In basic training, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) recruits are taught to aim at people’s legs. This is considered more “humane” unless, of course, the target happens to be a footballer. In January 2014, Johar and Adam Halabiyeh of the West Bank’s Abu Dis Youth Club were attacked while passing an Israeli checkpoint after practice. According to the IDF, they were about to throw a bomb, a claim the players reject. Regardless, in the course of being arrested, Johar was shot 10 times in his legs and had his knees broken; Adam was shot three times. They are now hospitalized in Jordan. 

“Look, there’s a systematic policy of arrest in Israel,” says Mahmoud Sarsak, a former defender of the Palestinian national team. “And there’s no good reason to do it except to hinder any Palestinian that might give people a positive outlook through sports.” In 2009, Sarsak was also arrested at an IDF checkpoint in Gaza, then held for three years in an Israeli prison under administrative detention without trial. He began a hunger strike in March 2012. Half his body weight and 97 days later, he was released after receiving the support of FIFA, UEFA and the international football community.

Movement into and out of the occupied territories has long been an issue for Palestinian football players and officials. Four more members of the national team have been stopped at checkpoints and jailed by the IDF in recent years, and in 2007, Israel denied the team the necessary permits to travel to Singapore for a 2010 World Cup qualifying match, forcing them to forfeit. Threatened with expulsion by FIFA, Israel has recently committed to improve travel conditions for Palestinian footballers.

“We are trying to make things easier for them,” Israel Football Association CEO Rotem Kemer told online magazine Inside World Football in April 2014, dismissing accusations that Israel impedes Palestinian football. But looser travel restrictions only help if you have somewhere to play. After the IDF bombed Gaza’s 10,000-seat Palestine Football stadium in April 2006, Gazans spent six years rebuilding it for national team training and matches. In 2012, the Israeli Air Force destroyed it again.




In English medieval mob football, the “pitch” could be anything from a field to an entire town, and by the 19th century, each region had evolved its own set of rules. Those written up in a London pub in 1863 have since been adopted worldwide – with some modifications.



Tape was introduced in 1866 to mark the top of the goal, following a controversial goal in Reigate, UK, when the ball passed between the posts, 30 meters up. Solid crossbars only arrived in 1882.



In 1863, two goals, 7.3 meters wide, were established. It was three decades before goal nets were introduced to settle disputes over whether or not goals had actually been scored.



The 1863 pitch measured 91 by 182 meters, almost twice as long as today’s pitches, and was delimited by flags.

Penalty spot

The 11-meter penalty spot was created in 1891. Originally called “the kick of death,” penalties were introduced to stop free kicks from being given centimeters from the goal line.

Exterior lines

White lines were introduced to mark field boundaries in 1882. Wood shavings and dust were superseded by light-reflecting white chalk, which improved the visibility of the lines.

Halfway line

A halfway line, created in 1882, marked where the teams should kick off. Until 1912, the goalkeeper could handle the ball anywhere up to this point.



Goal posts were squared until the early 20th century, when they were replaced by round and oval variants, which were safer, given players’ tendency to crash into them.