Soccer, also known as football is a popular sport with millions of fans globally, in spite of sharing a controversial name with American football.
But even among the most serious soccer fans, the lines and the markings on the pitch can sometimes be confusing.
Although the sizes of the fields may vary, the markings and the lines are all the same and play a crucial role in informing the players the referees when the ball is in or out of bounds and defining areas where certain rules apply.
However, FIFA- the organization governing football in the world has stipulated the maximum and the minimum dimensions of a soccer pitch.
The minimum length should be 100 yards (90 meters) while the maximum should be 130 yards (120 meters); as for the width, the maximum should minimum should be 50 yards (45 meters) while the maximum should be 100 yards (90 meters).
This means that soccer can be played on a square pitch measuring 100 yards by 100 yards or a rectangular one, but in most cases, it’s the latter that is used. To understand more on how these markings and lines affect how the game is played, let’s delve into the layout of a soccer field;
To start with, let’s first look into the pitch boundary otherwise known as touchline. The long lines marking the length of the field are the one called the touchlines or sidelines that encloses the area in which the ball is supposed to be played within.
If the ball mistakenly passes over these lines, a player has to throw the ball into the pitch using their hands to put it back into play.
The other opposing lines marking the width of the field are called the goal lines or end lines. It is not so uncommon for the goal lines to be taken to mean only the line between the goalposts, yet the term refers to the entire line up to where it intersects with the touchline.
In fact, most commentators use the term ‘byline’ to refer to the portions of the goal line outside the goalposts.
Both the sidelines and end lines must be of equally wide but not exceeding 12 cm (5 in). For international matches, the dimensions of the touch lines and goal lines must fall within a more specific range.
The goal lines must be 70 yards (64 meters) minimum and 80 yards (75 meters) on the maximum.
The touch lines, on the other hand, must be 110 yards (100 meters) as the minimum dimension and 120 yards (110 meters) as the maximum dimension. At the point of intersection between the goal line and the touchline is the corner, which is marked using an arc and flag on all four sides. The corner arc is supposed to be 1 yard in diameter and it is where the ball is placed for corner kicks. Additionally, the flag posts at all corners must be 5 feet tall to prevent injury when the player is taking a corner kick.
The Goalposts and the Goal Area
The goalposts are located at the center of each goal line and must be placed at an equidistant from the corner posts.
The posts must be made of wood, metal and painted white for visibility. An 8-yard width between the inner edges of the posts is the standard measurement while the height from the ground to the crossbar ought to be 8 yards.
A net is fitted behind each goal post so as to catch the ball and also help the referee know when a goal has been scored.
For a goal to be considered, the ball has to cross the goal line between the goal posts and into the net. However, the goal can be discredited if the player who scored commits an offense when scoring the goal.
Around the goalposts, is a six-yard rectangular box called area, which consists of the goal line, and two extending lines from the goal line each measuring 6 yards then joined by a line measuring the same.
It is from this goal area where goal kicks and free kicks are taken. Free kicks awarded to the attacking within this area taken from the point on the where the foul occurred.
The penalty area or commonly known as ‘the box’ is the large 18-yard rectangular box formed by the 16.5 meters lines extending from the goal line.
The main reason why it is called a penalty area is that a foul by a defender inside this area is punishable by a penalty instead of the usual free kick.
Moreover, this area marks the goalkeeper can handle the ball with their hands. The penalty mark is usually 12 yards in front of the goalposts center and it is from this point from where the penalty kick is taken.
The penalty arc that is the 10-yard D mark on the outside edge of the penalty area, acts as bounder line between the player taking the penalty and the rest of the players, leaving only the penalty kicker and the defending goalkeeper.
The Center of the Pitch
The center of a soccer field is marked by a center line which measures the same as the width of the pitch. At the very center of the field, is a 10 yard in diameter circle commonly known as the center circle.
Just as the penalty arc delineates the players from penalty kicker, the center circle separates the team without the ball from the team with the ball, until a player from the team with the ball touches the ball first.
At the beginning of a game, a coined is tossed and the winning team chooses between starting the match with the ball on their side or from which side goal post they want to attack. The losing team is then offered whatever choice the winner did not take.
After that, the referee blows the whistle to signal to the start of the first half game time. There are two halves throughout the entire period of play each with lasting a duration of 45 minutes.
However, due to the time wasted during substitution and injury time, the referee can add extra time to account for the time lost.
A soccer pitch may consist of additional areas that are at the peripheral of the main playing area such as the technical area.
This area contains two benches one for each team with a capacity of seating nine people. This area acts as a resting area for substitute players and official of the team.
Another area is the run-off zone, or the buffer zone located just outside the main playing area.
The Pitch Surface
Although grass is the recommended surface of play, artificial turf may also be used. This is allowed especially in countries with extreme weather conditions where the grass may not grow well and may require expensive maintenance.
For instance, in countries where the climate is extremely dry or wet like in snowing countries, grass surfaced pitch may not be a viable option.
Instead, artificial turf is used but it has to be green and approved by FIFA since there were concerns that some artificial turf play surface was causing severe injuries to players. Nevertheless, soccer can also be played on a dirt field, especially if it is a recreational player.
The description of the soccer pitch markings and lines discussed above are only for adult matches. As for the kids, they can play in a smaller pitch or designated version of soccer for children called miniroo.
The miniroo program is divided into two; one for the toddlers usually 4 years old and the other for 11 years old kids. These programs are aimed at helping kids play in adult soccer pitches as discussed above.