In many parts of the world, soccer is known as football or even American football. It is the most popular sport in the world and is played in more than 200 countries. Approximately 250 million people play soccer around the world each year, and there has been Olympic sport since 1900 and Paralympic sport since 1984. When soccer is played two teams of 11 players try to score with a spherical ball in a rectangular field with one to achieve goal net at both ends. Players have to score without the use of their hands or their arms. Only goalkeepers are allowed to touch the ball with their hands.
No one knows exactly when soccer was created, but the earliest versions of the game can be traced back 3,000 years.
In the early 1800s soccer was invented in Newgate Prison in London by prisoners who had been punished for stealing. Their punishment had been to have their hands cut off.
In England, soccer was formed when several clubs formed the Football Association about 150 years ago.
A soccer ball has 32 panels; each one represents one of the 32 countries in Europe.
Women started playing soccer around the same time as men did in England. However, originally men were the main players in the game. Women’s soccer started to become extremely popular in the 1990s.
The first soccer nets were actually wicker baskets.
In China, the first soccer balls were made from sewn clothing that was filled with rubble. In Europe during the Middle Ages, soccer balls were made from inflated pig bladders.
Up until 1908, they made soccer balls from the (inflated) stomach tissue from executed prisoners.
Today most of the balls are made from layers of synthetic leather while the bladders inside the ball are made from latex or butyl.
The USSA was the first American professional soccer league. They played from 1919 for two years. They were paid $0.35 every time they scored.
Soccer is played on a grassy field called a pitch. The field is rectangular and must be between 100 and 130 yards long and 50 to 100 yards wide.
Soccer fields are called pitches. Pitch and slope have the same meaning in soccer. If the field is a regulation field, it slopes 5 degrees up, from one end of the field to the other. Teams switch goal nets during the game so they both have the same uphill slope for half the game.
An international soccer game is 90 minutes long. The 90 minutes is divided in two 45 minute halves.
Originally the World Cup was made of paper mache. The heavy rain in the 1950 competition ruined the cup and it had to be replaced.
The earliest game that resembled association football in history is the Chinese game cuju. The history of the sport dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
A 13-year-old Brazilian soccer player scored every goal of 23 in total, during a game that his team won 23-0.
The oldest professional football club in the world still in existence today is Sheffield FC. It was founded in 1857, and they have fluctuated in different tiers of play in England.
In 1998 a lightning bolt killed an entire team during a soccer game. The 11 players of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nobody on the opposite team was hurt.
The country of Greenland has never been able to have a FIFA recognized team. That is because they can’t grow grass to create fields.
A bad referee call in a game in 1964 in Peru caused a riot that resulted in the deaths of 300 people.
Referees were not used in official soccer matches until 1881. Up until then, people playing were responsible for making any calls.
A goal scored after people had begun to leave the stadium during a game in 1982 in Moscow resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. When the goal was scored and people tried to get back to their seats, the result was stampede and 340 people died.
A match in the Congo in 1998 ended in tragedy as lightning killed an entire team. The opposition was left untouched.
In one game it is common for a player to run approximately 6 miles. This would be equal to running back and forth on a basketball court 350 times.
The most fans to attend one football match took place in 1950 in Rio de Janeiro. A total of 199,854 people watch Brazil play Uruguay in the World Cup.
Soccer is even popular in third world countries. If villages cannot afford a soccer ball, they will use balls that they’ve made with diapers or rags.
Football made its television debut in 1937, featuring Arsenal in England. It was a practice match that involved players from the club.
Until 1991, soccer was an illegal sport in Mississippi.
Goalies first started wearing different colored jerseys in 1913, helping referees make proper calls during a match.
Professional soccer players were not allowed in the Olympics until 1984. They are permitted to play as long as they are in the Under-23 level.
The oldest player in World Cup history is Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadary. He played sparingly for the club during group action.
Women soccer teams have been able to play in the Olympics since 1996.
Oleg Salenko of Russia holds the record for most goals scored in a single World Cup match. He was able to score 5 in Russia’s win over Cameron.