How Do You Explain Football To A New Fan?

Football, also known as soccer in some countries, is a sport that is played all over the world.

pencil drawing of a football expert explaining the game to a new football fan

Laws of the Game

The laws of football, also known as the "Laws of the Game," are a set of 17 rules that govern the sport of football. These rules are established by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and are intended to ensure a fair and safe game for all players.

The laws cover various aspects of the game such as the field of play, the ball, the players, the referee, and the different types of fouls. Some of the key laws include:

  • The field of play must be rectangular and be divided into two halves by the halfway line.
  • The ball must be made of suitable material, be of a circumference of not more than 70 cm and not less than 68 cm, and weigh not more than 450g and not less than 410g.
  • Each team must have no more than 11 players on the field at any given time, one of whom must be the goalkeeper.
  • The referee is the official responsible for enforcing the laws of the game and making decisions on the field.

One of the most important laws of football is the offside rule. The offside rule states that a player is in an offside position if they are closer to the opponent's goal line than both the ball and the second-to-last defender, when the ball is played to them by a teammate. In order for a player to not be considered offside, they must be in their own half of the field or level with the second-to-last defender. A player who is in an offside position is not allowed to participate in active play, and if they do, it results in a free kick to the opposing team.

The offside rule is intended to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage by positioning themselves closer to the opponent's goal than is allowed. It is considered one of the most complex rules of football and is often subject to much debate and interpretation.

Cups, Teams and Leagues

There are many different cups, teams, and leagues that make up the game, which can be a bit overwhelming for a new fan to understand. Here's a basic breakdown of how it all works:


The World Cup: The World Cup is the most prestigious and widely recognized tournament in the world of football. It is held every four years, and teams from all over the world compete to be crowned the champion.

The UEFA Champions League: The Champions League is a competition for top-level European club teams. It is considered one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world and features teams from the major European leagues.

The UEFA Europa League: The Europa League is the second-tier European club competition, and teams from smaller European leagues also participate in it.

The Copa America: The Copa America is the oldest international football tournament in the world and is held every four years. It features teams from North, Central and South America.

The AFC Asian Cup: The Asian Cup is held every four years and features teams from Asia.

The Africa Cup of Nations: The Africa Cup of Nations is held every two years and features teams from Africa.

The FA Cup: The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world and it is organised by the Football Association (FA) in England. It is a knockout tournament open to all teams in the top four tiers of the English football league system, from the Premier League to the National League, as well as selected teams from lower leagues and also some amateur teams. The final of the competition is traditionally held at Wembley Stadium in London. 


Club teams: These are teams that are based in a specific city or region and play in local leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga, or the Bundesliga.

National teams: These are teams that represent a specific country, and they participate in tournaments such as the World Cup or the Copa America.


Domestic leagues: These are leagues that take place within a specific country, such as the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga.

(Related: Intro To the Top Domestic Football Leagues Around the World)

International leagues: These are leagues that take place between teams from different countries, such as the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League.

(Related: A Guide to International Football Leagues: Formats and Competitions)

In football, teams play against each other in a variety of competitions, including domestic leagues, international tournaments, and cup competitions. Each team's goal is to win as many games as possible and earn points in order to qualify for the next round or to be considered one of the top teams in their league or tournament. And just like that, you have the basic understanding of the game and all its elements!

Keep in mind that there are many other elements in football such as the position of each player, the laws of the game, and the strategy used by teams. As new fans become more familiar with the sport, they will understand more details, nuances and enjoy the game even more.

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