Arguably the most popular sport in the world, football combines strength, stamina and fancy footwork to the point that many footballers have become international celebrities due to their skills on the pitch.
Unfortunately, millions of children across the UK take up football each year with similarly high hopes, only to realise later that a very small percentage of footballers ever make it to a professional league.
If your child shows an interest in playing football, encourage him or her to play for the love of the game and see where their passion takes them!
Football: The Basics
Football is played by two teams of eleven on a pitch with a goal at either end. Without using their hands, players move the ball up the pitch and attempt to score goals.
Only the opposing goalkeeper may use his/her hands to try to block a goal. At the end of the match, the winning team is the one who has scored the most number of goals.
Usually one referee and two assistant referees officiate. If, at the end of a regulation 90 minute match, both teams have scored the same number of goals, the winner may be determined by playing for extra time, or by penalty shootout.
Like most sports, football employs its own vocabulary throughout a match. Terms particular to football include:
- Kick off: at the start of a match, a coin toss determines which teams kicks off play. At the start of the second half, the other team kicks off. Kick offs also restart play after a goal by the team who conceded the goal.
- Throw in: when the ball crosses the touch line and runs off the pitch, the team who did not last touch the ball is awarded a throw in.
- Corner kick: if a defender is the last player to touch the ball before it crosses the goal line without a goal being scored, a corner kick is awarded to the other team.
- Goal kick: if an attacker is the last player to touch the ball before it crosses the goal line without a goal being scored, a goal kick is awarded to the other team.
- Dropped ball: when the referee stops play for a reason other than foul or infringement. This is more common in youth leagues.
- Indirect free kick: awarded to the opposing team when a footballer is cautioned or sent off without a specific foul.
- Direct free kick: awarded to the opposing team following a footballer’s foul.
- Penalty kick: awarded to the opposing team following a footballer’s foul in the opposing team’s penalty area.
- Offside: a rule stating that while in the opponent’s side of the pitch, an attacker must have one defending player between him/herself and the goalkeeper.
Football for Kids
If all of the technical football terms make you nervous, don’t worry, children pick up the rules instinctively as they play. In fact, football is a fantastic sport for children. The advantages of children playing in organised youth leagues include:
- Consistent aerobic workouts.
- Increased speed and agility.
- Greater flexibility and coordination.
- Enhanced stamina.
- Better discipline.
- Improved cooperation with others.
- Learning to work as part of a team.
- Practicing good sportsmanship.
Youth Football Leagues
If your child shows promise in football and wants to play consistently, investigate local or county youth leagues. Regardless of the league in which your child ultimately plays, be prepared to kit him/her out correctly in:
- Uniform of jersey and shorts.
- Warm clothing or track suit to wear on top.
- Knee high team socks.
- Shin guards.
- Gum shield.
Football for Girls
Football for girls and women was long regarded as the poor sister of the UK football leagues, but today great energy and enthusiasm goes into women’s matches.
If your daughter wants to play in a football league, look on the Internet for a list of county leagues, or see Fair Game, the magazine for women’s soccer in the UK.
From informal matches in the park to professional leagues, a football frenzy has swept the UK.
Get your child in on the fun by investigating leagues near you, or creating one yourself if need be.
Remind your child to play fair, work hard and have fun, and (s)he will be a winner no matter what the scoreboard says!