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Football (soccer) 101 for absolute beginners: Five most popular buzzwords and their meanings

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EUROS 2020 is underway and like all football games, free-kick, yellow card, red card, penalty, those infamous words associated with the game are flying around.

What these words really mean will make it easier to watch and fall in love with the beautiful game.

1. Red and yellow cards

Yellow cards are given to players as a warning for minor fouls or non-deliberate act such as touching another player or hindering progress of the game for one reason or another.

If a player gets a yellow card, he can carry on playing but the opposing team automatically get a free-kick to restart the game.

Red cards are given to players for more serious “with intent” offences during the game, for example stamping on foot or ankle of another player or tackling aggressively.

It can be given immediately after the act is committed or after receiving two yellow cards – it results in automatic send off and ban from at least their next game.

There are multiple reasons why players get these card as explained by It can sometimes come across as a subjective referee decision but there are guidelines set out by FIFA with Video Assistant Referees (VAR) to help in these kind of situations.

2. How free-kicks work

Free kicks are often as a result of a foul which are acts that a referee may see as unfair based on FIFA’s Law 13. Acts such as kicking, pushing, headbutting, handball or playing in a dangerous manner can be considered.

When awarding a free-kick, referees usually indicate which type they are giving as there are two – direct and indirect.

if a direct kick is awarded then the opposing team restarts the game by kicking the ball from where the offence happened, and the ball can be scored directly into opponent’s goal without any other player touching it first.

It is an indirect kick, the opposing team also restarts the game by kicking the ball from where the offence happened but it must touch another player first before it can go into a goal.

During both kicks, if they accidentally hit the ball to own goal it would not count, instead the other team gets a corner kick.

3. The controversial offside rule

An offside happens if a player has possession of the ball in the attacking side of the pitch (where they intend to shoot the goal) but there is not at least one other player from the defending team in between the player, the ball and goalkeeper.

This rule is only applicable on the attacking side of the pitch and a defending team player must either be levelled or in front for it not to count.

A player can also be flagged offside if they are on their opposing team’s side of the pitch and the ball is played to them from their own half.

4. Stoppage and extra time, and their differences

Stoppage and extra time can be confusing as they do not mean the same thing.

After each 45 minutes of a standard football match, additional minutes are added to game play by the referee – this is called stoppage time.

The time added – usually under referee’s discretion – is to make up for interruption during the game for various reasons such as injuries and fouls.

Extra time, on the other hand, is a 30 minute added play time that results from no winner being declared from the initial 90 minutes of play. If there is still no winner after this, then penalties are taken by individuals of both teams until one wins.

5. How referees give penalties

Penalties are free-kicks that can be awarded in two ways.

The first being as a result of one team committing a direct-kick offence inside the penalty area.

Its controversial as it is usually at the referee’s discretion, under what they determine as fair play which is never favoured by the team who it is being awarded against.

Some acts considered are handball, obstructing any goal scoring opportunity, pulling or pushing another player, causing them to fall. There are varying types set out in Laws 14 of FIFA rules.

The second type of penalty occurs after 90 minutes of a standard game play there is no winner, extra time is played and there is still no winner, then penalties are taken to determine one.

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