Soccer Guide and Rules for Playing the game for Beginners

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/24/2006 | Sports
Although not as popular in the United States and some other countries as many other sports, soccer (or football as it's otherwise known) is by far the most popular sport in the world. Its popularity in areas such as Spain, Portugal, Britain, Central America and Asia for instance can be likened more to a religion than a sport.

Soccer consists of eleven players a side, one of which is in goal and ten players on the field for each team. The general aim of a soccer game is to score points by kicking the ball into the opposing teams' goal and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Each team positions players in either of three general groups which make up attacking players, defensive players and midfield players. Although the role of any player in a group can vary depending on what is happening in the game, they generally have the following responsibilities:

Attacking players - Otherwise known as strikers, these players are in the frontline and are responsible for trying to score goals by kicking the ball into the opponents net.

Defending players - Otherwise known as the backline, these players are responsible for defending their goal from the opposition players and stopping them from kicking the ball into the net.

Midfield players - These players have the most energy draining job on the whole field and must be very fit. A midfielder essentially has two jobs; the first is to help defend their own goal by stopping the opposition players running through the midfield with the ball and thus assist their defenders to protect the goal. The other job is to help "feed" the ball to their own attacking players to assist them in scoring goals.

Offside Rule
The offside rule is a rule that can be a little difficult for beginners to grasp but can be understood using the following list as a guide. You can not be offside if you are:

- Personally in possession of the ball no matter where you are on the field.
- Behind or inline with the ball.
- In your own half of the field.
- Receive the ball direct from a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in.
- You don't go past the last opposition field player (not including the opposing teams' goal keeper) before the ball is kicked. (Once the ball leaves the foot of any player kicking the ball through, you can move past the last opposition field player without being deemed to be offside).

Free-Kick Penalties
If a player breaks a rule of the game during a soccer match then he is penalized and a penalty kick is awarded to the opposing team. There are two different types of penalties that can be awarded when a game rule is broken in soccer, an "indirect" free kick or a "direct" free kick. The difference between the two kicks is with a "direct" free kick the player who takes the free kick can kick the ball directly into the opponents net and score a goal, whereas with an "indirect" free kick the ball must touch another player after the ball is kicked before going into the opponents net, otherwise it will not count as a goal.

Rule breaches that can lead to "indirect" free kick penalties include such things as dangerous play, impeding the progress of an opponent, preventing an opponents goal keeper from releasing the ball and anytime a red or yellow card is issued and a "direct" free kick is not awarded. Breaches that can lead to "direct" free kick penalties include such things as kicking or attempting to kick an opponent, holding an opponent, tripping or attempting to trip an opponent, pushing or jumping at an opponent, charging into an opponent and touching the ball with the hands (unless the player is a goal keeper who is within his own goal area or a player taking a throw-in).

The Card System
Soccer rules include a colored card system for imposing penalties on any player that either persistently or deliberately breaks certain rules. If a player is given a card penalty the match referee does not actually give the card to the player, he simply places a mark on his match card alongside the players name to indicate that a card penalty was issued to that player.

The following guidelines apply to the issuing of colored card penalties by the match referee:

- A yellow card is issued for things such as persistent rule breaches, defying the referee's instructions, dissent and un-sporting behavior.

- A red card is issued for more serious things such as spitting, deliberately attacking an opposition player and offensive behavior. A red card is also issued automatically if a player receives two yellow cards in a game. When a player is issued with a red card he is required to leave the field immediately and can take no further part in the game.

Throw-ins and Corner-kicks
The rules for throw-ins and corner-kicks are pretty simple to understand. If the ball goes out over either sideline, the opposite team to whichever player touched the ball last is given the ball to throw-in (this is the only time a player can touch the ball with his hands except the goalkeepers). If the ball goes out over either backline (the lines beside each goal) then if the last player to touch the ball was defending his own teams' goal then the opposing team are awarded a corner-kick, otherwise the goalkeeper is awarded a goal-kick.

The majority of the rules of soccer are easily understood once a new player gets a little experience. All of the penalty rules for instance are simply common sense rules for the safety and enjoyment of all players. Once a beginner gets out on the field and notices what other players are doing they'll soon pick up the rules and skills to perhaps unearth the next world cup star or at the very least have a great time.