • Jumping into an opponent
  • Tackling from behind
  • Pushing
  • Touching the ball with your hands
  • Making contact with the opponent who doesn’t have the possession of the ball
  • If a player raises his boot along with football higher than the shoulder of the opponent to stop him from coming towards the ball, it is considered a foul.

Normally, a free kick is awarded as a result of these fouls but if they occur in the opponent’s penalty box, in that case a penalty can be awarded.

Offside Rule in Football

Technically, a player is in an offside position when an attacking player is closer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball, and second to last opponent. Keep in mind, this rule is not for arms and hands, but other parts of the body. When a player commits offside, a freekick is guaranteed to the opposition.

Throw-in Rule in Football

A throw-in may seem a confusing thing by name, it is simply a method of restarting play in a football game. A throw-in takes place when the ball has exited the side of the field of play.

If a throw-in is given to a particular side and its player fails to deliver the ball as per procedure – you have to throw/hurl the ball towards one of your players – the throw-in is now awarded to the opposing team. This is also known as “foul throw”.

Handball Rule in Football

As it is said, no player can touch the ball with his hand in football except the keeper – who too can only touch in inside the 18 yards of goal post. A handball occurs when a player deliberately handles the ball when in play. A ball can be handled with any part of the arm including the fingers to right up to the shoulder. Handball can lead to following consequences:

  • A handball can result in a yellow card caution if it is done on purpose.
  • It can result in restart of the play in the form of a direct free kick from the spot at which the offense was committed for the non-offending side.
  • A penalty is awarded to the non-offending side if it occurs in the penalty area.

Free Kick

Free kick is a consequence of various fouls by the players which we have discussed above, but how is it taken? Let’s have a look.

  • If the offense occurred within the kicking team’s goal area, the free kick can be taken from anywhere inside it.
  • In case of indirect free kick that is awarded for an offence within the offending team’s own goal area, the kick is taken from the nearest point on the goal area line – parallel to its goal line.
  • In case the offense occurred outside the field of place, the free kick is executed from the boundary line nearest to the offense area.

Corner Kick in Football

Just like a throw-in, a corner kick is another method to restart the play in football. When the ball is sent out of the goal line without a goal being scored and having last touched by a member of the defending team. In this case, a corner kick is awarded to the opposition whose one player takes this kick from the corner of the field play nearest to the corner flag from where it went out.

Though this is rare, a corner kick is also awarded instead of an own goal in case when a team sends the ball directly into its own goal from certain restarts – e.g. throw-in, free kick.

Penalty Kick Procedure in Football

Penalty kicks are common in football, and often they prove to be a deciding factor in tight games. Here’s the procedure for executing penalties.

  • The ball must be stationary on the penalty mark – a small white spot, painted on the grass, twelve yards in front of the centre of the goal line.
  • The defending goalkeeper must remain on the goal line right in front of the kicker between the goalposts. He is not allowed to touch the cross bar or goal net before the ball has been kicked.
  • The other players – from the kicker’s side – must be at least 10 yards away from the penalty mark, inside the field of play but outside the penalty area.
  • Referee signals for the penalty kick to be taken – usually in the form of whistle.
  • Backheeling is not permitted, players taking the penalty can only kick the ball forward.
  • At the kicking time, the defending keeper must have at least a part of his foot touching or within the goal line.
  • The kicker is not allowed to play the ball again until it has been touched by some other player.
  • The penalty kick completes when the ball stops moving, goes out of the play or referee authoritatively stops the game in case of any offence from any side.
  • If a player from the defending side commits an offence, and the penalty is saved or missed, the penalty is retaken.

Man Of the Match in Football

Choosing the best player of the match is common in team sports. In football, this man of the match can be chosen from either side, depending on the performance – mostly, it’s the player who scores most goals or creates more chances (assist), gets the Man of the Match award.

Are Soccer & Football the Same?

There’s no such difference between football and soccer, football is the common name of all sports which are played with foot and ball. An important thing to note here is that in the United Kingdom, the terms football and soccer mean the same thing. While in the USA, soccer and football are two different games.

The football played there (they call it soccer) is similar to rugby and players have to wear the armor to protect themselves from getting hurt. In soccer, the team players use their feet to kick the ball and don’t wear any such protective gears.

The score nature of different football games is pretty much the same. The team that scores the most goals is declared the winner. In case of a draw, the criteria to decide the winner is the same as in traditional football.

The soccer played in the USA is played with a different ball. The ball used in it is sphere shaped. In Soccer, players use the method of kicking the ball into the goal, like football, they are not allowed to use their hand to move the ball.


  • Soccer and Football are often confused as two different games. In the UK, these are the same thing while in the USA, Soccer is a little different from football – or in simple words, it’s more casual than football. Bit of a mixture of football and rugby.
  • Soccer balls are sphere shaped. While football balls are rounded balls.
  • Football is the term used for many games played with foot and ball, all come under the same umbrella. While soccer is just one among them.

Difference Between Football and Soccer

Football Soccer
The terms football is used for many games played with foot and ball. One of the games that come under football category.
11 players (7 substitutes as a backup). 11 players allowed in a game.
Played with rounded or pointed ball. Played with sphere shaped ball.
Also known as soccer in UK. A separate game in USA.

Famous Football Leagues in the World

Football is considered one of the richest sports in the world. Besides International competition, certain leagues are widely famous in the world. Some of these leagues are:

  • English Premier League
  • La Liga
  • Bundesliga
  • Serie A
  • Ligue 1
  • Superliga Argentina

Famous Football Stadiums in the World

Some of the famous football stadiums in the world are:

  • Wembley Football Stadium – United Kingdom
  • The Allianz Arena – United Kingdom
  • Old Trafford – United Kingdom
  • Camp Nou – Spain
  • Azteca – Mexico

FIFA Football Awards

To maintain healthy competition among teams and players, FIFA gives away various awards to men and women football teams annually.

  • The best FIFA’s Men’s player
  • The best FIFA’s men’s coach
  • The best FIFA’S men goalkeeper
  • FIFA’S FIFpro men’s World11
  • Ballon d’or (prestigious individual award for football players awarded by French Magazine)
  • Golden shoe / Golden boot (award presented in each season to the leading goalscorer in league matches from the top division in European national league)
  • Golden Ball (Awarded to the highest goal scorer/scorers in the Fifa World Cup)

FIFA Governing Body

FIFA was founded in 1904. FIFA is a non-profit organization which describes itself as an international governing body of football. FIFA’s objectives include growing football internationally, providing efforts to ensure football is accessible to everyone. Any changes made in the laws of the game and international events are organized and decided by FIFA.