Association Football or more widely known as soccer or football, is a sport played with a ball between two opposing teams of 11 players. It is the world’s most popular sport, played by nearly 250 million players in more than 200 countries all over the world. Soccer is played on a pitch – a rectangular field with a goal at each end of the field. The objective is to score more than the opposing team by maneuvering the ball through the goal line into the opposing team’s goal. The team with the highest number of goals, wins.

But the world’s most popular sport has a bit of a problem. Nobody can agree on what to call it.

Soccer or Football? What?

The majority of the world calls it “football”. But a handful of countries – most notably the United States – prefer the term “soccer.”  But where did the name soccer even come from?

”Soccer” actually came from England and is nearly as old as the rules of the sport itself. Notably, the earliest evidence of football comes from China in the 3rd century BCE – a sport that they called Cuju. Over the ages, many types of football spread throughout the world, eventually finding their place in England where it became especially popular with aristocratic English schoolboys, who decided that it was FINALLY time to define the rules of the game

On October 26, 1863, the leaders of about a dozen football clubs met at the Freemasons Tavern in London to create a rule book and in doing so, formed the Football Association. However, there were still some other versions of the game around and a new group came up with a different rule book in 1871. This new set of rules allowed players to use their hands. This new form of football became known as Rugby Football, named after the Rugby School in England. The original rules, made by the Football Association were then called Association Football.

Both names were a mouthful so rugby football was then shortened to the name “Rugger”, and Association Football became “Soccer”. These two new official sports began spreading throughout the world, one more so than the other.

By the time soccer found its way to the United States, they already had a sport called football – also known as gridiron football or American football. So the U.S., and other countries in similar situations, stuck to the name soccer, while the rest of the world still prefers “football”.

Most Memorable Moments

Most soccer games are played at national levels, with domestic teams playing against each other. Continental competitions are also held, where teams play against others from other countries. And of course, the FIFA World Cup.

Point is, thousands of games have been played in soccer competitions and as expected, there have been moments that have left their mark in the history of the sport. And while it would be difficult – heck no, scratch that – it would be impossible to give you a detailed list of all the memorable moments in soccer, we DID find some that are truly iconic.

Oh, and for clarity, our definition of “moments” here is a bit flexible. This list can include moments – as in a short period of time, a game that will be remembered by soccer fans forever. There are also other “moments” in this list that spans a longer period of time. 

Wembley Ghost Goal – 1966

There’s no denying that when it comes to soccer, there are maaaaaany controversial goals throughout the game’s history. BUT very few can compare to that one goal that brought England their World Cup win in 1966.

The Hand of God – 1986

The 1986 Mexico World Cup was among the most, if not THE most, exciting in the history of soccer. Argentina  won the title match by beating West Germany and while the competition overall isn’t without drama, no soccer fan will ever forget that quarterfinal game between England and Argentina.

Argentina’s Diego Armando Maradona found himself one-on-one with the keeper of the box and it looked like he wouldn’t be able to get to the ball in time. That is when he used his hand to score. And what made things well – more dramatic – he started celebrating instantly, knowing full well what he did.

Barcelona’s First European Cup Win – 1992

If you have only started watching soccer for let’s say in the past 10 years or so, you would certainly think that Barcelona is one of the strongest and most successful clubs in all of Europe. But that was not always the case. It actually took a long time before the Spanish team had their first ever European Cup win.

While Barcelona was formidable in Spain throughout different time periods of the club’s game history and had in fact, won two European trophies, it took them a long time to finally bring home the biggest trophy of all.

Miracle of Istanbul – 2005

Liverpool has dominated European soccer for many years. The team is particularly proud of the quirky, nearly animated character they display during the UEFA Champions League. And there is no game that displays this character better than during the 2004-2005 season final.

Simply put, Liverpool distracted the opposing team by making weird movements with their arms and by some miracle, it worked. This moment has remained one of the most beloved by soccer fans worldwide. It’s an inspiration that shows that even at great odds, everything is possible if you do not give up.

The Leicester Fairytale – 2016 – 2017

When superstar teams like Real Madrid win championships, it doesn’t surprise soccer fans that much. They celebrate them yes, but clubs of such popularity and magnitude are more or less EXPECTED to win.

Other clubs aren’t given that right – or that much attention for that matter. This is why there was no bigger and more dramatic surprise in soccer’s modern history than the fairytale-like achievement by Leicester City during the 2016-2017 season.

From being in the brink of relegation from the English Premier League to their meteoric rise playing against the best teams in England, the Leicester Fairytale is an achievement that is unlikely to ever be matched in modern soccer history.

There is no doubt that soccer is the most followed and most dramatic of sports. And with every game, every scored goal, every memorable moment in its history, comes with accidents and injuries that can set back players for days, weeks or even months. Which brings us to…

Most Common Injuries in soccer

Soccer has always been closely associated with many different injuries that prevent players (professionals and non-professionals) from either completing a match or simply enjoying it. Among the huge list of injuries sustained on the pitch, we have listed some of the most common ones that professionals face throughout their careers at least one time.

Thigh muscle strain

Recovery period: 2 days to 6 months, depending on the seriousness of the injury

Straining the front or back thigh muscles is usually caused by insufficient warm up. Running fast and constantly changing directions causes sudden tightness in the thigh muscles. This is often accompanied by a sharp pain, redness and swelling.

Torn meniscus

Recovery period: 15 days up to 12 months

A meniscus is a form of cartilage tissue that works as the shock absorber in the joint and stabilizes the knees. Such an injury often occurs when players get in contact with each other (read: accidentally kicking a fellow player in the knee). A damaged meniscus makes it difficult and overwhelmingly painful to bend the knee, and in serious cases a tumor may even develop in the damaged area.

Fractured or Sprained Ankles

Recovery Period: 2 to 6 months

Ankle sprains and fractures are perhaps the most common of all soccer-related injuries. Usually, the ankle is turned inside, which causes damage to the lateral ligaments (not to mention excruciating pain). While a seemingly minor injury, a sprained ankle can have long term consequences if not treated quickly and properly.

ACL injury

Recovery period: 6 to 9 months

This injury is one of the most unpleasant for athletes and in some cases can even end careers since in serious cases, an athlete may never regain their previous form. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is the main stabilizer of a knee joint. Most often, a rupture happens when there is a sharp side impact to the knee or when an athlete unsuccessfully lands after a kick. Any case of ACL injury requires surgical treatment.

Groin Strain

Recovery period: 10 days to 2 months

Training cycles that are not planned correctly, players are put at a higher risk of groin strains. Groin strains happen when there is damage to the inguinal ring through which nerve fibers pass. The rupture of the ring leads to constant nerve irritation. Athletes usually feel a sharp, stabbing pain in the groin area and swelling. Depending on severity, groin strains can be treated  with simple rest and compresses or surgical procedures.

Training and Injury Prevention

Structured training is key to getting more out of individual training sessions, as well as avoiding injury- and this is true for both professional and amateur soccer players.

Length of training

So just how long should every training session be? Trainers recommend that every session should be around 90 minutes. Aiming for that hour and a half mark is ideal because that is how long a typical match lasts. There are exceptions of course. Championships, or “Cup” games can sometimes go into over time. So it is important to build stamina to last those standard 90-minute games.

Warm Up

An important component of a good training session is giving enough time for a good warm up. Jogging back and forth the field, and doing dynamic stretches helps get the blood flowing to the muscles. Using devices like a massage gun to “wake up” the muscles can also be done. The goal is to get blood flowing into the muscles that are about to be used in the training session.

Warming up and stretching the muscles is crucial so players avoid getting injuries and that they can actually perform the exercises more effectively.

Ball Touches

After warming up, the next thing to do is to get some touches on the ball. Starting to get that connection between the player’s mind and the ball itself is important. The drills can be basic movements like juggling the ball or doing some passes off a wall or with a teammate, these would help get the legs and feet used to the ball and prepare it for the higher intensity passes later on. This technical warm up is done for at least 15 minutes.

Agility and Speed Work

Speed and agility are essential for every player on the pitch, and yes – goalkeepers included. During modern soccer matches, players must be able to change direction at the quickest possible speed. For agility and speed drills, another 15 minutes broken down into sets and reps are recommended.

Knowing about the most common injuries in soccer and how to prevent them using structured training drills and warm up exercises helps keep professional and non-professional players in the game longer. But after all the training, the “cup” matches and the most controversial moments have been discussed, there is one more question that needs an answer.

Why is soccer so popular?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, soccer is the most beloved game in the world. Question is why?

First of all, soccer is a global sport. This means it is a game played, viewed and understood by millions of people across hundreds of countries. And unlike other sports, it is the only one enjoyed by all age groups – which is a long way of saying that soccer binds people of different communities and races as one.

Second, soccer is simple. The basics of the sports is easy to understand which is why kids love it. People without deep knowledge of the rules can get into the vibe of the game and follow every match even if they’re watching it for the first time. The less complex nature of the sport has allowed it to overcome geographical and cultural boundaries.

Oh, and soccer is one of the most inexpensive sports you can play. All you need is a ball, and a big enough space to kick it around. Awesome.

Third – it’s mesmerizing to watch. Seriously – you cannot deny the amount of athleticism, skill and talent that soccer players have. The game demands grace and artful execution of each technique. And watching how soccer players maneuver the ball across the pitch makes viewers appreciate the hard work that goes into each move.

The immense success and popularity of soccer all over the world is mainly because of the positive experience and its ability to bring people of all races, religion and culture together. What else can top that?

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