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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Poll: Which ‘football’ deserves the title most?

The University of Southern California lines up against the University of Louisville during the American football 2023 Holiday Bowl (left), and Atalanta soccer player Isak Hien charges for the ball alongside Verona player Federico Bonazzoli during the Italy Serie A soccer match on Monday. Which “football” deserves the title more: American football or soccer? (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Spada/LaPresse via AP)

Throughout history, there has been much discussion about the differences between soccer and American football. 

Fans of each sport struggle with which of these two sports deserves to carry the title of football, as only the true sport can bear the name. 

Which is the original, the chosen one: American football or soccer?


From casual Friday night viewing to the Super Bowl, American football is the U.S. sport par excellence. Known for the great show that every game provides, American football is the ultimate expression of how you play sports in America. 

The Super Bowl is next to the final of the Champions League annual sporting event in the world as one of the most viewed single-match events in the world, according to AS. However, it should be noted that football is only known as “football” in the U.S. For the rest of the world, the sport is “American football.”

Sometimes American football is confused with rugby or soccer; however, the large protectors and helmets worn in American football are a distinctive element that differentiates it from other sports. 

Likewise, despite being a sport with many breaks during the game, fans around the world are excited by each football game, whether it be high school, college or the NFL. Each game becomes an unforgettable entertainment experience for Americans.

Football is usually played on a 360-foot by 160-foot field, divided into 22 stripes, 20 of them being five yards and the other two being 10 yards, also known as endzones, according to Dimensions

The goal of American football is to reach the opponent’s end zone with the ball. When that happens, in what’s called a touchdown, six points are scored. Players can also kick the ball between a goalpost at the end of the endzone which provides one to three points, depending on the play.

What makes American football different from soccer is the brutal physical contact that occurs when players tackle each other. While players cannot punch or kick directly, there is direct physical confrontation. For instance, when the ball is put into play, two lines of players collide with each other to prevent passing.

American football is similar to rugby, a variation of soccer, and emerged in England in the 1800s, according to Britannica. It began to differentiate from the original soccer by the constant contact of the ball with the hands. 

American football is not as widespread as soccer. There are no world associations that bring together different countries, and there are only three well-known leagues of American football or similar sports — Canada and Mexico adopted American football and created their own versions — all located in North America.


Known among the masses as the king sport, soccer is played professionally in more than 211 countries, according to FIFA. The World Cup final every four years attracts around 1.5 billion spectators, according to The Athletic. The names of the best players become legends: Lionel Messi, Pelé, Diego Maradona, Garrincha, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff among them.

Soccer, known by that name primarily in the United States, transcends the limits set by politics and economics. It has stopped wars — like the Civil War of Ivory Coast in 2005 — influenced wars — like the infamous Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras — and can seep into every aspect of a country. 

In the modern-day, we’ve seen the Queen of England hand over the World Cup trophy to the captain of the national English team, rumors of the Spanish princess get rejected by a Barcelona Futbol Club player, and the French president cheering and comforting France’s players — especially Kylian Mbappé — in the World Cup. 

Soccer is played on grass courts of 120 to 90 meters by 90 to 45 meters, according to Dimensions. There are 11 players per team but with the possibility of five changes per game. The objective is to move the ball with feet between one or several players and score a goal in the opposing team’s arc, which is guarded by a goalkeeper. The goalkeeper guards the goal and is the only player allowed to use their hands.

Soccer is characterized as a sport of continuous action; the matches are divided into two 45-minute halves, but the clock never stops. When minutes are “burned” by actions that are not gameplay, time is replenished at the end of each halve. 

Despite being a team sport, soccer requires great individual skill and technique to master the ball and dodge the defenses, and a soccer player must have great vision and talent to make passes with the ball, which can be kicked a great distance.

To achieve a goal there is an almost infinite number of moves and dribblings — such as Zidane roulette — with names that have become popular over the years, as well as certain historical teams that played a specific way. 

Originating from England in the 1800s — at least the modern soccer that we know — soccer advanced to become an amateur sport that same decade and became an Olympic sport in 1900, according to Britannica. Today there are dozens of leagues around the world, some of them with up to five or six divisions. The most prominent leagues are the Spanish, English, Italian, French, German and Brazilian leagues, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

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Which "football" deserves the title most?


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