Is Soccer a Contact Sport? (Well, Yes but With Restrictions)

is soccer a contact sport

Soccer is perceived by many as a contact sport, others (especially with a football, hockey … background) see it as a soft sport …

… But the most educated opinion is the fact that soccer is a contact sport, yet with some limitations and restrictions!

So, Is Soccer a Contact Sport?

Soccer tends to be more of a contact sport because it involves players competing for the ball against each other, usually in a limited space like a field or a pitch.

And whilst it may not carry the same risks as collision sports like American or Australian Rules football, players can and will get hurt playing soccer, although in the vast majority of cases, any injuries are minor.

What is considered a contact sport?

The dictionary definition of a contact sport is one where players come into contact with each other on a regular basis, or with inanimate objects.

However, as this is such a generic description of most sports, contact sports are sub-divided into three distinct categories – full (a.k.a. collision), semi, and limited contact sports.

A full contact sport is one where athletes deliberately run, collide, or walk into each other – not only American football, but also boxing, lacrosse, ice hockey and many forms of Mixed Martial Arts fall into this category.

A semi-contact sport is one which involves striking an opponent typically using a points system to determine a winner and often involves wearing protective clothing to prevent injury. Karate and kick boxing are two such examples.

Limited contact sports where the rules are designed to prevent players coming into contact with each other, although it can and does happen – basketball is a prime example of this, but field hockey, netball, and squash would also fall into this category.

Soccer is something of an outlier in that it began life as a full contact sport. Games in Medieval England between rival villages would take place over days and would lead to serious injury and even sometimes death.

However, over the years some of the more intense physical elements, like the tackle from behind, have been made illegal.

The game today is a lot less rough then it was even thirty years ago. It may not be as safe as some limited contact sports, but in some cases, it is not far off it.

Needed gear for your safety

Anybody playing soccer should invest in some basic gear to ensure their safety during training or playing a match.

1. Cleats

First of all, all players should invest in the right footwear. They should choose a pair of boots (Check it Here on Amazon) that protects the instep, offers comfort and support to the ankles, and also has protection around the toe area.

Cleats are also important – the projecting pieces of metal or rubber on the sole of a boot, which is designed to protect the wearer from slipping or losing their footing on the field. Some cleats (known as studs in some parts of the world) are removable, so that the wearer can choose those adapted for special conditions – mud or ice, for example.

Wearing the right cleats can help prevent sprains and ankle breaks.

2. Shinpad

Shinpads (Check it Here at Amazon), which can be made from a range of synthetic materials such as fibreglass and polyurethane, help prevent bruising and injury in the leg area which is one of the most common areas where you can expect to be kicked by an opponent.

Advances in manufacturing techniques help deliver both maximum protection and mobility. However, make sure that your shin pads fit – those that are too big or too small will cause discomfort as they will potentially move around whilst running.

3. Clothing

It is also important to wear clothing that fits – ranging from shirts, shorts and socks (Check it Here on Amazon), There are now specially designed jerseys to handle the rigours of the game, not too heavy so as to restrict movement, but sturdier enough to offer the player protection.

4. Goalie Protection

Finally, some goalkeepers might want to follow the example of former Chelsea keeper Petr Cech and don protective head gear. It is not normal, and he only took it up after getting kicked in the head during a Cup tie. But if it makes you feel better, why not?

By the way, if you are dealing with kids you should definitely teach them the importance of using these protection gear is extremely. You can learn other important things to teach kids for soccer

Common Examples of Soccer Contacts

Although there are many examples of contact in soccer, there are some instances which are more common than others. Here are some of the most-known:

1. Shirt pulling

Shirt pulling happens all the time in football. It is not legal, but that does not mean it is always penalised or a yellow card occurs. In fact, at almost any dead ball situation – a free kick or a corner – it is almost guaranteed that half a dozen players will be pulling each other’s shirts!

It is often a matter of degree, and also whether the referee sees it or not!

A gentle tug on the short whilst his or her view is obscured is likely to go unpunished. However, doing it in front of them is likely to result in a free kick or a penalty, and, if it is too blatant, may even lead to a yellow card.

2. Stepping on someone’s toes or foot

It is common for somebody to step on the toes or feet of an opponent during a soccer match, but there is a world of difference between accidental contact and intent.

In the vast majority of cases, it will be an accident, with one player mistiming a tackle or an interception, and, unless there has been an injury, most times the referee will blow for a foul and the game can continue, Sometimes even that will not happen if the foul was committed against a player from a team that still has the advantage.

However, there are rare cases, where somebody will deliberately step on an opponent. This is regarded as serious foul play and can result in a straight red card.

Such instances usually lead to bad feeling on the pitch between two teams.

3. Shoulder charge

Although still perfectly legal if executed properly, the shoulder charge is gradually going out of the game and is often called as a foul in youth soccer, even though no offence has been committed.

For it to be legal, both players must be within striking distance of the ball, and have their arms close by their side, with the clear intention of winning the ball.

A shoulder charge will always be called as a foul where one player has been deemed to sue excessive force or is behind the other.

In case of infringement, the referee will normally award a foul, but nothing more.

4. Pushing

Pushing is part and parcel of the game, especially at dead ball situations like a corner or a free kick. Is it legal? No. However, if a referee blew their whistle every time one player pushed another in a game, then there would be 100 fouls every match!

As ever, it is a question of degrees. With a small push on an opponent – a gentle nudge in the back or shoulder – you would probably get away #with it. However, something more blatant or right under the nose of the referee and you are taking a chance. And if it happens in your own penalty box, then you would be giving a penalty away.

5. Tackling

Tackling is one of the most common skills in football, although it is easy to stray into the path of illegality. It is perhaps easier to explain what constitutes an illegal tackle – going in with both feet off the ground, tackling from behind, or with the studs up.

Often it is a matter of timing and positioning, but even the best players can struggle with this technique. Manchester United’s Paul Scholes was one of the best players of his generation, but a notoriously poor tackler.

Badly timed or malicious tackles are also a sure-fire way to get into trouble with referees, with often a yellow or even red card ensuing.

Quick Look at Soccer Rules

There are various scenarios where physical contact between players may be judged legal, illegal, or illegal.

1. Legal

A well-executed shoulder charge or block tackle should always be considered legal provided that the intent is clearly to play the ball and not the man, where neither player is injured, and the ball is subsequently won cleanly.

Equally it is perfectly allowable for two players to contest a ball in the air, provided that both men use their arms and legs to gain height and do not lean on the other or obtain leverage off them in any way.

2. Illegal

In the past 25 years, the tackle from behind has become illegal; and will always attract a warning form the referee or even a yellow card.

This has eliminated from the game the concept of the “reducer” – the early tackle by a defender on a striker just to let them know they were there and intended to intimidate them for the rest of the match.

And then there is the professional foul – a deliberate foul on an attacking player designed to prevent a goal scoring opportunity. That will usually result in a red card and, depending where the offence on the pitch is committed, the referee will award a direct free kick, or red card.

3. Accident

Players often stumble into each other in games, often in crowded situations like a penalty area where attacking or defending a corner or free kick. When that happens, most referees will not give a card because there is clearly no intent.

I strongly invite you to check those important soccer rules that you should respect to stay compliant!

This also depends on the League!

Although all professional leagues are governed by the same rules which are set by the International Football Association Board, how those rules are interpreted various from league to league.

For example, football in England and Germany (the Premier League and the Bundesliga) is regarded as more physical than the sport in Spain and Italy, which means what may be tolerated in a match in the Northern Hemisphere would never be accepted by referees in the South.

That is one reason why English teams will often concede more fouls in a European game than they would in a normal domestic game.

Equally, youth soccer, particularly for younger children, discourages too much physical contact. One of the reasons for its growing popularity with both boys and girls is that it can be played by all ages and levels of ability, with little chance of getting hurt.

It should also be noted that there is a world of difference between what happens in professional leagues and Sunday league soccer the world over. What would be a red card offence in a major competition is often commonplace where there is no referee, or the officials are just amateurs.

Final Thoughts …

Hope this article has given you a clear and insightful answer to your question!

Anyway, I do honestly believe that there are other levels to this question. In other words, I believe that for those who play soccer at an amateurish level will feel and perceive the sport more as a contact one. In those situations the rules are not really followed and the collisions should be more common.

However, in the highest professional levels, especially with the introduction of technologies like the VAR, it will be certainly much less contact.

So, I would say that the level of competition has also something to do with that.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that even if soccer is a fairly contact sport, this doesn’t mean that it is not recommended for kids. Indeed, you should learn why soccer is a good sport for kids, I am sure you’ll find this article really helpful …

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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