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Football Across The Pond

by John Welford 23 days ago in football

A biased view on whose "football" is better!

Leaving aside the fact that, to a Brit, soccer and football are one and the same, it still has to be said that there really is no comparison. The two sports have hardly anything in common with each other. Indeed, of the three codes of football played in England, Wales and Scotland, Rugby League comes closest to the American code. What Americans call soccer is miles away!

The first thing to be said is that soccer is a sport that is worth watching, whereas American football is not. If you go to a soccer match you are likely to be entertained by a thrilling spectacle of skill, drama and action, played with little interruption. The benighted souls who think that American football is worth watching will spend half their time waiting for something to happen, and the other half wondering where the ball is. American football is notorious for its interruptions, with a typical game lasting up to an hour longer than the playing time, whereas stoppages in soccer are unlikely to last longer than three or four minutes per half.

The second main difference is that “football”, in the American sense, is a complete misnomer. Contact between foot and ball is extremely rare. Mind you, referring to a “touchdown” is another nonsense. At least in rugby the ball is actually touched down before a score is counted, and defenders can obstruct a score by preventing a player from doing so by getting their hands underneath the ball so that it does not touch the ground.

However, back to the feet. It is the most natural thing in the world, if a round ball comes in your direction, to kick it. The second most natural thing is to kick it in a particular direction, and to express joy if the ball ends up where you wanted it to go, for you to achieve your goal, if you like. If you play with a friend, they can try to stop the ball hitting the wall or going between the two coats you have dropped on the ground. If more friends turn up, with more coats, you can set up another goal, and those friends can try to kick the ball the other way. Hey, chaps, we’ve just invented footie (sorry, “soccer”).

What I am trying to say is that soccer is a totally natural game that can be played anywhere, any time with the minimum of equipment. Kids play football in the back alleys of Lancashire towns, in the favelas of San Paulo and the townships of Jo’Burg. Indeed, that is where some of the world’s greatest players started out, honing their natural skills with training and hard work.

Surely nobody could claim that there is anything natural about American football. It is a total invention, codified to a virtual standstill as players troop on and off the field with monotonous regularity, “plays” last a matter of seconds, and officials use tapes to check how far the ball has gone.

Another massive difference between the codes is that, although the American version is extremely popular in the States, and to some extent in Canada, nobody else is remotely interested in it. The rest of the World plays soccer.

Every four years the World Cup features teams from literally every land surface on the planet (OK, I forgot about Antarctica, sorry!) and an American national team has appeared on several occasions, although with only limited success.

By playing sports internationally, we learn to appreciate and respect each other. If your national sports are only played within your borders, you cut yourself off from the rest of the world, and lose respect as a result. It is noticeable that the US women’s soccer squad has been much more successful internationally, presumably because women are not diverted into playing American football. There’s surely a lesson to be learned there.

There have been moves to export American sports to the rest of the world, but with only limited success. The rest of us prefer racing drivers to turn in more than one direction, we think cricket is far superior to baseball, and that the American version of football is not a patch on the other codes. We would love you to join us on the playing field, because we want to get to know you better. But this won’t happen if you still insist on playing to different rules!

football
John Welford
John Welford
Read next: The Spanish Connection
John Welford

I am a retired librarian, having spent most of my career in academic and industrial libraries.

I write on a number of subjects and also write stories as a member of the "Hinckley Scribblers".

See all posts by John Welford

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