Football

Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball with the foot to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football is understood to refer to whichever form of football is the most popular in the regional context in which the word appears. Various forms of football can be identified in history, often as popular peasant games. Contemporary codes of football can be traced back to the codification of these games at English public schools during the nineteenth century. The expanse of the British Empireallowed these rules of football to spread to areas of British influence outside of the directly controlled Empire. By the end of the nineteenth century, distinct regional codes were already developing: Gaelic football, for example, deliberately incorporated the rules of local traditional football games in order to maintain their heritage. In 1888, The Football League was founded in England, becoming the first of many professional football competitions. During the twentieth century, several of the various kinds of football grew to become some of the most popular team sports in the world.

Association football and Gaelic football tend to use kicking to move the ball around the pitch, with handling more limited. Body tackles are less central to the game, and players are freer to move around the field (offside laws are typically less strict).

Common rules among the sports include:

  • Two teams of usually between 11 and 18 players; some variations that have fewer players (five or more per team) are also popular.
  • A clearly defined area in which to play the game.
  • Scoring goals or points by moving the ball to an opposing team’s end of the field and either into a goal area, or over a line.
  • Goals or points resulting from players putting the ball between two goalposts.
  • The goal or line being defended by the opposing team.
  • Players being required to move the ball—depending on the code—by kicking, carrying, or hand-passing the ball.
  • Players using only their body to move the ball.

In all codes, common skills include passing, tackling, evasion of tackles, catching and kicking. In most codes, there are rules restricting the movement of players offside, and players scoring a goal must put the ball either under or over a crossbar between the goalposts.

The word “football”, when used in reference to a specific game can mean any one of those described above. Because of this, much friendly controversy has occurred over the term football, primarily because it is used in different ways in different parts of the English-speaking world. Most often, the word “football” is used to refer to the code of football that is considered dominant within a particular region. So, effectively, what the word “football” means usually depends on where one says it.