football – British style

Football is the most popular sport in Britain, particularly amongst men. It is played by boys in most schools. Most towns have an amateur football team which plays in a minor league. Football is also the most popular spectator sport in Britain. Many people go to see their favourite professional team playing at home, and some go to away matches. Many more people watch football on television.
  The rules of football are relatively simple: two teams of 11 players try to get a round ball into the opposing team’s goal and to prevent their opponents from scoring. The ball may be kicked or headed, but never handled, except by the goalkeepers. The Football Association was founded in 1863 to decide the rules of football and the resulting game became known formally as association football. It is sometimes also called soccer. Many of today’s leading clubs were established shortly afterwards.
  Most professional clubs represent large cities, especially in the north of England, where interest in football is strongest, or parts of London. They include Everton, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The most famous Scottish clubs include Rangers and Celtic. In 1992 football was reorganized so that the best 20 teams in England and Wales play in the Premiership, while 70 other teams play in three divisions, run by the Football League. There is a Scottish Premier League and three divisions run by the Scottish Football League. At the end of each season, the top few teams in each division are promoted and the bottom teams are relegated. As well as the Premiership, the main competitions are the FA Cup and the League Cup. A few of the most successful sides have won the Double, both titles in the same year. The biggest clubs are now run as major businesses, and top players earn large salaries. They are frequently transferred between clubs for millions of pounds. Many foreign stars also now play for British teams.
  England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own national sides. England won the World Cup in 1966, when its stars included Bobby Charlton (I), Bobby Moore (I) and Geoff Hurst.
  The number of people attending football matches has fallen steadily since the 1940s. An increase in football hooliganism in the 1970s and 1980s frightened many people away. English fans got a bad reputation in Europe and football violence became known as ‘the English disease’. Disasters such as that at Hillsborough, in which many people died, also discouraged people from going to matches. Formerly, football grounds had terraces, where supporters stood packed close together, and stands containing rows of seats which were more expensive. These grounds have now been replaced by all-seater stadiums, but people complain about the rising cost of tickets and the lack of atmosphere. Despite efforts by many clubs to attract family support, relatively few women are interested in the game. Many clubs have their own fanzine (= a magazine about the club written and published by the fans). Some supporters also buy a copy of their team’s strip (= shorts and shirt in team colours).
  This type of football is known in the US as soccer to distinguish it from the American game, and has only become popular there in recent years. Enthusiasm increased after 1994 when the World Cup was played for the first time in the US. In 1999 the US won the Women’s World Cup. In 1996 Major League Soccer (MLS) was established, and teams compete for the MLS Cup. Students in colleges and universities also play soccer in three NCAA divisions. The nation’s oldest tournament is the US Open Cup. About 18 million American children now play regularly, and the expression soccer mom (= a mother who spends a lot of time taking her children to sporting activities) has entered the language.
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Universalium. 2010.

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