Useful Notes: Association Football

aka: The Beautiful Game

It was elegant. It was beautiful. The game should be beautiful, like a well-executed war.
Mr. Nutt, Unseen Academicals

Association Football, or more commonly just "Football" or "Soccer"note  in the English-speaking world, is the most popular sport in the world. Played in over two-hundred different countries, the game has captured the attentions of billions of people; The World Cup is the most wildly viewed sporting event on Earth, up there with other major competitions like the European Championship, the UEFA Champions League and the English Premier League.

Played between two teams of eleven players (one of whom is a goalkeeper for each team), the team which scores the most goals (by putting a ball into the goal with any part of the body except the arms or hands) in a match wins. The game is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) who (along with the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish associations that make up the International Football Association Board) codify and maintain the Laws of the Game, the rules by which the game is played that date all the way back to mid-nineteenth century.

In many parts of the world, football is Serious Business. Many established sides are far more than one-hundred years old and the traditions around these clubs have became something of a religion to those that follow them. Although this can often be a negative force (the infamous Football Hooligans for example), the universal nature of the game has also been associated with bringing down barriers and establishing common cause in even the most unlikely of places; for instance, it played a role in establishing peace in Sierra Leone, as well as in the historic Christmas Truce between British and German soldiers in World War One that involved a game of football). It is the largest sport in the world in terms of the total amount of money invested in it. The largest football team is the Northern English side Manchester United, who are coincidentally also the most valuable sports franchise in the world, edging out the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees over the course of the last decade. Going by Man U's own figures, they boast a staggering six hundred million "casual fans" worldwide (in other words, twelve hundred times the population of Manchester and ten times the population of the UK, or roughly 11% of the world population as of 2011).

If you still don't believe its importance, look up the very concrete effects it has had on politics and history. For example, the Ultras in the Egyptian Revolution. Or the 1969 Football War between El Salvador and Honduras. Perhaps the most famous example is the Christmas Truce between the Germans and the British during World War One, when both sides left their trenches to play football. Something similar would happen in the notoriously brutal Nigerian Civil War, when both sides agreed to a two-day ceasefire so they could watch Pele's touring Santos team play some exhibition matches.

General Tropes:

Football in the UK:

Football in Europe

Football in America

Big competitions:

What to do at a football game:

  • Eat pies
  • Drink beer (though, sadly, alcohol is banned from most British grounds)
  • Sing amusing songs and chants at the opposing teams' fans.
    • Example 1: If they're from Liverpool, popular tunes are "You Scouse Bastards", "Stand Up If You've Got A Job", "We Pay Your Benefit". Other areas have their own songs. Chants are frequently based on well-known songs, such as "Yellow Submarine" or "That's Amore". This is definitely an undersold attraction of the sport; you may have just come home from a 4-3 cracker, but what'll stick in your head is one of the chants.
    • Example 2: Supporters of the England national team like to serenade their opponents (especially France) with "If it wasn't for the British you'd be Krauts"note to the tune of "If You're Happy And You Know It". When playing "the Krauts" the "There were ten German bombers in the air," (to the tune of "Ten Green Bottles") chant is popular, as is "Two World Wars and one World Cup" (to the tune of "Camptown Races") and (related to the previous) "If it wasn't for the British you'd be French". In many countries, this goes beyond mere sporting rivalry and crosses into geopolitical feuds, like the infamous Old Firm in Scotland.
  • Loudly insult the referee every time he does something you don't agree with. Be as vulgar as you like. (Note: don't ever do this if you're a player.)
  • Loudly express your pleasure or displeasure at your and the opposing team's performance. Be as vulgar as you like. (Note: don't ever do this if you're a player, especially if you're in front of a television camera. Racial and sexual slurs are also frowned upon.)
  • In general, be as loud as possible. It's particularly easy if you haven't disposed of the vuvuzela you bought for the 2010 World Cup.

Alternative Title(s):

Soccer, The Beautiful Game