If you've ever needed a simple guide of soccer for dummies you've come to the right place, let's not call all of you dummies, how does soccer knowledgebly impaired sound? Regardless of how much you know about the game it's always nice when it's broken down nice and simple so pay close attention and make sure you don't miss any of the details.
There is actually a lot to know about what looks like such a simple game on the outside. Just two teams, one ball, two nets and most goals wins, pretty straight forward right? Well that is the skeleton of it but there is still a lot for you to know when it comes to set pieces, formations, technique, rules and on and on and on. Maybe you're just looking to improve as a player and improve your passing, shots, dribbling or overall fitness and want to know what's the most important thing to focus on, either way you will find everything you need here, by the end of this page you won't feel like a soccer dummy no more.
Oh! and before I forget in every sport there are always a few crazy rules that only experienced players will know about which I will share with you as well, so much for soccer dummies more like soccer experts!
1. 11 Players Per Team (10 Outfield, 1 Goalie) - Each team starts the game with ten outfield players (defenders, midfielders & strikers) and one goalkeeper in the net. When the game begins players form each team can move freely anywhere on the pitch, the only way teams can have less than 11 is if they don't have 11 players on their roster in which case they need at least 7 to start the game or the game is forfeited. You can also lose players through red cards which I will speak about in more detail below.
2. Game Length 90 Minutes ( Two 45 minute halves) - Typical professional, college and club games are 90 minutes in length with divided into two halves of 45 minutes each. Halves can go longer if the official feels like time needs to be added on, if the game is tied at the end of 90 minutes and there must be a winner than teams will play two 15 minutes halves before a penalty shootout.
3. You Can't Use Your Hands - Well that's not entirely true, you can on throw in's once the ball goes out of bounds but other than that there is a reason they call it football. You can use and body part to pass, shoot or control a ball other than your hands, simple enough? I know this may seem like something obvious and be on the soccer for dummies cover but better safe than sorry.
4. Most Goals Wins - The objective of the game is to score more goals than your opponent, I hope you knew that coming in but just in case you didn't that's the name of the game. A game can end in a tie or go onto extra time and penalty kicks after that.
5. Meaning of Yellow and Red Cards - A yellow card is given to a player who commits a foul that is seen to be above and beyond a typical tackle. You can also get a yellow for arguing with the official, intentional hand balls and those are really the main ways. Two yellows in one game combine to give you a red which means you have to leave the field and your team has to play a man down the rest of the game. A red card is given for offences of a sever nature, abusive language or actions on the field will result in a straight red card and an ejection for the player.
6. Injury/Added Time - Added time (sometimes referred to as injury time) is the the amount of minutes the head referee feels has been wasted during the match from injuries, substitutions or goals that then need to be added onto the end of each half. Typically this is anywhere between 1-5 minutes, anything above that is rare but has happened in the past.
.7. Free Kicks (Direct vs Indirect) - A free kick is just as the name implies a free kick of the ball from a spot where a foul occurred. There are two types of free kicks, direct and indirect, to keep it simple a direct free kick means you can kick it directly on goal and it does not need to touch anyone else before it goes in where as an indirect free kick does.
8. Penalty Kicks - A penalty kick is a shot on goal between one player and the opposing goalkeeper taken from 12 yards away. These are usually given from a handball from the opponent in their own penalty box or is a foul occurs to the attacking team trying to score in the opponents penalty area. Goalkeeper must stay on their line during penalty kicks and shooter must continue in a forward motion once they have started their run up. Penalty kicks can be so basic yet so complex it could go in the soccer for dummies and soccer for experts books!
9. Three Officials - Other than the professional levels which have 4 field level officials plus another 3 or 4 in the Video booth known as video assistance referees. The head official is the one who blows their whistle and makes decisions such as fouls, hand balls and hands out yellow and red cards. The two side line officials are in charge of calling offsides, deciding when the ball goes out of play and assisting the official with other infringements of which they have a better view of.
10. Substitutions - Each team is given a certain number of players they exchange for another. At the highest professional levels the number of substitutions you have is three and that number is higher at the college and club levels. These can be used by a coach to replace injured players or change up the way they want to attack the opponents. At the highest level once a player is substituted off they can't re-enter the pitch again, at the college and club levels this is not a rule.
1. Make Sure You Are Physically Fit - Soccer has so much running you won't believe it until you step out on the field so make sure you have a decent base of physical fitness or you'll be in for a world of pain. Soccer has both long runs (aerobic) and short runs (anaerobic) so you want to make sure your cardiovascular system is trained to do a bit of both. If you just read that last sentence and have smoke coming out of your ears just remember to go for a few runs before you jump right into your first game.
2. Play Simple & Share the Ball - The players that like to keep the ball the hold time and spin themselves into circles never accomplish much in a game so be sure to share the ball as often as you can. They say the hardest thing to do in soccer is to be disciplined enough to play simple and to play what is on, too often players complicate the game by trying unnecessary dribbles, passes and movements. Play simple and quick and not only will you increase the level of success of your own game but of those around you as well.
3. Use Both Feet - It is totally normal to favour your dominant foot but as you play more try and use both feet when the time is right to increase your passing angles and passing options. We've all been in situations where we were thinking "only if it was on my dominant foot" well try and close the gap by developing both feet by using them in practice and game settings until they are almost equal. The best players in the world can pass, shoot and dribble with both feet in any direction and you can too.
4. Always Warm Up Properly! - All the older people reading this are nodding their heads in agreement and wishing this was on the soccer for dummies front page because of how important it is. Even if you're young it's important to build good habits and don't go out there and start sprinting or shooting balls as hard as you can without properly warming up your system. Spend time making sure all the upper and lower body limbs are nice and warm before you get into anything with higher intensity, you'll thank me in ten years.
5. Enjoy! - What's the point of playing if you can't smile while you're doing it. We shouldn't be doing in our spare time away from work unless it brings us joy and is fun to do so make sure you try and enjoy what you do. Playing with happiness increases your level of play and makes your teammates love to play with you.
1. Yelling At the Referee - Just focus on your game and let the ref do their job. You don't want to get on the refs bad side so they call everything against you and it's just an overall ugly look for you and your team to be perceived in that way. With all the concentration needed to play soccer at a hight level you don't want to waste any of it screaming at the ref that will hurt your game in more ways than one.
2. Dribbling Every Time You Get the Ball - Just don't be the person who thinks this is the And 1 mixtape trying to meg, rainbow and dribble everyone every time you get the ball. Not only will your teammates not want to play with you that isn't the way the beautiful game was meant to be played, share the ball and pick your spots when to dribble. If you have one of these players on your team please give them their own copy of soccer for dummies to read, they'll need it.
3. Slide Tackling - If you're still learning the sport a slide tackle can be a little advanced and dangerous for yourself and the opponent if you haven't tried and practiced it before. You can hurt yourself by getting your cleat stuck in the field at awkward angles or even hurt your other leg that is tucked in behind the one making the slide tackle. Hurting yourself is one part of it but the other part is hurting others unnecessarily, if you're playing at recreational level just relax on the slide tackles because you could be hurting someones accountant, go easy on them.
4. Heading the Ball Too Much - Sure heading is a skill you want to learn as you get better at the game but you want to avoid heading balls coming from really high angles (from goalies drop kicks) and heading the ball too frequently in a short amount of time during a game or practice. To be honest if you're just playing at a recreational level I would avoid heading all together just to be safe, shield the opponent and take it down with your foot, chest or even clear it with your shoulders.
5. Kicking With Your Big Toe - Now this is what we call soccer for dummies 101, this is a common technique used by beginners when learning how to shoot the ball. At first it may seem convenient and maybe even some what effective but as you get better you will realize you should either shoot with the inside of your foot (for better accuracy) or with the top of your foot (for more power). Kicking the ball with your big toe can be used for short passes or shots on goal at close range or to catch the goalie off guard but it's more of an advanced skill you'll learn later. You want to be careful about using the toe to kick because you risk injury to your toe and nail both which take a long time to heal.
If you want more information about the game and want your own copy of the Soccer For Dummies Book feel free to get your own here.