Association football

Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer,[lower-alpha 1] is a team sport played between two teams of 11 players who primarily use their feet to propel the ball around a rectangular field called a pitch. The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposition by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing side's rectangular framed goal. Traditionally, the game has been played over two 45 minute halves, for a total match time of 90 minutes. With an estimated 250 million players active in over 200 countries, it is considered the world's most popular sport.

Association football
The attacking player (No. 10) attempts to kick the ball beyond the opposing team's goalkeeper, between the goalposts, and beneath the crossbar (not shown) to score a goal.
Highest governing bodyFIFA
Nicknames
First playedMid-19th century England[2][3]
Characteristics
Team members11 per side (including goalkeeper)
Mixed-sexNo, separate competitions
TypeTeam sport, ball sport
EquipmentFootball (or soccer ball) Shinpads
VenueFootball pitch (also known as football field, football ground, soccer field, soccer pitch or simply "pitch")
GlossaryGlossary of association football
Presence
Country or regionWorldwide
OlympicMen's since the 1900 Olympics and women's since the 1996 Olympics
Paralympic5-a-side since 2004 and 7-a-side from 1984 to 2016

The game of association football is played in accordance with the Laws of the Game, a set of rules that has been in effect since 1863 with the International Football Association Board maintaining them since 1886. The laws stipulate the number of players a team should have, the game length, the size of the field and ball, the type and nature of fouls that referees may penalize, the offside law, and many other laws that define the sport. It is the task of the referee to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game. The game is played with a football that is 68–70 cm (27–28 in) in circumference. The two teams compete to get the ball into the other team's goal (between the posts and under the bar), thereby scoring a goal. When the ball is in play, the players mainly use their feet, but may use any other part of their body to control, strike or pass the ball apart from their hands or arms. Only the goalkeepers may use their hands and arms, and only then within the penalty area. The team that has scored more goals at the end of the game is the winner. Depending on the format of the competition, an equal number of goals scored may result in a draw being declared, or the game goes into extra time or a penalty shootout.[4]

Internationally, association football is globally governed by FIFA (an abbreviation for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, French for International Federation of Association Football). At a regional level, six continental confederations are responsible for operating competitions between member national associations. The national associations are responsible for managing the game, both professionally and at an amateur level, in their own countries and coordinating competitions in accordance with the Laws of the Game. The most senior and prestigious international competitions are the men's FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women's World Cup.[5] The men's World Cup is the most-viewed sporting event in the world, surpassing the Olympic Games. Both competitions pit national representative teams against each other in a series of group games, and then a knockout format until two teams remain to compete in the World Cup Final. The men's game sees approximately 190–200 national teams partake in respective qualifying tournaments on a continental confederation level for a place in the main tournament. The main tournament is held every four years and involves 32 national teams spanning over four weeks.[lower-alpha 2] The first competition was the 1930 FIFA World Cup in Uruguay.

Women's association football has historically seen opposition from national associations severely curbing its development, several outlawing it completely. Restrictions started to be reduced in the 1980s and the first women's World Cup was the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup in China with only 12 teams from the respective 6 confederations. By the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, this had increased to 24 national teams and a record-breaking 1.12 billion viewers watched the competition.[6]

The two most prestigious competitions in European club football are the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Women's Champions League, which attract an extensive television audience throughout the world. The final of the men's tournament has been, in recent years, the most-watched annual sporting event in the world.[7] The top five European men's leagues are the Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy), and Ligue 1 (France). Attracting most of the world's best players, each of the leagues has a total wage cost in excess of £600 million/€763 million/US$1.185 billion.[8]


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