While the origin of soccer dates all the way back to the third century BC, England popularized “The Beautiful Game” in the early 1860’s. In 1863, British representatives from clubs and schools established the fundamental rules of today’s modern game and founded the Football Association. Thanks to British sailors, traders and soldiers, the sport spread globally throughout the late 1800s. From Argentina to Uruguay, players like Diego Maradona and Enzo Francescoli made history, setting the highest standards for the way soccer is played today. While many of the rules of football drawn up in 1863 have changed over time, the fundamental rules have remained the same.
Come game time, 11 players from both teams step onto the field (or, “pitch” as it’s known in Europe and Australia). Soccer holds four main positions: goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards. With the exception of the goalkeeper within his penalty box, all players must refrain from using any part of their arms or hands. A player’s head, chest, back, legs, and of course feet, are all fair game. The goalkeeper’s responsibility is to stop the opposing team from scoring in the goal. Crowned International Federation of Football History & Statistics Goalkeeper of the Year four times, Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas is one of the top soccer goalkeepers today. Like Casillas, the best goalkeepers demonstrate leadership, remain calm under pressure and react quickly to loose and incoming shots. A skilled goalkeeper can assess when to stay and defend their goal or leave the penalty box to assist the team in an offensive attack.
A team’s defenders act as a goalkeeper’s primary line of defense against opponents. Paris Saint-German F.C. is known for having one of the best central defenders in the world, Thiago Silva. Silva excels as a defender by knowing how to read the game and successfully steal possession from opposing players. The right and left defenders tend to be smaller in stature than other players, but what they lack in size they make up for in agility and strength. Supporting the midfielders, the right and left defenders shut down attacks coming down the sides and work on transitioning the soccer ballforward.
Midfielders get the most exercise of all positions on the field, as this position shares the responsibilities of the defenders and forwards. As dual-players, successful midfielders hold control of the middle of the field by creating a link between the defense and offense. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is undisputedly one of the top midfielders to ever play the game. With a high level of technical ability in passing and shielding, Hazard plays with confidence, strategically assisting the defenders to stop goals and helping the forwards to make them.
As excellent dribblers, accurate passers and aggressive scorers, forwards stay on the offensive. While the main responsibility of a forward is to score goals, each of the three forward positions has a different responsibility—wingers work with midfielders to receive passes, strikers fend off the opposing defenders and center forwards score the majority of goals. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, is not only one of the best forwards in the game, but is arguably one of the best players to ever set foot on a field. He is known for his speed, ability to change direction easily and playmaking creativity.