Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Soccer for Dummies

I suppose I will be the first to admit that I'm not a big soccer fan. Outside of one summer a few years ago when I played Super Mario Strikers with some friends almost non-stop, I've never played soccer in my life or had a desire to do so. I just know I'd be the type of person who steps on top of the ball when trying to kick it and falls flat on my back. Not my idea of enjoyment.

It's more fun to watch soccer than to play it, but it's still one of my least-favorite spectator sports. It seems like sometimes the game goes on forever and nothing happens (like the first half of the BYU soccer game I attended a couple weeks ago). However, it can be exciting when someone actually scores, preferably several times (like the second half of the game I attended a couple weeks ago . . . or at least 5 minutes of it).

While I was tempted to just make this post say: "Kick the ball into the net to get a point. The team with the most points wins. The end," I guess I should probably elaborate a little more than that. It's also the only BYU sport going on right now (yawn . . .) so here's "Soccer for Dummies"!

The game of soccer (or "football" to the rest of the world outside the U.S.) is played on a rectangular field. The longer sides are called touchlines, and the shorter sides are called the goal lines. Goals (with nets behind them) are placed in the middle of each goal line. The goals consist of two upright posts placed equidistant from the corners of the field, joined at the top by a horizontal crossbar. The inner edges of the posts are 8 yards apart, and the lower edge of the crossbar is 8 feet above the ground (thank you, Wikipedia).

The game consists of two 45-minute halves, and, like in rugby, the clock doesn't stop. The referee can add time on to the end of each half to account for injuries, wasted time, etc. A goal (worth one point) is scored when the ball completely crosses the goal line between the posts. The team who scores the most goals wins the game.

Each soccer team has 11 players, including a goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, and forwards. The goalkeeper is the only member of the team who is allowed to touch the ball with his hands. Everyone else is restricted to their feet, head, and other parts of their body. The goalkeeper's job is to prevent the ball from going into the net on his team's side of the field. Defenders play in front of the goalkeeper and also try to prevent the other team from scoring, but they can't touch the ball with their hands. Midfielders cover the entire field and work on both offense (trying to score goals) and defense (preventing the other team from scoring goals). Forwards have the primary job of scoring goals and helping their teammates score goals. The center forward (a.k.a. the striker) is the team's leading goal scorer and usually leads the pack up front.

When the ball goes out of bounds ("out of play") or a foul is committed, play stops momentarily, until the ball is brought back into play with one of the following:
  • Kick-off: Begins each half and follows each goal. 
  • Throw-in: when the ball crosses the touch line, the opposing team to the one who last touched the ball gets to throw it back in. 
  • Goal kick: when the ball crosses the goal line (outside the net area) and was last touched by an attacker (offensive player). The ball is placed anywhere within the defending goal area and kicked by a member of the defending team (usually the goalkeeper) toward the other side of the field. 
  • Corner kick: when the ball crosses the goal line (outside the net area) and was last touched by a defender. The ball is placed in the corner closest to where it went out of play and an attacking (offensive) player kicks it back into play.
  • Indirect free kick: awarded to the opposing team following a minor foul. The kick is taken from where the foul occurred, unless the offense was committed within the goal area of the team awarded the kick, in which case the kick may be taken from anywhere within the goal area. A goal cannot be scored directly off an indirect free kick.
  • Direct free kick: awarded to the opposing team following a serious foul. If I understand correctly, it's essentially the same as an indirect free kick, except a goal can be scored directly off a direct free kick.
  • Penalty kick: awarded to the opposing team following a serious foul that occurred in their penalty area. The kick is taken 12 yards out from goal and with only the goalkeeper of the defending team between the penalty kicker and the goal. No one else can stop the kick.
At one point during the BYU soccer game last Saturday, BYU scored a goal, but the referee called it invalid and didn't award them a point. I couldn't figure out why, until someone explained to me that one of the BYU players was "offsides," which is a no-no, apparently. For someone to be offsides, three conditions must be met:
  1. The player must be on the opposing team's half of the field. 
  2. The player must be in front of the ball.
  3. There must be fewer than two opposing players between him and the opposing goal line (including the goalkeeper).
I'm not quite sure why that's not allowed, but apparently it's not. So don't be offsides or your teammate's goal won't count. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Other soccer fouls include:
  • Kicking, tripping, pushing, holding, or tackling an opponent (these are all rewarded with a direct free kick).
  • Arguing or fighting with the referees or other players.
  • Anyone but the goalkeeper touching the ball with his hands.
The goalkeeper also can't:
  • Hold the ball for more than 6 seconds
  • Touch the ball twice in a row without it being touched by another player
  • Touch the ball with his hands after one of his teammates deliberately kicks the ball to him (in that case, he'd have to kick it away instead of throw it)
When a foul is committed, the referee can choose to issue a yellow card (serves as a warning that they need to repent) or a red card (a serious foul for which repentance is not an option) to the offending player. Two yellow cards or one red card will get you ejected from the game, with no option to return.

Well, I think that's about it. So I shall end with a couple of interesting BYU soccer facts that I uncovered during my research for this post:
  • The BYU men's soccer team is the only college soccer team in the country to completely forego the NCAA and NAIA and play all its games in the PDL (Premier Development League)
  • They also won the national championship in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001. 
So there you go. We're unique and amazing. Go Cougs!

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