Wednesday, March 16, 2011


One of the great mysteries in life is why “football” means something different depending on where you are in the world, and how it mostly refers to a sport that only sometimes involves kicking a ball.  For lovers of football and sports, it can be interesting to discuss the similarities and differences between the football codes.

In the USA and Canada, football is played by big guys and extremely big guys, mostly carrying and throwing a pointy-ended ball towards a “goal” line.  Kicking the ball is just what you do when you fail to do that.  The American and Canadian games look similar but have some differences.

In Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and basically everywhere else in the world, football is played with a round ball that gets kicked around towards a rectangular frame (the “goal”).  Handling the ball is not allowed but using your head and body to move the ball is okay. 

In Ireland, football is also played with a round ball but players are allowed to handle the ball with their hands.  Carrying the ball is also allowed but only for three steps at a time.  The objective is to kick the ball between two goal posts or into a rectangular goal, scoring more points for the latter.

In the northern states of Australia (Queensland and New South Wales), football somewhat resembles the American game in that the idea is to carry and throw the ball towards a goal line, but the ball is less pointy and players are only allowed to throw the ball to the side or behind them.  Like the American game, kicking is usually just a last resort. 

In the southern states of Australia (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania), football is played on a massive oval-shaped ground with 18 players on each side.  The ball (less pointy than the American version but pointier than the North Australian version) is kicked around and players are allowed to handle the ball but not throw it – you have to propel the ball with your fist.  The goal is to kick it in between four white poles, scoring your team more points if the ball travels in between the middle pair of posts.

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