2 - The Pass
It's very likely that you've learned at school about the different ways of communicating. The radio, telephone, newspapers, magazines, books, cinema, television, road, rail and river are means which men use to communicate with each other. In soccer the pass is a form of communication, transmission, participation, a link or contact. By passing, the players communicate with each other, bringing the ball from their defense area up into attack. The better the communication, the better are the chances of a successful team. Do you know why? Soccer is a team game. There are eleven players working together and that's why the original name of this sport is association soccer. The eleven players are like partners; they help each other with the aim of scoring more goals than the other team and, therefore, winning the game.
As there is only one ball on the pitch and only the person who is in possession of it can score a goal, the pass is a method of keeping the ball with your team. I hope you've already realized that the pass is the most simple and safe way of your whole side working towards a common end, and this is the case with all team ball games.
There are many ways of passing the ball. The simplest is the pass with the inside of the foot. This is also the most efficient because the area of contact between the foot and the ball is larger, which enables one to be more precise. For a longer pass you should use the top of the foot because the impact is stronger. The outside of the foot can be used for passes and diagonal kicks, especially when you are in possession of the ball with an opponent right in front of you and your team-mate to your side. It is possible to pass with your heel, knee, head or even your shoulder. But some of these should only be used in an emergency. There is also what we call an overhead pass. This should be done when your team-mate is well behind the opponent. To execute this pass you should stab at the ball with the toe striking underneath the stationary or rolling ball in front of you, so it rises sharply and sails over your opponent's head and lands in front of your colleague. Passing with the shoulder is a neat trick. Use the shoulder opposite to the side on which your team-mate is running. Turn your body briskly and keep your arms down.
About now you're probably asking-and what about the wall pass? I'll try to explain it. The wall pass is one of the quickest and most perfect tactics in soccer. The player who is running with the ball avoids a tackle from an opponent by passing to a stationary or running team-mate, who acts as a wall by bouncing the ball back to the player who has now run clear. The second player has to calculate, in a split-second, the weight and direction to give the ball and anticipate exactly where his team-mate will end his run. If we had to make a geometric drawing of the wall pass it would form a perfect triangle.
Another important tactic is the curved pass, which is used to get the ball to a team-mate when the way is blocked by members of the other side. To curve the ball, use either the inside or outside of the foot, depending on whether you want the ball to curl round to the left or right. Kick the side of the ball to make it spin like a top, thereby achieving the desired curve. Have you ever heard of the 'radar' pass? In this one you pass the ball without even seeing your team-mate as you have your back to him. You judge his position only by the sound of his voice. For a successful radar pass you really must know your team and the size of the pitch extremely well. This may seem very difficult to you, as it did to me when I started, but with constant practice you'll eventually find that it's not too complicated. You can practice some of the passes against a wall. And don't forget to practice each pass with your left foot as much as with your right.
Now do the same again, but this time with a few friends, always trying to do better. It's also important to notice the position of your support foot (that's the one that isn't kicking the ball). For a low pass, the support foot should be parallel to the ball, right next to it. For a high or long pass, place your foot by the side of the ball but a little further back. Another detail which you shouldn't forget: it is the foot and knee of the supporting leg which give the ball direction. The toe and knee of your support leg must be pointing directly at your target, that is the friend to whom you are passing. This really works and after training it becomes absolutely automatic. Before ending this lesson, there are one or two important things I'd like to tell you about. Firstly, look for the position of your team-mates before passing.
Secondly, the pass is not only made by the player with the ball, but also by the one who is going to receive it. Do you understand? I'll explain. The ball cannot be passed while the other player is being marked. Only he can dodge his opponents and get into a free space. So it is the player to whom the pass is made who makes it possible. The pass, like the whole game, is team work. Thirdly, and this is my last piece of advice on this subject, when your team-mate is running into a free space, don't pass directly to him, because when the ball arrives he won't be there any more. You have to work out the speed and direction of the other player and of the ball so they will both arrive at the same place at the same time, without him having to slow down. If a rocket was pointed directly at the moon at the time of launching it would miss its target completely after it had traveled that distance! A moon shot has to be calculated with absolute precision. Such precision and training are also essential in soccer.