European football - also known as soccer to Yankees and other former British colonies - is one of the world's oldest and most esteemed sports and continues to endure in popularity. Despite its revered status, however, plenty of people are not familiar with the sport's multitude of rules and objectives that can often seem complex and opaque to newcomers.
At its core, soccer is still a very simple sport with straightforward structures. As it is in most sports, the goal of every match is to score the most points to win. However, how this can be accomplished are various and nuanced, and even as a casual viewer, they can be useful to know.
Therefore, this article will explain some of the key concepts of soccer, such as stoppage time, added time, and injury time, and hopefully demystify some of the sport's more esoteric structures and regulations. By the end, you will have a firm grasp on the way a game of soccer is played, allowing you to appreciate the game more as a viewer and improve your skill as a player. Let's kick off.
What is Stoppage Time?
Stoppage time is a key component of how a soccer match is structured. Simply put, it is the amount of time that the referee adds to the end of each half of the match to compensate for lost time due to injuries, fouls, and substitutions. The longer these stoppages take, the more time will be added to the end of each half.
Stoppage time can add longevity to matches and can be tactically gained by the players of each team in a particularly grueling match. Some fouls and injuries add more stoppage time than others, and it is useful to know which of these can be capitalized upon.
History of Stoppage Time
Stoppage time in soccer dates back to 1891, during a match between Stoke City F.C. and Aston Villa F.C. The match had been tight throughout, and Aston Villa led by a narrow margin of 1-0. During the match's final minutes, Stoke was awarded a penalty kick which they had hoped would allow them to eke out a draw.
To secure Aston Villa's victory over their opponents, their goalie kicked the ball out of the stadium to waste time and end the match before Stoke's penalty kick could be taken - by the time the ball was finally found, the match was over.
This event led to the introduction of stoppage time, which made it so that a match could not end before a penalty kick, regardless of how many blunders - orchestrated or not - occurred throughout the match. It also guaranteed that each half of the match would not abruptly end at the 45-minute mark.
Since the introduction of stoppage time, referees have added an additional few minutes to the end of each half of a match. In a relatively clean, uneventful game, 1 or 2 minutes are typically added (to both halves), while 4 or 5 minutes of added time is common for games with many injuries, fouls, or substitutions.
How Does Stoppage Time Work?
The most important thing to understand about stoppage time is that - like most checks and calls that need to be made - the exact amount is entirely at the referee's discretion. The referee, therefore, is absolutely crucial to the flow and structure of any soccer match, but he cannot rely on his judgment alone.
Fortunately, referees make extensive use of their watches during the course of any game while still managing to keep an eye on the field. These watches have multiple settings and modes that allow referees to quickly and easily record the amount of stoppage time while the game clock still ticks on.
As the match half enters its final few minutes, the referee will relay the amount of time to be added to the fourth official, who then raises a separate electronic clock indicating the stoppage time. This time is variable and based on the type of stoppages in play and how many occurred during the half.
Substitutions typically do not take very long and referees will usually add an extra 30 seconds for each substitution throughout the match half. Some soccer players really know how to take their time in getting to or off the pitch, and unfortunately, referees have no choice but to consider this when determining the stoppage time.
Fouls have the potential to go either way when it comes to the amount of stoppage time added - it all depends on the players. In rare cases, both sides will acknowledge a foul and the match will continue within seconds. However, players are more than likely to argue with both each other and the referee, which can significantly add to the amount of stoppage time.
When a foul turns bad, it leads to an injury. Injuries lead to a significant amount of added time, depending on the severity, and usually also lead to substitutions. Of course, any professional soccer player knows exactly how to milk it and eat up much more time than is needed. It is not uncommon to spot a player limping pathetically off the pitch after a reasonably tame tackle.
Fortunately, referees are aware of the players' tendency to turn in Oscar-worthy performances on the field. Apart from truly severe cases, the amount of extra time usually adds up to an extra couple of minutes at most.
You now know everything there is to know about stoppage time, which should hopefully allow you to appreciate the game of soccer even more (and call out on some grade-A B.S. when you see it). We encourage you to watch a few games for yourself to implement this knowledge properly.