Soccer Madness


Every four years the realm of soccer comes to a virtual halt when the World Cup is being played. The International Federation of Amateur Football (FIFA) organizes this event, and countries from all over the world take part. To be eligible for the World Cup, teams on different continents have to play qualifying games, and each continent is assigned a certain number of places for the teams that will represent that continent in the World Cup.

To be designated as a host country for the World Cup, a country needs to have qualified at least once for this global competition, and also to have the necessary infrastructure stadiums, hotels airports, etc. to support the event. This last is a condition of the federation since the World Cup attracts such a large volume of tourists, and consequently generates a huge amount of cash flow. Many people stay throughout the entire World Cup, but some may go home if their team does not make the semifinals or finals. The basic rules of soccer are very simple. There are two teams; each team has up to eleven players on the field, a couch and reserve players in the bank. In the front line, we have the forwards or the attackers; behind the forwards are the midfielders, in the next line come the defenders and finally the goalkeeper. During the game, there are two lineman and the referee on each side of the field.

The aim of the game is to land the ball inside the opposing team’s goal, thereby scoring points called goals. The team that scores the most goals is the winner. Like all games soccer has many ways aside from the basic rules to make attempts at scoring points. In today’s soccer some of these include: penalty kick (a direct free kick towards the goal in the goalkeeper’s area), corner kick (a free kick executed from one of the four corners on the field), free kick (a free kick over a human barrier, usually executed by one of the best shooters on the team), and an indirect kick (a kick that requires two touches of the ball, since it is not kicked to the goal directly). Other soccer terms include: throw-in (to though the ball on to the field when it goes out of bounce), offside (when the attackers are in an invalid position), and fault (a harsh obstruction of an opponent). A fault is usually punished with a red card (shown to players that make a fault considered malicious) or with a yellow card (shown to players that have demonstrated inconsideration towards others or have insulted members of the other team).

Off the field, there is a bank for the reserve players and the team coach. Depending on how the game is going, sometimes you can see them moving nervously or pulling their hair in anger or despair. In the stands the soccer fans can be seen seated or standing, cheering for the team or booing the referee, and sometimes a lot of swearing may be heard regarding the referee’s decisions. In some countries out of control fans know as “soccer hooligans” at times cause violence inside and outside the stadiums. Be as it may, soccer is a sport that unleashes passion everywhere that it is played, whether it be for young kids playing soccer at school or for multi-million-dollar soccer stars kicking the ball across the stadium field, this passion is the same.

Vocabulary and Expressions

Halt = cease moving, stop.
Qualify = (in sports) to demonstrate the required ability in an initial or preliminary contest.
Qualifying games = games that allow competitor teams access to a more advance phase of competition.
To be designated = to be nominated or selected.
Host country = country where an event will take place.
Infrastructure = the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and stadiums, hotels, etc.
Semifinals = a match, competition, or examination that precedes the final one.
Finals = final match, competition of an event that renders the winner of champion.
Referee = (in certain games and sports) a judge having functions fixed by the rules of the game or sport; umpire.
Lineman = (in certain games and sports) a person who assists the referee in checking the marked lines of the field.
Goalkeeper = a player assigned to protect the goal in various sports. Also called goalie.
Goal = an area, basket, cage, or other object or structure toward or into which players of various games attempt to throw, carry, kick, hit, or drive a ball, puck, etc., to score a point or points.
Attackers = someone who attacks, those in charge of putting the ball in the goal.
Obstruction = Sports, the act of impeding another player in a match or race.
Nervously = Adverb, nervous + ly doing something in a nervous manner.
Fans = (short for fanatics) an ardent devotee; an enthusiast follower.
Cheering = a shout of encouragement, approval, congratulation, etc.
Booing = to show disapproval of by booing.
Swearing = to use profane oaths or language.
Be as it may = expression similar to “in any case.” or “whatever happens.”

Conversation Activities

1. Why do you think soccer is popular all over the world?
2. What is your favorite soccer team in your country?
3. Which national soccer team is considered the best national team in the world?
4. What other sports besides soccer are popular all over the world?
5. What was the best final of a world cup you can remember? Why?