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Useful Notes / Association Football

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

Association Football is the most popular sport in the world. It's more commonly known as just Football, or Soccer in the English-speaking world. note .


Played in over two-hundred different countries, the game has captured the attentions of billions of people; The World Cup is one of the most widely viewed sporting event on Earth, up there with other major soccer competitions like the European Championship, the UEFA Champions League and the English Premier League. The only other sports events that get close to soccer numbers are the Super Bowl, the Cricket World Cup and the Olympics. Which has the highest numbers depends on how you count, and is Serious Business.

The game is played between two teams of eleven players, one of whom is a goalkeeper. The team which scores the most goals in a match wins; a goal is scored by putting a ball into a net at the ends of the field with any part of the body except the arms or hands. The game is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA for short. Along with the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish associations that make up the International Football Association Board, FIFA codifies and maintains the Laws of the Game, the rules by which the game is played that date all the way back to mid-nineteenth century.


Footballers at the highest level are extremely well paid, especially in Britain. As of 2019, the average wage of a Premier League footballer is £60,000, and the median wage is £50,000.note  Per week. They are also frequently stereotyped as being complete morons, something not helped by the fact that a lot of players come from more deprived areas, start their careers in their mid-to-late teens, and are consequently not all that well educated. As it is, a number of footballers have proved to be highly intelligent, usually going on to become managers. However, others play it very, very straight.

In many parts of the world, football is Serious Business. Not for nothing is the page quote for that trope made by one of England's most celebrated football managers. 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 — Football Hooligans is a trope for a reason — 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 I 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 in the game's 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. For a more high-profile example, look up "das Wunder von Bern". Perhaps the most famous example is the Christmas Truce between the Germans and the British during World War I, 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. And in November 2015, three days after the Bataclan gun attacks in Paris that left around 129 dead, the French national team was due to play England, their oldest and bitterest rivals, at Wembley Stadium, the home of English football. When they turned up to play, they found Wembley lit up in the colours of the French tricolour with motto of the Republic blazoned on the side, the traditional giant St. George's flag formed from cards held up by fans at one end of the stadium had been replaced by a French tricolour and when the anthems began after the traditional minute's silence - impeccably observed - the English fans enthusiastically joined in singing 'La Marseillaise', the French national anthem and (appropriately) a stirring battle hymn. The French clearly loved this: in June 2017, the two met in a friendly match in Paris and the hosts returned the favour due to the Manchester Arena bombing and the London Bridge/Borough Market attack in the month preceding the match.

General Tropes:

Football in the UK:

Football in Europe

  • Euro Footy
  • European Championship (aka UEFA Euro)
  • UEFA Nations League (multi-level competition for national teams)
  • UEFA Champions League
  • UEFA Europa League – Europe's secondary club competition, which is contested by cup winners, teams that did not reach a high enough position in their leagues (while still finishing in the top half of the table) and teams that were eliminated from the Champions League either by being knocked out on the last qualifying round before the group stage, or by finishing third in the group stage

Football in the Americas

Football in Asia (includes Australia, which is a member of Asia's football governing body)

Football in the rest of the world

Big competitions:

What to do at a football game:

  • Eat typical matchday food. This varies from country to country: examples include meat pies in Britain, currywurst in Germany, or all kinds of sandwiches in Mediterraenean countries like Spain and Italy. Brazil usually has some variation, but popular choices are biscoito de polvinho (cassava starch crackers, very common in Rio de Janeiro) and barbecue shish kebabs.
  • Drink beer (though, sadly, alcohol is banned from most British grounds), strong tea or hot Bovril.
  • Sing amusing songs and chants at the opposing teams' fans or players, at the game itself, at other fans... As British comic Russell Howard once put it (when discussing why there were no publicly gay footballers in Britain), being a football player is more or less the one job in the world where thousands of people spend a couple of hours singing abuse at you on a weekly basis - abuse which is often very creative and extremely personal.
    • Example 1: Sing a song insulting the opponent team's place of origin. For example, 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", "That's Amore" or "Seven Nation Army". 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 or El Clasico in Spain.
    • Example 3: At particularly dull games, singing "Let's Pretend We Scored a Goal!" gets popular, or singing about random goings-on in the stands (a man eating a pie, a pigeon on the field, the stadium security taking the beach ball everyone's playing withnote , etc.).
    • Example 4: teams at the lower end of the table often sing self-deprecating sings directed at the opposing team, including "You're Nothing Special, We Lose Every Week," "How Shit Must You Be? We're Winning Away," or for high scoring games, "You've Only Scored X" (with X referring to however many goals scored on them).
    • Example 5: Spain has a special chant for extremely uneventful or impossible-to-win matches, that goes "¡Alcohol! ¡Alcohol! ¡Alcohol! ¡Alcohol! ¡Alcohol! ¡Hemos venido a emborracharnos, el resultado nos da igual!"note .
  • 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, unless you want a red card.)
  • 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, although don't be surprised if you get vilified because of it.

Alternative Title(s): The Beautiful Game


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