Brazilian soccer legend Pele played as a child with a grapefruit or a ball of rags, and even today’s pickup games with a real ball may rely on just plastic cones or driftwood to serve as goals. While soccer’s minimalist equipment list allows it to be played worldwide, including in the poorest hamlets, official league games and internationally sanctioned matches follow equipment rules set down by FIFA, the international governing body of soccer.
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Soccer at the adult and over-12 age levels requires two goals measuring 8 feet tall by 24 feet wide draped with a net. Slender, flexible flags mark the four corners of the pitch. Younger players can use smaller goals, measuring as little as about 4 by 6 feet for under-6 players, and No. 3 or No. 4 balls, while the adult ball size is a No. 5. Summer tournaments involving five players or less often use small, portable goals, similar to the U-6 size.
Mandatory shinguards protect players from errant kicks and hard-struck balls. Official league games also require the wearing of numbered jerseys, shorts, footwear and long socks to cover the shinguards. The referee must inspect and approve other equipment, such as arm casts, although state soccer associations may ban these altogether. Protective headgear, facemasks and knee and arm protectors made of soft materials are permitted under FIFA rules, as is protective eyewear. Footwear must be appropriate to the playing surface, with outdoor cleats not permitted on indoor artificial surfaces, which require special indoor shoes.
Radio technology allowing communication between players and technical staff is not permitted. Clothing and gear cannot feature political slogans. You cannot wear jewelry, including necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands and rubber bands. Jewelry must be removed and cannot be covered with tape. Wedding bands, however, are usually acceptable. The referees as well cannot wear any jewelry except a watch.
Goalkeepers need gloves that protect their hands from the ball’s impact and allow a firm grasp of the typically synthetic surface of a modern ball. They must also wear a jersey of a different color to either team’s field players. They are permitted to wear tracksuit bottoms.
Coaches can make ample use of plastic cones, plastic disks and training bibs called pinnies to organize a practice. Small portable goals and rebounding nets can enable more touches on the ball for the players. At higher levels, trainers may set up agility ladders and use speed parachutes to improve speed.