Football or Soccer? This is one of the biggest debate amongst sports fans around the globe. While almost everyone in Europe, Asia, and South America love the game of football and follow it passionately throughout the year, the Americans think a little differently. In North America, the game that the rest of the world follows is known as Soccer as they have their own version of football. Confused? Well, let us clear everything up. Here is the difference between football and soccer:
What is Football, and what is Soccer?
Let’s get something out of the way – Football and Soccer are two different things. Football is a generic term in use for a game which involves two teams trying to outscore each other within a time limit. There are actually different types of footballs in play in different parts of the world. Association football (Or the European football as many call it), Gridiron football (American football), Australian football, rugby, and Gaelic football are the types of football around the globe.
But then what is Soccer? Simply put, Soccer is the name given to association football (Yes, the one with Messi and Ronaldo) by Americans just so that they can differentiate it from their own form of football.
As mentioned above, the term football is different for different countries. But let us start with association football, the one which we are most associated with. (No Pun intended!)
This is, without a doubt, the most famous sports in the world. With an active following 200 countries, Association football’s popularity is unrivalled with any other sport. The recent 2018 FIFA World Cup got a viewership of almost 3.3 billion across the globe. That’s more than 40% of the world population.
A game of association football or simply football is played between two teams of 11 players each. Both sides try to outscore one other in two halves of 45 minutes each. If the scores are level, the match either finishes as a draw or goes into extra time, of halves of 15 minutes each, depending on the format of the tournament. The penalty shoot-out is finally used to separate the teams if they are level at the end of 120 minutes. Of all the sports on this list, association football is the only one to use the actual clock. Therefore, the game finishes within a fixed time.
Players cannot touch the ball with hands or arms except goalkeeper, who is allowed to handle the ball in the area marked as a penalty area. Rest of the field players can use their feet or head to create opportunities to score the goal and find the back of the net.
Football is the most famous game in Europe, South America and also in parts of Asia and North America. In Europe, five football leagues, EPL (England), La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy), Bundesliga (Germany) and Ligue 1 (France) are considered as the most famous football leagues. Champions League, the tournament for top European teams is also one of the most-watched competition. In South American countries, especially Brazil, football is a religion. Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are also famous for their love for football.
But it is in North America where football is not football but Soccer. In the United States, American football is a much bigger deal. So to differentiate, they named the association football as Soccer. But still, soccer is played in countries like the USA and Mexico. In fact, Canada, Mexico, and the USA will co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Gridiron football (North American Football)
Gridiron football is just football in North America. But there is also subdivision in this type of football. American football and Canadian football are two different types of Gridiron football. But the American football which you might or might not have watched in the National Football League (NFL) or Super Bowl is the most famous amongst the two.
Not only is American football famous due to NFL and Super Bowl but the game is played on college and university level with just the same intensity. It has a huge impact on the culture of the USA.
Rules of American Football
American football is also played 11 vs 11 where the team with most points at the end of the fixed time period wins. In professional leagues, the time period is 60 minutes, two halves of 30 minutes each and four quarters of 15 minutes each. In college or high school football games, the games are played for 48 minutes in total. Despite being a 60 minutes game, a normal NFL game goes on for more than three hours due to stoppages, timeouts, and breaks. If the scores are level by the end of the fixed time, overtime or sudden death period is played depending on the rules of the league.
In American football, players can kick, throw and run with the ball in hand. A touchdown is worth six points in the game. It can be scored by starting the play from the team’s own half and eventually taking the ball to the end line of the opposition’s half by passing the ball, throwing or running with the ball in hand.
After the touchdown, the scoring team can attempt for one or two more points called as points after touchdown (PAT). In case the sides decide to kick the ball through the goalposts from two or three yards, it is worth one point. And a normal touchdown is worth two points. If a ball carrier is tackled in his/her own end zone, two safety points are awarded to the team on the receiving end of the tackle.
Canadian football is not much different than American football with a few key differences. The game is played 12 vs 12 on a larger field than American football. There are a few differences in scoring and time management as well.
Apart from association football, Rugby is the only other type of football which is played by many countries around the globe. Of course, its popularity is nowhere near association football, but Rugby is still miles ahead of American football where you consider global participation.
Rugby is, without a doubt the most physical sport in this list. It is played 15 vs 15 where two teams play on the rectangular field and try to run with the ball in their hand to reach the opposite end. The games are divided into two halves of 40 minutes each. And just like other sports, the game goes on for a much longer time due to stoppages and breaks.
The referee awards a try by grounding ball between the goal line and dead-ball line, which is worth five points. Like American football, the referee awards a bonus kick to the scoring team after scoring a try and is worth two points. If the attacking team goes for the dropkick, i.e. shooting the ball between the H shaped goal posts, it is worth 3 points. Penalty kick, awarded for the foul on the team is also worth 3 points.
Rugby is a popular sport in countries like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and many more. Therefore it is one of the very few games with a global audience for its World Cup. New Zealand is the most successful with three World Cup triumphs so far.
Played on the oval-shaped field, Australia football is an 18 vs 18 sports with a few similarities to American football and Rugby. Professional leagues play four quarters of 20 minutes each.
Each team tries to score a goal by shooting the ball in the opposition goal post. But unlike American football or Rugby, there is no touchdown in this game. One can score points only by kicking the ball through the posts. Most of the game is also played by passes made by kicks instead of throws.
The goal counts for six points – if it goes through the posts without touching the posts or without being touched by players from either team after the shot. If the ball touches the post on its way or goes through the behind post and main post, or touches the opposition player before going in or is sent in the goal by the scoring player with the help of any other body part but the foot – One point for ‘behind’ is awarded.
Australia Football League is one of the biggest leagues in Australia where this sport is played. Although not very famous in other parts of the world, Australian Football has a huge fan base down under.
Played usually in Ireland, Gaelic football is a combination of association and American football. Teams of 15 players each try to score goals by carrying, kicking, throwing the ball into the net or through the crossbars. Most of the professional games are played in two halves of 30 minutes each except for international games, which lasts for 70 minutes in total.
A goal can be scored by putting the ball in the back of the net which resembles the football net and is guarded by a goalkeeper. The scoring team gets 3 points for a goal in the net. If the team goes for kicking the ball through the crossbars, one point is awarded. The ball used in Gaelic football is similar to a soccer ball.
We certainly hope that you can now tell the difference between football and soccer. And we are sure that you have learned that football is not just football but a whole lot of things!