Soccer Definitions and Governing Bodies


ADVANTAGE RULE -- a referee can decide not to call an infraction if allowing play to continue creates an advantage for the fouled team.

BACKS -- nickname or abbreviation of the name given to the defenders who line up in the rear, in front of the goalkeeper; the name refers to the left and right fullbacks as well as the centerbacks, also known as sweepers.

BANANA KICK -- a kick with exceptional curve.

BICYCLE OR SCISSORS KICK -- a strike where the player's body is horizontal in mid-air and the ball is struck over the player's head; this type of kick was popularized by Brazilian great Pele.

BOOKED -- a term referring to a player's name being written down by a referee for either a yellow or red card infraction.

BOOTS -- soccer cleats.

CAP -- represents an appearance in a national team match for a player.

CENTER -- when a ball is passed from the wings into the penalty area of the field; also known as a cross.

CENTER FORWARD -- striker who leads the attack.

CENTER HALF MIDFIELDERS -- creative force in the midfield; generally where plays are started.

CHIP -- a high, arching shot that is lofted over the heads of defenders or the goalkeeper.

CLEAR -- a defensive kick that attempts to get the ball out of a scoring area, particularly the penalty area.

CORNER KICK -- a free kick taken by an attacking player whenever a defender last touches the ball before it completely crosses the goal line.

DANGEROUS PLAY -- an action on the field ruled by the referee that will likely cause an injury; will at minimum draw a yellow card but could draw a red card for the offending player.

DIRECT FREE KICK -- awarded as the result of a personal foul, such as kicking, tripping, holding or pushing; the kick is taken from the point of the infraction and the designated player taking the kick may score directly without another player having to touch the ball.

DROPPED BALL -- the referee drops the ball onto the ground between two opposing players; it signals the resumption of play after the referee has stopped it for an infraction other than a foul. (Example: play will be halted due to an injury to a player.)

FLANK -- the sides of the field also known as the wing.

FRIENDLY -- essentially an exhibition match with no impact on international standings, such as the FIFA rankings; often used to benefit up-and-coming players or sharpen top players for upcoming tournaments or qualifying.

GOAL -- the manner in which points are scored in soccer; to score, the ball must completely cross over the goal line and into the goal; a goal counts as one point (the exception to this applies in certain indoor soccer leagues).

GOALS -- standing in the center of the goal lines; each goal consists of two wooden posts, 24 feet apart, and a crossbar, 8 feet above the ground.

GOAL AREA -- a 60-yard wide by 18-yard deep rectangular area in front of each goal.

GOALKEEPER -- defends the goal; the only player who can handle the ball within the penalty area with his hands.

GOAL KICK -- a free kick taken either by the goalkeeper or member of the defending team when the attacking team puts the ball over the goal line.

GOAL LINES -- lines which runs from corner flag to corner flag across each end of the field of play and which the goal is situated; represents the end of the playing area at the far end of each side of the field.

GOLDEN GOAL -- where a game ends with the scoring of a goal in overtime rather than by the expiration of an extra time period; used in some international soccer tournaments, particularly in Europe.

HALF -- one of two 45 minute periods in a 90 minute match.

HALFBACKS -- midfielders responsible for marking assigments.

HANDBALL -- infraction called when a player other than a goalkeeper intentionally plays a ball with his hand; if a defender handles within the penalty area, a penalty shot is awarded; if the goalkeeper handles the ball outside the penalty area, a direct free kick is awarded.

HAT-TRICK -- a term referring to a three-goal performance in a single match by an individual player.

HEADER -- when a player uses his head to shoot, pass or control the ball.

INDIRECT FREE KICK -- awarded for less serious infractions to the team fouled; for a goal to be scored on an indirect free kick, a player other than the kicker must touch the ball before it can be scored; the kick is awarded from the point of infraction.

INJURY TIME -- time added to the end of either half by the referee to compensate for time lost due to injuries during each half; the determination of injury time is solely the responsibility of the referee.

INTERNATIONAL PLAYER -- player selected to play for his country's national team.

LINESMAN -- two officials who are stationed outside of the touchline to indicate when a ball is out of play or offsides.

MARK -- the close defending of an opposing player.

MATCH -- a term, British in origin, used to describe a game; matches last 90 minutes, with a 12-minute rest between halves.

MIDFIELDER -- players who line up in front of defenders and behind strikers; creative members of the team whose role is to link the forwards and defense.

NUTMEG -- when an attacker moves forward by passing a ball through an opponent's legs.

OFFICIAL FIFA BALL: a ball that meets the specifications of the international sanctioning body; between 27 and 28 inches in circumference and 14-to-16 ounces in weight.

OFFSIDE -- an infraction which occurs when an attacker sends a pass to a teammate without two defenders, which can include a goalkeeper, between the teammate and the goal.

OFFSIDE TRAP -- a defensive scheme which attempts to push defensive players forward in the hopes of putting an attacking player offside.

ONE-TIME -- when an attacker strikes a shot off a pass or rebound without stopping the ball to gain control.

PENALTY AREA -- a 60-foot wide by 18-foot deep rectangular area in front of each goal; the area in which the goalkeeper can use his hands.

PENALTY KICK -- awarded for any personal fouls or for intentionally handling of the ball by a defending player within the penalty area; a penalty shot is taken from the designated spot, 12 yards from the goal line in the center of the penalty area, with only the goalkeeper defending the shot.

PITCH -- a British term used to define the field of play; the field of play is rectangular, with dimensions not more than 130 yards nor less than 100 yards in length, and not more than 100 yards and not less than 50 yards in width; for international matches, such as the World Cup, the length shall not be more than 120 yards nor less than 110 yards and the width shall not be more than 80 yards nor less than 70 yards.

RED CARD -- the card shown to a player being ejected from a match by the referee; players ejected cannot be substituted for, and often a red card offense carries a penalty of additional matches missed.

REFEREE -- the only on-field official charged with enforcing the rules of the game; acts as timekeeper as well; has the authority to expel a player from a game for repeated fouling or misconduct behavior.

SAVE -- the goalkeeper stopping a scoring opportunity by either catching the ball or knocking it away from the goal.

SHIELDING -- when a player places his body between an opponent and the ball; often preceeds an offensive maneuver during an attack.

SHOOTOUT -- a tie-breaking procedure; there are two basic methods: a) in Major League Soccer and other North American leagues, the situation is a one-on-one where the attacker takes possession of the ball from 35 yards away, and has to dribble and score against the opposing goalkeeper; b) in international matches, shootouts are determined with penalty kicks; occurs after regular time in Major League Soccer; occurs after extra time in international matches.

SLIDE TACKLE -- sliding into the ball and knocking it away from an opponent; if the player executing a slide tackle hits the attacker's legs before striking the ball, it results in a penalty; if poorly executed, a slide tackle will result in a penalty with either a red or yellow card being issued (this is also referred to as a professional foul).

STRIKERS -- terms used for forwards or attackers; target player to whom the rest of the team will look during its attack; chosen for their scoring abilities.

SUNDAY SHOT -- a desperation shot from long out that remarkably results in a goal.

SWEEPER -- defender who plays behind the back four with no marking assigments; the link who supports both defensive and attacking play; works in unison with his goalkeeper.

THROW-IN -- the method of restarting play when the ball has crossed the touchlines; a throw-in is awarded to the opposing side of the team which knocked the ball out of play.

TOUCH LINES -- the boundary lines running the full length of the field on each side of the playing area.

TRAP -- the use of any legal part of the body to gain control of an airborn ball.

VOLLEY -- a shot where the ball is struck while still airborne.

WALL -- the line of players used to prevent a direct kick from scoring; lined up 10 yards from where the direct kick is taken.

WINGER -- player on left or right side of the attack whose role is close to the touchline; supports forwards and midfielders.

YELLOW CARD -- a caution card showed to a player by the referee after a dangerous play foul; a second yellow card in the same match earns the offending player a red card and automatic ejection; some leagues and tournaments have rules regarding the receipt of yellow cards in successive matches, which often result in a one-game ban.


FIFA -- World governing body of soccer; founded in 1904; acronym stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association; based in Zurich, Switzerland; president is Joao Havelange of Brazil; general secretary is Joseph "Sepp" Blatter of Switzerland; current membership stands at 191 nations.

CONCACAF -- represents the region of North and Central America and the Carribean basin; acronym drawn from full name -- Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football; based in New York; president is Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and general secretary is Chuck Blazer of the United States; founded in 1961; current membership stands at 30 nations; will be represented by three nations in 1998 World Cup.

CONMEBOL -- represents South American soccer region; acronym drawn from full name -- Confederacion Sudamericana de Futbol; based in Asuncion, Paraguay; president is Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and general secretary is Eduardo Deluca of Argentina; founded in 1916; current membership stands at 10 nations; will be represented four qualifying teams plus defending champion Brazil in 1998 World Cup.

UEFA -- represents the European soccer region; acronym stands from full name -- Union of European Football Associations; based in Nyon, Switzerland; president is Lennart Johansson of Sweden and general secretary is Gerhard Aigner of Germany; founded in 1954; current membership stands at 49 nations; will be represented by 14 nations plus host nation France in 1998 World Cup.

CAF -- represents African soccer; acronym stands for Confederation Africaine de Football; based in Cairo, Egypt; president is Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and general secretary is Mustapha Fahmy of Egypt; founded in 1956; current membership stands at 51 nations; will be represented by five nations in the 1998 World Cup.

AFC -- the governing body of soccer in Asia; acronym stands for Asian Football Confederation; based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; president is Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah of Malaysia and general secretary is Peter Velappan also of Malaysia; founded in 1954; current membership stands at 41 nations; has three guaranteed slots in the 1998 World Cup, and a potential fourth slot based on the results of a match between the fourth-best Asian team through qualifying and the top team from the Oceania group.

OFC -- represents soccer region including Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific island nations; acronym stands for Oceania Football Conference; based in Auckland, New Zealand; president is New Zealander Charles Dembsey and general secretary is New Zealander Josephine King; founded in 1966; current membership stands at 10 nations; representation at 1998 World Cup contingent on top qualifier beating fourth-place team from Asian group.


Jules Rimet Trophy -- Original World Cup Trophy. Retired by Brazil in 1970 after becoming the first nation to win the World Cup three times. Named after Jules Rimet, FIFA's first president.

FIFA World Cup Trophy -- Established in 1974. Current trophy in use. West Germany became the first winners of the FIFA World Cup Trophy in 1974.


WORLD CUP -- the mother of all international soccer competitions; held every four years in a host country with national teams representing 32 countries (increased from 24 following the 1994 World Cup); 30 teams qualify in competitions with automatic bids going to the past champion and host nation; the tournament has been played every four years since 1930, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to World War II; only six countries have won the World Cup: Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994); Germany (1954, 1974, 1990); Italy (1934, 1938, 1982); Uruguay (1930, 1950); Argentina (1978, 1986); and England (1966); the next tournament is in France in 1998, with the following the first co-hosted tournament in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

U.S. CUP -- international friendly tournament hosted annually by the United States except in World Cup final years; tournament first played in 1992.

EUROPEAN CUP -- UEFA sanctioned competition which occurs every four years between World Cup finals; field includes national teams from throughout Europe; tournament started in 1960; the next tournament is scheduled to be shared by Holland and Belgium in 2000.

INTERCONTINENTAL CUP -- a club competition consisting of a single match between the winner of the European Champions Cup and the Copa Libertadores of South America; played in Tokyo since the mid-1980s; tournament started in mid-1960s.

COPA LIBERTADORES -- a club competition that matches the winners of the 10 South America soccer associations; the tournament began in 1960 but has undergone several format changes; Argentine clubs have had more success (16 titles through 1996) than any other two South American national leagues combined.

COPA AMERICA -- one of the oldest international soccer events, the Copa America pits the national soccer teams of the CONMEBOL; recently two teams from the CONCACAF -- the United States and Mexico -- have competed as invited members; the tournament began in 1917 and has been played at least every four years but often special editions are scheduled in off years; the tournament takes place in a host country; Argentina has dominated this tournament.

UEFA CUP -- competition among European club teams; a field of 64 teams is drawn from UEFA member leagues throughout Europe; invited teams include the top team in most leagues (although poor performing leagues are generally excluded from the competition), and in select leagues teams up to fifth place in the table are invited to compete; the tournament is run in addition to the regular season with mid-week matches generally the rule.

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE -- a competition in addition to the UEFA Cup which matches clubs which won their national leagues in a head-to-head, home-and-away tournament; the 32 invited teams have won the season title in a top European league; the league is an elimination tournament and is played in addition to the regular league schedule.

EUROPEAN CUP WINNERS CUP -- a club competition pitting the winners of league cups the prior year in head-to-head competition; cup tournaments are opened to all divisions of a national league, meaning that quite a few surprise teams have found their was into the European Cup Winners Cup tournament; this tournament is an elimination, home-and-away tournament.

Peter Stone
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