Football, or Soccer as it is known in America, is the most popular team sport played professionally and by amateurs worldwide. Soccer players are revered as icons and soccer teams sign millions of dollars as endorsement deals.
Soccer is a game between two teams of 11 players, each trying to net the most goals in the opposite side’s goal post. Players are forbidden to use their hands, except for the goalkeeper, who can prevent a goal with his hands. So each team tries to prevent the other from scoring while trying to score itself. A standard match consists of two sessions of 45 minutes each, separated by a 15-minute break called half time. Extra time and penalty shootouts are allowed by the referee under special circumstances to decide an undecided match.
Soccer is played professionally all over the world, in stadiums where millions of fans throng to watch a match. Such matches are also watched on television. Amateurs also play soccer. A survey by Federation Internationale De Football Association (FIFA– soccer’s governing body) revealed that in 2001, over 240 million people worldwide in more than 200 countries played the game.
Six regional confederations are associated with FIFA. These include the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), Union of European Football Association (UEFA), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and Confederacion Sudamaricana de Futbal (CONMEBOL representing South America).
Soccer trophies are awarded for matches of all sizes, from local playgrounds to huge stadiums packed with fans. The most prestigious is the World Cup, organized by FIFA. It takes place every four years, and about 190 national teams vie to qualify to play the finals. The finals now involve 34 national teams. Soccer has been a part of the Summer Olympics since 1900, except for the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Currently, it is played at an under-23 level, so it is less prestigious than the World Cup. A women’s football tournament was also started for the 1996 Olympics.
The major international tournaments are as follows: FIFA World Cup, European Championship, UEFA champions league, Copa America, African Nations Cup, CAF Champions League, Asian Cup, AFC champions League, CONCACAF league and championship cups and Oceania Nations Cup.
Soccer trophies are made of metal, pewter, gold, silver or other materials, and depict the shape of a soccer ball or a player in action.