Soccer and football -- cousins of rugby that established their rules in the latter half of the 19th century -- serve as ritualized combat. Both sports have offsides rules that require the offense to move in a coordinated campaign down the field to attempt to score. One sport features hard hits, and the other continuous free-flowing action. You’ll have to decide for yourself which is better. Maybe you’ll decide to love both football and soccer for their very different strengths.
Soccer requires tremendous cardiovascular endurance, as players must engage in 90 minutes of jogging, striding, running and sprinting. American football requires explosive strength every 20 to 40 seconds as a play is called and executed. The running back, wide receivers, cornerbacks and safeties require overall fitness analogous to that of a soccer player. In soccer, obese players such as football linemen are unheard of.
Offensive and defensive line players in football typically weigh 300 lbs., with William “the Fridge” Perry pushing the scale during his playing career up to 380 lbs. A typical offensive tackle, the heaviest position, weighs 318 lbs. Brute force is required for this collision sport, whereas soccer is a contact sport that women can play and master at the elite level. “Soccer is a profoundly democratic sport that has never favored players with particular physical attributes,” write the authors of “Gaming the World.” Still, though soccer may appear the more graceful sport, soccer has borrowed agility drills from American football.
Soccer requires just a ball and a cleared area, along with shinguards, a jersey and cleats for league play. Football training demands extensive training equipment including sleds and blocking dummies, as well as helmets and pads for practice and organized play. The simplicity of soccer goes a long way to explain its popularity from Brazil to Japan and South Africa. While both sports have plays, soccer’s are largely limited to set pieces such as free and corner kicks, and soccer’s rulebook is far more streamlined.
Coaches have more of an effect on play-by-play decisions in football, while soccer players need to make good judgments throughout 90 minutes based on coaching and practice but not play calling.
FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, counted 265 million players worldwide in 2006, with women playing the sport in increasing numbers. American football has closer to 4 million youth players, mostly boys, and 1,700 professionals in the NFL. The simplicity of soccer -- Brazilian great, Pele, as a child played with balls made of rags -- makes the sport playable worldwide in the poorest of neighborhoods.
The better game -- soccer or football -- is a matter of opinion, and varies depending upon where you live, your gender, and your personal choice.