A strip of open space, two players and a ball is all that’s needed to start a casual game of football.
However, the more organised version played in official leagues like the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga or big international events like the FIFA World Cups, Euros, the Olympics and so on, abide by a set of universal football rules.
The laws of the game have been devised and fine-tuned by FIFA – the official global governing body of football – over the years.
The football pitch: Dimensions and layout
To understand how to play football, it’s important to know the layout of a football field.
A football pitch, topped either by natural grass or artificial turfs, is rectangular in shape and can be anywhere between 90 to 120m in length and 45 to 90m in breadth.
The borders running along the length of the field are called touchlines or side-lines, while the ones lining the breadth of the pitch along the perimeter are called the goal-lines. The four corners of the playing area are marked with corner flags.
A circle is drawn taking the mid-point of the half-line as centre and hence called centre-circle.
At the central points of each of the goal-lines at each end of the pitch, two goalposts are placed. Goalposts are essentially rectangular metal or wooden frames 7.32m in length and 2.44m in height. Goalposts are generally lined with nets.
Around each goalpost, there’s a designated penalty area, also called the 18-yard box. The penalty area extends 16.5m inside the field from the goal and the same distance from either side of the two ends of the goalpost along the goal-line.
There’s a smaller rectangular area called the 6-yard box or goal area inside the penalty box and around each goalpost. It extends 5.5m inside the field from the goal line and the same distance on either side of the two ends of the goalpost.
There’s a penalty spot marked 11m away from the centre of the goal. The mark falls between the outer edge of the 6-yard-box and 18-yard-box.
Rules of football
Football matches are played between two teams and typically last for 90 minutes. The match is divided into two halves of 45 minutes each.
There’s a 15-minute break called half-time which separates the two halves.
A match kicks off from the centre circle with one team in possession of the ball.
The teams switch sides after half-time, with the other team in possession and kicking off proceedings.
The objective of each team is to kick or head the football within the opposing team’s goalposts to score a goal.