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Soccer Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the history of one of the most popular sports in the world: soccer. You'll also get to know the basic rules and equipment needed to play what is sometimes called, 'The Beautiful Game'.

Origins of Soccer

Soccer, known as football in most countries, is played almost entirely with people's feet, not their hands! Unlike most other popular sports (baseball, basketball, football), players use just about anything but their hands to control the ball. So when exactly did people start playing this game?

It's hard to trace the exact origins of soccer, but we do know that people have been playing games with a ball and their feet for thousands of years. A Chinese military manual from more than 2,000 years ago describes a game where a leather ball is kicked through an opening. In Japan, there's a game where a ball is passed in a group using people's feet. An ancient Greek game also involved two teams kicking a ball in a rectangular area.

A soccer stadium in Rio, Brazil
soccer stadium

But the game that we recognize today, played on a field of grass with two teams and two goals, developed in Britain. Early games had very few rules and could be violent--it wasn't just the ball that was kicked! A set of rules was agreed upon in 1863. Towards the end of the 19th century, soccer became a popular sport in schools, and the game and rules were slowly but surely refined. It was also during this time that the sport split into two groups: people that wanted to use their hands to play (rugby style), and those that did not (feet only). Rugby and football were now two distinct sports.

Equipment and Rules

A game of soccer is played on a rectangular, grass field. There's a large goal with a net at either end of the rectangle. Eleven people play for each team. One person on each team is the goalie and is allowed to use his/her hands inside a designated area known as the penalty box.

The soccer ball: the most important piece of equipment
soccer ball

Probably the most important piece of equipment is the ball! A standard soccer ball is made of leather and is about the same size as a basketball. Players usually wear special shoes with cleats, or soles that help them grip the ground, and shin guards to protect their legs. Goalies wear a shirt of a different color to set them apart and gloves.

The object of the game is to get the ball into your opponent's goal. Each time this happens, your team gets one point. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner! You can move the ball by dribbling with your feet, passing, or using just about any part of your body except your hands.

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