Passing (association football)

Last updated
Xabi Alonso passing the ball Xabi Alonso Euro 2012 vs France 02.jpg
Xabi Alonso passing the ball

Passing the ball is a key part of association football. The purpose of passing is to keep possession of the ball by maneuvering it on the ground between different players with the objective of advancing it up the playing field. [1]


Passing brings an advantage in that the team secures possession of the ball, without allowing the opposition an opportunity to attack. The skill of dribbling the ball is seen much less in modern football matches than in the first half of the twentieth century. This observation is often noted with regret by fans of the game who were familiar with older styles.

Types of Passing

Short passing

Thibaut Courtois making a short pass FC RB Salzburg versus Real Madrid (Testspiel, 7. August 2019) 03.jpg
Thibaut Courtois making a short pass

A short pass is when a person passes the ball a short distance to another player. [2] [3]

Long passing

The aim of a long pass is to switch players or find a teammate in space. A long pass is generally more attacking than a short pass, but this can depend on where the player is located on the field. If the player wants to drive his pass, he should approach the ball at a 30-degree angle so there is room to swing his kicking leg through. The player uses his arms for balance, positions his non-kicking foot close to the side of the ball, and keeps his eyes on the ball. [2]

Wall passing

A wall pass (also known as a "give-and-go" or a "one-two") is when a player passes the ball to an open teammate and that teammate passes the ball back to him around the defender. [4] This type of pass requires precise timing because if it is executed incorrectly, it can break down an attack. [5]

Through pass

Mohamed Salah making a through pass Mohamed Salah 20180621.jpg
Mohamed Salah making a through pass

A through-ball is a pass into open space between two defenders for an attacker to receive the ball behind the defenders.

History of ball passing in football

Early history of ball passing in football

In 1581 Richard Mulcaster is the first to describe "foteball" teams consisting of players using different positions ("standings"), although passing is not stated explicitly. The first specific reference to player to player passing ("dealing") in football-like ball of Cornish hurling. [6]

There are two other early allusions to passing the ball, but in each it is more likely that the ball is being kicked between members of opposing teams. David Wedderburn in 1633 suggests that his students might want to use the Latin words literally meaning "strike (percute) it here" and "strike it again (or back)". Similarly, in 1650 English puritan Richard Baxter in his book Everlasting Rest: "like a Football in the midst of a crowd of Boys, tost about in contention from one to another". [7] This is also alluded to in a poem of c1624 by Edmund Waller referring to a football team working together towards "victory": "a sort [i.e. company] of lusty shepherds try their force at football, care of victory... They ply their feet, and still the restless ball, Toss'd to and fro, is urged by them all." [8] The last line suggests that playing as a team emerged much earlier in English football than previously thought.

The next definite description of team players passing the ball to each other comes in 1823 in Suffolk. [9] [10] In this Moor describes a team ball game with goals in which a player who can not advance further "throws the ball [he must in no case give it] to some less beleaguered friend more free and more in breath than himself". Although this description refers to throwing, Moor tells us that the game was at other times a football one: "Sometimes a large football was used; the game was then called 'kicking camp'."

The public schools of England (early 19th century) and the Cambridge Rules

The public schools of England had developed their own forms of football since at least the Fifteenth century and these were subsequently very influential in the formulation of the 1863 first first-ever rules of modern Association Football by the Football Association. Many English public school football games involved dribbling and players were often very skillful at this art. Passing was certainly part of some games, as can be seen in the game of rugby football. The value of passing the ball in these various games depended upon the offside rule in that particular code. Some public school games kept a very tight offside rule, thus making forward passing worthless. Some rules, however, allowed for forward passing so long as there were more than 3 opposition players behind the ball. This rule permitted the positioning of players ahead of the ball. Such passing was called "passing on" and some players became deft at spying gaps to move the ball forward to teammates. This is noteworthy for marking the origins of forward passing. The earliest evidence of an offside rule resembling modern rules and permitting the forward pass comes in 1847 from Eton College: This stated that "A player is considered 'sneaking' [an old, and probably more logical, word for being offside] when only three or less than three of the opposite side are before him and the ball behind him, and in such a case, he may not kick the ball." [11] Similarly, the Cambridge Rules of 1856 (and probably earlier versions) permitted such passing on.

The adoption at Cambridge of a loose offside rule marks the beginning of a split into two football games: one a more physical, handling game with a tight offside law (Rugby Football) and the other involving less handling and physical contact with a loose offside law (Association football from 1863). Such rules permitting the forward pass opened the door to more complex combination of passes.

In 1856 Lancing College created its own code of football which was regarded as a means of fostering teamwork. [12]

During FA meetings to discuss the development of the rules of soccer before 1867 there is evidence that representatives of Charterhouse and Westminster School (whose football games did not involve handling) were advocates of the forward pass. [13] As a result of these schools' enthusiasm for a "loose" offside rule, forward passing was not forbidden under the subsequent versions of the FA's rules and the original Cambridge rules offside rule was introduced to the FA rules in 1867. An offside rule had not been specified in the 1863 rules and, presumably, these would have been decided between teams prior to matches.

Modern history

The earliest reference in English to "passing" of the ball occurs in the early 1860s. [14] The original Football Association rules of 1863 state that, "A player shall not be allowed to throw the ball or pass it to another with his hands". It is clear that at this time players were familiar with the concept of passing the ball to each other with their feet. The direction of the pass was not regulated in the early rules of the Football Association.

"Scientific" football is first recorded in 1839 from Lancashire [15] and in the modern game from Sheffield FC as early as 1865. [16] [17] The earliest contemporary reference to ball passing in soccer comes from 1870 from the Royal Engineers AFC. For example, a contemporary match report clearly shows that by 1870, ball passing was a feature of the Engineers style: "Lieut. Creswell, who having brought it up the side then kicked it into the middle to another of his side, who kicked it through the posts the minute before time was called" [18] Passing is reported from Sheffield FC from at least January 1872. [19] For example, In January 1872 the following account is given against Derby: "W. Orton, by a specimen of careful play, running the ball up in close proximity to the goal, from which it was returned to J. Marsh, who by a fine straight shot kicked it through" [20] This play taking place "in close proximity to the goal" suggests a short pass and the "return" of the ball to Marsh suggests that this was the second of two passes. A double pass is first reported from Derby school against Nottingham Forest in March 1872, the first of which is irrefutably a short pass: "Mr Absey dribbling the ball half the length of the field delivered it to Wallis, who kicking it cleverly in front of the goal, sent it to the captain who drove it at once between the Nottingham posts" [21] Possibly the most important passing manoeuvre in the early history of soccer was the pass from Vidal ("the prince of the dribblers") to M. P. Betts who then scored the only goal in the first-ever FA cup final in March 1872. [22]

The short pass was the favoured style of Queens Park FC during the 1870s, [23] although the club's original offside rule (August 1867) suggests that forward passing was part of their game at this early stage. [24] Short passing (amongst the forwards), and long passing (from the backs), appears to have been used by Queen's Park in their FA Cup tie against Wanderers FC in March 1872,

They dribble little and usually convey the ball by a series of long kicks, combined with a judicious plan of passing on. [25]

The first evidence of passing as a collective team based game (as opposed to sporadic references to passing in games, or references to the 'backing up' game) can be found in the first official international match between Scotland and England (30 November 1872). The Graphic, a London-based weekly newspaper, specifically states,

Individual skill was generally on England's side, the dribbling of Kirke Smith, Brockbank, and Ottaway being very fine, while Welch, half-back, showed himself a safe and good kick. The Southrons, however, did not play to each other so well as their opponents, who seem to be adepts in passing the ball. [26]

The first side who are attributed to perfecting the modern formation (2-3-5) was Cambridge University AFC in 1882, [23] [27] [28] although significantly the 2-3-5 formation was being played by other clubs in Scotland and England by 1880, and can be found in Wales as early as 1878. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

Association football Team field sport

Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a team sport played by all genders with a spherical ball between two teams of 11 players. It is played by approximately 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field called a pitch with a goal at each end. The object of the game is to outscore the opposition by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing goal. The team with the higher number of goals wins the game.

Offside (association football) Law in association football

Offside is one of the laws of association football, codified in Law 11 of the Laws of the Game. The law states that a player is in an offside position if any of their body parts, except the hands and arms, are in the opponents' half of the pitch, and closer to the opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.

The Laws of the Game (LOTG) are the codified rules of association football. The laws mention the number of players a team should have, the game length, the size of the field and ball, the type and nature of fouls that referees may penalise, the frequently misinterpreted offside law, and many other laws that define the sport. During a match, it is the task of the referee to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game.

Corner kick

A corner kick is the method of restarting play in a game of association football when the ball goes out of play over the goal line, without a goal being scored and having last been touched by a member of the defending team. The kick is taken from the corner of the field of play nearest to where it went out.

The Royal Engineers Association Football Club is an association football team representing the Corps of Royal Engineers, the ’Sappers’, of the British Army and based in Chatham, Kent. In the 1870s it was one of the strongest sides in English football, winning the FA Cup in 1875 and being Cup Finalists in three of the first four seasons. The Engineers were pioneers of the combination game, where teammates passed the ball to each other rather than kicking ahead and charging after the ball. With the rise of professional teams, in 1888 the Engineers joined a newly formed Army Football Association.

Throw-in Method of restarting play in association football

A throw-in is a method of restarting play in a game of association football when the ball has exited the side of the field of play. It is governed by Law 15 of The Laws Of The Game.

Sheffield Rules

The Sheffield Rules was a code of football devised and played in the English city of Sheffield between 1858 and 1877. The rules were initially created and revised by Sheffield Football Club, with responsibility for the laws passing to the Sheffield Football Association upon that body's creation in 1867. The rules spread beyond the city boundaries to other clubs and associations in the north and midlands of England, making them one of the most popular forms of football during the 1860s and 1870s.

The following are events in the 1840s decade which are relevant to the development of association football. All events happened in English football unless specified otherwise.

The following are events in the 1860s decade which are relevant to the development of association football. Included are events in closely related codes, such as the Sheffield Rules. All events happened in English football unless specified otherwise.

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is rooted in medieval ball games and English public school games. The modern game of association football originated with mid-nineteenth century efforts between local football clubs to standardize the varying sets of rules, culminating in formation of The Football Association in London, England in 1863. The rules drafted by the association allowed clubs to play each other without dispute, and specifically banned both handling of the ball and hacking during open field play. After the fifth meeting of the association a schism emerged between association football and the rules played by the Rugby school, later to be called rugby football. Football has been an Olympic sport ever since the second modern Summer Olympic Games in 1900.

1872 FA Cup Final Football match

The 1872 FA Cup Final was a football match between Wanderers and Royal Engineers on 16 March 1872 at Kennington Oval in London. It was the final of the first staging of the Football Association Challenge Cup, which became the primary cup competition in English football and the oldest football competition in the world. Fifteen teams entered the competition in its first season and, due to the rules in place at the time, Wanderers reached the final having won only one match in the four preceding rounds. In the semi-finals, they drew with the Scottish club Queen's Park, but reached the final when the Scots withdrew from the competition as they could not afford to return to London for a replay.

1873 FA Cup Final Football match

The 1873 FA Cup Final was a football match between Wanderers and Oxford University on 29 March 1873 at Lillie Bridge in London. It was the second final of the world's oldest football competition, the Football Association Challenge Cup. Unusually, the final was held in the morning, so as to avoid a clash with the annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race which was held on the same day. Wanderers reached the final without playing a match, as the original rules of the competition stated that the holders would receive a bye straight to the final and other teams would compete to gain the other place in the final and challenge the holders for the trophy. Oxford reached the final when their semi-final opponents, Queen's Park, dropped out of the competition

During the early modern era pupils, former pupils and teachers at English public schools developed and wrote down the first codes of football, most notably the Eton College (1815) and Aldenham school (1825) football rules. The best-known of these is rugby football (1845). British public schools football also directly influenced the rules of Association football.

The Combination Game was a style of association football based around teamwork and cooperation. It would gradually favour the passing of the ball between players over individual dribbling skills which had been a notable feature of early Association games. It developed from "scientific" football and is considered to be the predecessor of the modern passing game of football. It originated in Britain and its origins are associated with early clubs: Sheffield FC, The Royal Engineers AFC, Queen's Park FC and Cambridge University AFC. Each of these claimants is supported by retrospective accounts from men who were notable in the early history of football. They are considered below in the order of earliest contemporary evidence of "scientific" football playing styles.

The sport of association football has a long history in England.

1872 Scotland v England football match First international football match

The 1872 association football match between the national teams of Scotland and England is officially recognised by FIFA as the sport's first-ever international. It took place on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent, the West of Scotland Cricket Club's ground in Partick, Glasgow. The match was watched by 4,000 spectators and finished as a 0–0 draw.

Football Group of related team sports

Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football normally means the form of football that is the most popular where the word is used. Sports commonly called football include association football ; gridiron football ; Australian rules football; rugby football ; and Gaelic football. These various forms of football share to varying extent common origins and are known as football codes.

The 1925 FA Charity Shield was the twelfth staging of the FA Charity Shield, an annual association football match arranged to raise funds for charitable causes supported by the Football Association, the governing body of football in England. For the fourth time, the match was contested by select teams of amateur and professional players. It was played on 5 October 1925 at White Hart Lane, London, and ended as a 6–1 win for the Amateurs. Claude Ashton scored four goals and Frank Macey two for the Amateurs; Charlie Hannaford scored the Professionals' goal.

Scoring in association football

In games of association football teams compete to score the most goals during the match. A goal is scored when the ball passes completely over a goal line at either end of the field of play between two centrally positioned upright goal posts 24 feet (7.32 m) apart and underneath a horizontal crossbar at a height of 8 feet (2.44 m) — this frame is itself referred to as a goal. Each team aims to score at one end of the pitch, while preventing their opponents from scoring at the other. Nets are usually attached to the goal frame to catch goalscoring balls, but the ball is not required to touch the net.

London v. Sheffield was an association football game played on 31 March 1866. According to Charles Alcock, it was the "first match of any importance under the auspices of the Football Association".


  1. XXX, XXX (2020-02-10). "XXX". Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  2. 1 2 "Soccer Passing Tips for Long & Short Distances". PRO TIPS by DICK'S Sporting Goods. 2017-10-26. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  3. "Tips on How to Master Passing in Soccer". Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  4. "Give-and-go", Wikipedia, 2021-01-01, retrieved 2021-04-24
  5. "Soccer: Passing the Ball". Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  6. "The Survey of Cornwall by Richard Carew - Free Ebook". Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  7. Marples, M. 1954. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London
  8. Poetical Works of Edmund Waller and Sir John Denham / Archived 2012-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Edward Moor, Suffolk Words and Phrases: Or, An Attempt to Collect the Lingual Localisms, J. Loder, London
  10. Moor, E. (1823). Suffolk Words and Phrases: Or, An Attempt to Collect the Lingual Localisms of that County. J. Loder. Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  11. "Offside History". Archived from the original on 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2007-03-25.
  12. J. Lowerson and J. Myerscough, Time to Spare in Victorian England (Brighton: Harvester, 1977) pp 119-20, cited in Football: The First Hundred Years. The Untold Story. Adrian Harvey, Routledge, 2005
  13. [Marples, Morris (1954) A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London]
  14. Online Etymology Dictionary
  15. Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (London, England), Sunday, January 13, 1839. New Readerships
  16. Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (London, England), Saturday, January 07, 1865; Issue 2,229: "The Sheffield party, however, eventually took a lead, and through some scientific movements of Mr J Wild, scored a goal amid great cheering"
  17. Bell's life in london, November 26th 1865, issue 2275: "We cannot help recording the really scientific play with which the Sheffield men backed each other up
  18. Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, Sat November 5th 1870, issue 2
  19. Bells Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, Sat January 27th 1872 Issue 2691: "the only goal scored in the match was obtained by Sheffield, owing to a good run up the field by Steel, who passed if judiciously to Matthews, and the latter, by a good straight kick, landed it through the goal out of reach of the custodian"
  20. The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, January 17, 1872; Issue 8218.
  21. The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, March 20, 1872; Issue 8226
  22. "First Finals :: The Story of Football". Retrieved 2014-10-04.
  23. 1 2 Harvey, Adrian (2005). Football, the First Hundred Years. Routledge. pp. 273, ref 34–119. ISBN   0-415-35019-0.
  24. Robinson, R; History of the Queen's Park Football Club, 1867–1917, Glasgow 1920. P72
  25. Quoted in Sanders, R; Beastly Fury, The Strange Birth of British Football, London, 2009, P66.
  26. Graphic illustrated newspaper, 14 December 1872
  27. Murphy, Brendan (2007). From Sheffield with Love. Sports Book Limited. p. 59. ISBN   978-1-899807-56-7.
  28. Association Football, chapter by CW Alcock, The English Illustrated Magazine 1891, page 287
  29. Fabian A H (ed); Association Football Vol 3, London, 1960