Sports & Fitness

Soccer for Dummies

It seems there’s always some big soccer (okay, football) event going on. World Cup, Euro Cup, Women’s World Cup, and so on.


Who knew that football (the sport’s moniker around the world, but dubbed soccer to us North Americans) has been around for almost 3,000 years? First documentation places the beginnings of soccer during the Han Dynasty in China as a military exercise. Later, soccer was used as a game of war—Englishmen were reportedly once playing a game with the head of a Danish prince whom they had defeated at battle. (Ew!)

Soccer as we know it today had its start in Britain back in 1815 when Eton College set out to make their own set of rules for the controversial game. (Many politicians and royalty had tried, without success, to ban soccer from being played in Britain.) In 1863, the first Football Association meeting was held in the Freemason’s Tavern in London. From that meeting came the rules of the game that are still followed today.

Thanks to superstars including David Beckham (yes, the highest paid athlete in the world) and American protegé Freddy Adu (he’s the 16-year old who signed a contract with Nike when he was only 13!), and the women’s World Cup that, yet again, drew major international attention when it was last held in the States in 2003, soccer maintains its spot as the most popular sport in the world and has gained tremendous popularity over the past ten years in North America and Asia.

This summer marks another World Cup (for the men this time) in Germany from June 9th to July 9th. Fans’ interests have already peaked for a month full of football. In over 70 years, the FIFA World Cup Tournament has become THE premier sporting event for the world to watch. Stay tuned.

The game
• Professional games have two halves, lasting 45 minutes each. During indoor play, most recreational teams play two 25-minute halves.

• In standard play, each team consists of three forward players, three mid-fielders, three defensive players, and one goaltender. For indoor play the field is usually smaller, but it seems to open up with only three forwards, two defensive players, and one goaltender on each team.

• The goaltender is the only player allowed to touch the ball with his/her hands during play. If a member of either team touches the ball with the intention to direct the play, the referee will call the play dead and the opposing team will get a free kick (a chance to kick the ball in the direction of the other team’s goal).

The gear
Check out or for the hottest and latest in soccer cleats, shin pads, and other equipment. Nike’s new Mercurial Vapor line of gear claims to help players run faster due to it being lightweight and featuring Nike’s “explosive accelerator” technology. Be sure to get fitted properly when purchasing cleats. Going half a size smaller or bigger can result in foot injuries.

The lingo
Corner kick — When a player from team A kicks or puts the ball out of bounds behind their goal line, team B gets a kick from the corner of the field. This is a good opportunity for team B to get the ball in front of the net, possibly resulting in a goal in their favour.

Crossbar — The top bar of the goal.

Goal lines — The boundary lines behind each goal.

Goal posts — The upright posts surrounding the goal.

Header or heading the ball — While the ball is in the air, using the forehead or top of the head to direct the ball towards a teammate or the net.

Pitch — The rectangular field of play.

Throw In — When the ball goes out of bounds past the sidelines, a player from the opposing team who last had control of the ball throws the ball overhead, towards one of their players.

Touch lines — The side boundary lines.

Soccer studs

Freddy AduAt only 16-years-old, American soccer star Freddy Adu (seen here—hot stuff!) is set to make his World Cup debut this year in Germany. This power forward, who is rumoured to be dating pop star JoJo, is a fan of Brazil soccer sensation Pele.

British soccer star Wayne Rooney, who currently plays for Manchester United, will give England a much-needed boost at this year’s World Cup. This forward was named the FIFPro World Young Player of the Year in 2005. That’s a lot of hype to live up to for a 20-year-old!

Twenty-year-old Philippe Senderos has brought a flicker of hope back to the Swedish team (which has been out of the spotlight as of late). This star
defenseman, who plays for English team Arsenal, even speaks five languages.

Chu-Young Park of Korea has become a soccer prodigy in his home country at the age of 20. This striker (a position also known as centre forward, forward, and attacker) hopes to play in the English Premier League.

Lukas Podolski of Germany played for his home country as the youngest member at the Euro 2004 tournament. This striker now has a chance to prove himself in front of his countrymen (and women!) this June.

Get fit

Soccer is a great cardiovascular workout, especially in outdoor play where the field runs a minimum of 100 yards (90 metres) in length and 50 yards (45 metres) wide. Due to the quick pace, players are often engaged in quick sprints to get in position or attempt to get control of the ball. This results in lean muscle tissue on both legs, including the thighs, calves, and buttocks.

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