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5 Facts About Soccer Rules You Should Know To Consider Yourself A True World Cup Fan

(CBS SF) -- With the World Cup hijacking TVs, live streams and conversations pretty much everywhere, how do you distinguish yourself from the masses of people who 'kind of' know all about it and align yourself with the cream of the World Cup aficionados?

One way is to sling the knowledge. But there's way too many teams and players and scenarios for fútbol novices to keep up. How about you turn heads with some fun facts about the rules of soccer?

Laws, Not Rules
Sorry, did I say rules of soccer? Yes, you know it's football, not soccer, in every country but the U.S. But it's not the rules of football, either – it's the laws of football.

Specifically, the rules governing soccer (OK, we're in the U.S. – whatever) are known as the Laws of the Game (LOTG). Unlike most sports which have large rule books and periodic or frequent rule changes, the LOTG are but 17 laws covering all aspects of the sport, all contained in a small, 50-page pamphlet.

Instead of frequent changes to the LOTG, soccer referees are provided with current interpretations to the LOTG in a publication called Advice to Referees along with periodic position papers from FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation on the application of the LOTG.

So, more than you needed to know. Bottom line, when someone at the sports bar proclaims 'I know the rules of football, mate," you can chop him down a notch and say, "If you knew so much, you would call them laws, not rules!" Nyah nyah.

Should I Explain Offside(s)?
By this point, I am sure you have either already gotten the 'offsides' explanation from everyone who thinks they know it. For the person who gallantly attempts yet again by saying anything about 'offsides,' you can interject that there is no such thing as 'offsides' in soccer. The correct term is 'offside.' Law 11 states that if the player is in an offside position when the ball is played by a teammate, that player is guilty of an offside (not offsides) violation. BTW, a player can be offside all day and that's OK, as long as the ball is not played to him or he becomes involved or otherwise interferes in play.

OK, Let Me Explain Offside
Actually, let me just clarify offside. Most people will tell you it's when an attacker is closer to the opponent's goal line than the last defender. Wrong! It's when the attacker is past the second-to-last defender, since the goalkeeper also counts as a defender.

Sometimes the keeper moves up and a field player stays behind. If an attacker is past the keeper while a field player remains further back, the attacker is still past the second-to-last defender and therefore offside. Entiende? Of course you do.

Finally, no offside violations can be called on a throw-in, a goal kick or a corner kick. But you knew that already, right?

'That Was A Total Handball! How Did The Ref Not See It?
Here's another term you won't find in the LOTG. You can let those flouting their ignorance know that there is no such thing as a handball in soccer. The term they are searching for is 'handling.'

Handling is, of course, is the domain of goalkeepers with their puffy mitts and fluorescent alternate uniforms. They can handle the ball all they want, unless they are outside the penalty area. Then they are guilty of handling, not a handball.

"But I always see the goalkeeper holding the ball and when they kick it, their feet land outside the penalty area!' said that one loud soccer mom. Why, yes, but the keeper had let go of the ball in the process of kicking it – before the feet landed outside the box, OK?

OK, But That Other Play Was Clearly A Handball, Right?
The ball touched the player's hand/wrist/elbow/ulna. That much is clear. So why didn't the ref call handling?

It's really a matter of arm positioning and circumstance. A player who has his arms down, not 'making themselves bigger' by extending them out could have a ball hit his arm and no violation called. Or, a player can be in the process of falling down, extending his arms to break the fall, and a ball hits his arm. Stuff happens – no handling there.

However, if a player has his arms up or away from his sides in the process of playing the ball, that's a pretty easy call for the referee. Stop the ball on a breakaway with your hand/arm – that's a yellow card, too, otherwise known as a 'caution.' Prevent a goal using your arm and you're not the keeper? That's a red card (send-off).


So there you have it – just a few nuggets of knowledge even some of the most rabid World Cup fans would appreciate. Keep spreading the knowledge about the beautiful game – the world's game – and enjoy the matches (not the games). Que viva el fútbol!

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