How To Play: Football

Football has seventeen “Laws of the Game”, governed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). They are applied on private pitches and all the way up to the final of the World Cup. The basic rules state that a match is composed of two 11-person teams competing with a ball on a rectangular pitch. The winning team is the team that scored the most goals without using their arms. The basic kit consists of a shirt, shorts, socks, shin pads and boots

The Basics

Playing time: a football match is played over two 45-minute periods, separated by a half-time interval of between 10 and 15 minutes. Stoppage time or extra time is added at the end of each half to allow for time lost during substitutions or as a result of injury.

Ball in play: the ball is out of play when it has wholly crossing the goal line or touch line, whether on the ground or in the air. It remains in play at all other times, including when it rebounds off a goalpost, crossbar or corner flag post, or even off the referee (normally they’re pretty good at staying out of the way but not every time).


Goals: A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar, provided that no infringement of the Laws of the Game has been committed previously by the team scoring the goal. The team scoring the greater number of goals during a match is the winner. If both teams score an equal number of goals, or if no goals are scored, the match is a draw.

Penalty Kicks: A penalty kick is awarded if an offence is committed by a player inside his or her own penalty area, irrespective of the position of the ball, provided it is in play. The goalkeeper remains on the goal line. All the other players position themselves in front of the penalty area. As soon as the ball is kicked, it is in play. The player taking the penalty may not kick the ball again until it has been touched by another player.

Substitutions: Before the match, each team may name a certain number of substitutes, the exact number varying according to the competition. Only three of these may take part in the match, following agreement by the referee.

The Positions


This is the only player with the right to touch the ball with the hands. The goalkeeper wears a different kit to the other players in order to be easily identified. The goalkeeper’s objective is to block or deflect the opposing team’s attempts at scoring a goal. Players occupying this position need to be flexible in order to reach the ball in the far corners of the goal with their hands or feet.


Left Back and Right Back

These defenders take positions on either side of the pitch and must prevent attackers from the opposing team from passing through their area.

Sweeper or “Libero”

The sweeper marks the opposing team’s centre forward, preventing him or her from taking the ball and moving up the pitch. This is the first defensive position, and must intervene if a fellow defender is taken out by an attacker.

Defensive Midfield

These players, positioned in front of the defenders, are tasked with retrieving the ball.

Attacking Midfield

These players direct the game and give the ball to the strikers.

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Second Striker

This player supports the centre forward, circulating around the centre forward to push the ball forward.

Centre Forward

This is the placer closest to the attacking midfield, and is tasked with scoring goals.


These players must be ready to stand in for their teammates in the event of injury, fatigue or tactical changes.


The referee ensures that the Laws of the Game are followed. He or she has a whistle and a set of cards (red and yellow) to penalise players if required. It’s important that the referee be impartial and in competitions the referee is not part of any team. The judge and jury for the game, the referee’s decision is final. The referee may reconsider his or her decision straight after the incident, before play restarts.


Back heel: a kick backwards from one player to another, using the heel

Bend: a technique whereby the player applies spin to the ball, making its trajectory curve.

Bicycle or Scissor Kick: a shot where the player’s legs cross in mid-air

Calling for the Ball: an indication to a teammate that the player is waiting for the ball

Clearance: When a player, under pressure from the opposing team, kicks the ball far away from the goal he or she is defending.

Corner: a kick taken from the corner of the pitch

Dead ball: collective term for when the game is re-started with the ball stationary, such as a free kick or a corner.

Dribble: running with the ball under close control at player’s feet

Dugout or Bench: a covered area off-pitch where the substitutes are located


Dummy or Feint: when a player fools an opponent by appearing to be about to send the ball in one direction, only to send it in another.

Extra time: playing time added at the end of a tied match when the competition requires that there be a winner.

Foul: an infringement of the Laws of the Game, for example a high tackle.

First touch: a player’s ability to bring the ball under control as soon as he or she receives it.

Free Kick: a shot awarded to a team when a member of the opposing team commits a foul outside of the penalty area.

Hat-Trick: when one player scores three goals in the same match

Kick-Off: The way each half is started, and the way play recommences after a goal is scored. The ball is put or put back into play from the centre spot.

Lob: passing the ball over the head of one’s opponent.

Offside: an offside offence is committed if a player is in the offside position (closer to the opposing goal-line than both the ball and the second-last opposing defender) at the moment the ball is played.

Penalty: a sanction given by the referee when a foul has been committed in the penalty area.

Penalty Shout-Out: if the score is still tied after extra time, the match must be decided by a penalty shoot-out. Five players from each team take turns to take a penalty kick.

Red Card: the sending-off of a player; his or her expulsion from the match.

Top corner: the corner of the goal formed by the crossbar and the post.

Yellow Card: a first warning given by the referee.

With the basics under your belt you can go sign up for your local league or just be prepared for a kick about in the park with your friends. With plenty of boot options and jerseys you’ll be able to start in no time. We also have some guides on how to pick out your boots or portable goals.

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