In a previous article (why you should play 5-a-side football) I brought you a fact about 11-a-side football which caused some controversy.
When I told you that in 11-a-side football there ball is in play only 64% of the time, it brought out the skeptics in a big way.
So, I looked further into it and found a research paper. It looked at sixteen matches in the German first division to see what impact game interruptions had one playing time.
Not only did they back up the statistic that the ball is in play only around two thirds of the time (62% was the exact number they observed), they also provided the average number of stoppages to show us how we get to that result.
They found that on average there are 108 interruptions per match, comprising:
- 40 Throw-ins
- 33 free kicks
- 17 goal kicks
- 10 corner kicks
- 4 substitutions
- 3 kick offs
There were also drop balls, penalties, and injuries but those occurred less often. Here’s all that summarized in a graphic:
In fact, the average time the ball was in play before a stoppage came along and interrupted things was only 32.1 seconds. Stoppages, on the other hand took an average of 18.7 seconds.
Why does it matter how much the ball is out of play in 11-a-side?
We’ll it doesn’t really. If you love 11-a-side, which has always been played this way, then carry on. You’d have to be a pretty miserable person to deny that watching the likes of Messi playing the game is anything other than majestic.
This article isn’t a case of trying to bash 11-a-side football at all. That’s not the point of this blog. However, when you ask me about the differences playing that vs small-sided football all, it is a fact that the ball is in play much more of the time when there are fewer players.
FIFA studies have shown that there is a relationship between the number of players on the pitch and the time the ball is in play. After all, it was them that started us off on this chase with this comment:
The ball is out of play 8% of the time in 4-a-side football, 14% in 7-a-side and 34% in 11-a-side. (FIFA)
So whether it is Futsal, other forms of 5-a-side or anything at all involving a small number of players, you’d expect the ball to be in play more of the time.
And that, of course, is a key reason why playing small-sided soccer is so enjoyable.
For more on the benefits of 5-a-side and other forms of small-sided football, see this article.