Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

Why Do Football Teams Have 11 Players?

Football, a sport loved and cherished by millions around the world, has a certain beauty to it that captivates fans. But have you ever wondered why each team is made up of exactly 11 players? In this article, we’ll delve into the history and possible reasons behind this intriguing aspect of the game.

The Origins of Football

Before we dive into the rationale behind the number of players, let’s take a brief look at the early days of football. The sport we know today has its roots in various games that were played throughout history. One notable precursor to modern football is the Italian sport called Calcio Fiorentino, which originated in the 16th century. This game involved a staggering 27 players on each side, with no substitutions allowed. As you can imagine, it was quite chaotic compared to the football we know today.

Football Takes Shape in England

In England, a similar type of game known as medieval folk football gained popularity. The rules varied, but the number of players on each side ranged from 15 to 21. It’s uncertain whether this game was directly influenced by Calcio Fiorentino or if it developed independently in England. However, what’s clear is that the desire for a game involving kicking a ball led to continuous changes in team sizes.

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The Standardization of Rules

As the 19th century progressed, football started to become more formalized. In 1863, official rules were established, marking an important milestone in the development of the game. These rules specified that each team would consist of 11 players and only one fixed goalkeeper.

The reasoning behind this reduction in team size remains somewhat unclear. The various football associations across the country were playing their own versions of the game, leading to a certain element of trial and error. It’s possible that the decision to have 11 players per team was influenced by the size of the playing field, ensuring that the space could be adequately covered.

The Influence of Cricket

Another factor that might have influenced the choice of 11 players per team is the close association between football and cricket during their early years. Cricket fields were often used for football matches due to their large size. In fact, the world’s first international football match was held at the Oval in Kennington, a renowned cricket ground.

Many cricketers also played football during the summer as a way to stay fit. Cricket teams typically had 11 players on each side, which could have influenced the decision to have the same number in football. It’s conceivable that individuals involved in both sports wanted to ensure that cricketers had the opportunity to play football during the winter months, maintaining their fitness levels. Furthermore, the Football Association in its early days was primarily run by aristocrats who had connections to both football and cricket.

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  • Why are football teams made up of 11 players?
    Football teams are comprised of 11 players on each side, a number that has historical roots. The decision to have 11 players per team was likely influenced by factors such as the size of the playing field and the association between football and cricket during the sport’s formative years.

  • Did cricket influence the number of players in football?
    There is a possibility that cricket, a popular sport during football’s early days, had an impact on the decision to have 11 players per team. Both sports shared playing fields, and many cricketers played football to stay fit during the summer months.


While the exact reasoning behind having 11 players on each football team remains somewhat elusive, we can appreciate the historical context that contributes to this aspect of the game. Whether it was a practical choice to cover the playing field or a reflection of the connections between cricket and football, the number 11 has become an integral part of the beautiful game we all love.

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