Soccer Basics

Who is involved in a Soccer Match?




The referee controls the game. Sees that the game is played according to the laws of soccer. Only judges what he sees. Keeps the official time and is concerned with the safety of the players. The referee’s authority extends from the moment of arrival until the moment of departure.


Treat the referee with respect - no lip. Accept the decisions. Play continues until the referee signals. A signal may be a whistle or a hand gesture. If you want to talk to the referee, do it before the game, during halftime or after the game, NOT during the game.


Hand signals a referee might use:


  • Points to corner of field: Corner Kick
  • Points to penalty spot: Penalty Kick
  • Points to goal area: Goal Kick
  • Points to goal line with one arm: Direct Free Kick
  • Points to goal line with one arm, with the other arm pointing up: Indirect Free Kick
  • Points to center of the field: Goal/Kickoff  


Players:      Play the game. Have FUN, and stop if the referee signals.


Coaches:   Coach the game. Have FUN, arrange for substitutions, control the spectators and provide encouragement to the players.


Parents:     Watch the game. Have FUN; encourage the players of both teams.    


Where do the players play and what do they do?


Offense:     Sets up scoring opportunities like give-and-go or wall pass; has accurate, powerful feet for shots.

Midfield:    Controls midfield; starts and supports attacks on goal. Drops back to help defense when possession changes.

Defense:    Stays between ball and goal; controls or marks attackers; clears ball from defensive area to a more forward player.

Goal Keeper: Stops shots; helps direct the defense; starts attacks by throwing or kicking ball; sets up players for defensive walls and corner kicks.


How should the ball be played?


Kickoffs:     Player moves ball over center line; rolls forward; second player must touch ball before first player may retouch; may then pass back to midfield for support or start attack.

In-bounds:  A ball is in-bounds until it completely crosses over either the touchline or the goal line. If any part of the ball is over any part of the line, the ball is in play.

Throw-in:   Ball crosses touchline (sideline); throw-in is awarded to other team. Both feet must be touching ground, on or behind touchline. Both hands start behind the head. Throw-in is one continuous motion over the head with both hands.

Goal Kick:  Ball crosses goal line, last touched by offense; ball is kicked by defending team from within goal area. Ball must exit penalty area before being touched by another player.   

Corner Kick: Ball crosses goal line, last touched by defense; ball is kicked by the offensive team from inside corner marking.

Drop Ball:    Restarts game, usually after an injury. Between one player from each team. The referee drops the ball. The ball is in play when it hits the ground.   



What are free kicks and when are they awarded?


Indirect Free Kick:  Off-sides, dangerous play, obstruction, prevents goalkeeper from releasing ball from hands, ball held past 6 seconds by goalkeeper, goalkeeper touching ball with hands when deliberately kicked to him by a teammate or directly from a throw-in from a teammate, goalkeeper time wasting. On the kick to restart, the ball must touch another player before scoring a goal. The kick is taken at point of the violation (except if committed in goal area), and the defense must be at least 10 yards away.

Direct Free Kick:  Intentionally kicks or attempts to kick, trips or attempts to trip, strikes or attempts to strike, jumps at, charges, pushes an opponent, tackles an opponent making contact with the opponent before touching the ball, holds, spits at an opponent, or handles (using any part of the arm from the shoulder to the fingertips) the ball deliberately. The kick to restart can go directly into the goal without touching another player. It is taken at the point of violation with the defense at least 10 yards away. The defense may set up a wall if the kick is within striking range of the goal but the referee does not have to hold up the game while the defense sets up the wall.

Penalty Kick:  A direct free kick infraction (a foul) committed in the penalty area. The goalie is positioned on goal line; the ball on penalty spot. The goalie may not move off the goal line until the ball is kicked and all other players, except the goalie and kicker, are outside the penalty area (in 6v6 play, all players must be beyond mid-field).   


What are yellow and red cards and when are cards given?


Yellow Card:  Caution issued for unsporting behavior, dissent (by word or action), persistent repeated infringements of the laws of the game, delay of restart, failure to respect required distance with a corner kick or free kick, entering or re- entering the field of play without permission, leaving the field of play without permission.

Red Card:        Ejection from game (send-off) for serious foul play, violent conduct, spitting at an opponent or any other person, denying an opponent a goal or goal scoring opportunity by handling the ball, denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving toward the goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick, using offensive, insulting, or abusive language, or receiving a second caution in the same match.   


What is off-side?


It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.   


A player is in an offside position if:


  • S/he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent


A player is not in an offside position if:


  • S/he is in his own half of the field of play or
  • S/he is level with the second last opponent or
  • S/he is level with the last two opponents



A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his/her team, s/he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:


  • interfering with play or
  • interfering with an opponent or
  • gaining an advantage by being in that position


No Offence:


There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:


  • a goal kick or
  • a throw-in or
  • a corner kick




For any offside offence, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.


Decisions of the International F.A. Board


Decision 1


In the definition of offside position, “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of his head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition.


Decision 2


The definitions of elements of involvement in active play are as follows:


  • Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.
  • Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
  • Gaining an advantage by being in that position means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.


The off-side rule is not used in 6v6 play.