Soccer is arguably one of the most-watched and played sports in the world. Although some soccer enthusiasts don’t know if soccer is a contact sport or a non-contact sport.
Contact sports as the name implies are sports that demand physical contact amongst active participants. It remains a debate in some quarters if soccer should be classified under contact sports or not.
As twenty outfield players struggle and compete to gain possession of the soccer ball, there is a 100% chance that physical contact must occur in the process.
Intentional or unintentional contacts are not part of the rules in soccer, although they can’t be avoided. Heavy contact is generally frowned upon in soccer just like most contact sports.
Contact in sports is classified into four basic groups based on the degree of contact. These groups are contact, no contact, low contact, and collision or full contact.
In a full-contact sport, the games wouldn’t be possible without players coming in full contact with each other, wrestling and boxing are very good examples.
Players involved in a non-contact sport do not necessarily need to come in contact with each other, swimming is a good example of a non-contact sport.
Some of the legal forms of contact allowed in soccer include the following:
- Contact between the feet
The contact that occurs between the feet of two players contesting for a ball is probable and accepted in soccer.
Soccer would be hilarious if there is a rule stating that the feet of players shouldn’t come in contact with each other while contesting for a ball.
- Contact between shoulders
Soccer players can’t avoid rubbing shoulders while struggling for a ball. This form of contact is acceptable in soccer if it isn’t done harshly.
It is mostly noticed in soccer when two players are contesting to gain possession of a ball in the air approaching their direction.
According to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), shoulder-to-shoulder contact is a “fair charge” or a “fair challenge”.
- Contact between player and goalkeeper
Goalkeepers receive some special privileges in soccer. For example, they can use their hands in their penalty area.
Goalkeepers can remain in their penalty area for the entire 90 minutes of a game. They can aggressively challenge an opponent without fear of committing a foul.
When a goalkeeper charges at an opponent, the opponent would have to be very careful because a wrong move may land them a card instead of the goalkeeper.
Harsh challenges by goalkeepers mostly go unpunished as long as an opponent emerges unhurt from the challenge. Some illegal contacts in soccer are listed below.
According to Law 12 of the FIFA Laws of the game, misconducts and poor challenges like improper charging, pushing, harsh tackling, tripping, and kicking are prohibited.
During a mutual contest for a soccer ball in the field, any player who engages in any of such inappropriate behavior will be punished by the referee.
- Holding an opponent
Some players get very annoyed when dribbled by an opponent in the field of play. Their major response most times is aggressively holding onto the shirt or arm of the opponent.
Some players hold onto an opponent momentarily to avoid a foul but to slow their opponent down while others hold on until they receive a card.
- Stepping on a player lying on the floor
It doesn’t happen often in soccer but some players seldomly step on opponents who mistakenly lose balance and fall or get injured.
Sometimes, this act goes unpunished because it happens very fast and the referee might not be aware of it.
The penalty for this misconduct solely depends on how and under which circumstances it was done.
What is considered a contact sport?
Any athletic competition that involves a considerable amount of physical contact is called a contact sport.
Some sports like boxing and karate grant points by noting down the number of impacts directly made on the body of an opponent by a contender.
In other sports like rugby and American football, an aggressive tackle is required for effective play.
Making direct contact with opponents in some other sports like swimming and table tennis is strongly prohibited except it happens by accident.
The only contact made in some sports is via the sporting equipment being used, for example, the game of polo.
For a sport to be called a contact sport, it must fall under three grades which are:
- Limited Contact sports
These sports contain rules designed to prevent players from making unnecessary or deliberate contact with opponents. They are not completely contact-free, contact may or may not occur.
Players found guilty of unnecessary contact in these sports may be cautioned or penalized. Limited contact sports include basketball, netball, hockey, and soccer.
- Semi Contact Sports
In this group of sports, the use of limited physical contact, hitting, and striking against opponents are allowed.
The level of strength applied in making contact with an opponent is limited and players aren’t allowed to knock their opponent unconscious.
Points are given based on the number of successful hits landed on an opponent. The person with the most successful hits is declared the winner at the end of the game.
Protective gears are allowed in such sports. Sports that fall under this category include karate and taekwondo.
- Full Contact Sports
Within the rules of this nature of sports, forceful physical impact and deliberate powerful contact are allowed on opponents.
Activities like blocking, attacking, and tackling are allowed in far higher degrees than in other sports.
Excessive physical contact isn’t penalized in full-contact sports. Examples of full-contact sports include judo, rugby, wrestling, boxing, and American football.
Pros of Contact Sports
- Boosts team play.
- Good for Physical fitness.
- Doesn’t require much equipment.
- Increases chances of making new friends.
- Improves confidence.
Cons of Contact Sports
- Higher chances of injuries.
- Can’t be played alone.
- Needs adequate training.
- Needs the presence of a referee.
- Requires learning multiple numbers of skills.
Skills and Techniques Required in Contact Sports
To efficiently participate in contact sports, a player must acquire a certain number of skills as necessitated by the sport.
We shall be looking at some of the required basic skills in contact sports.
- Stamina: Contact sports require a lot of tackle and attacks, therefore players must work on their stamina to make sure they can withstand the opponent’s attacks.
- Communication skills: In contact sports, players must be able to communicate effectively through spoken words and body language.
- Teamplay: Most contact sports comprise teams, for players to be able to play fluently, they must learn to work smoothly with other team members on the field.
- Safe play techniques: Contact sports can be very risky sometimes, to avoid getting injured or injuring opponents, players must learn special techniques and skills on how to play safely.
- Speed and agility: The faster a player is in making moves and responding to situations in contact sports the better advantage they have over their opponents. Being slow in contact sports enhances failure most times.
Is soccer a contact sport?
The Laws guiding the game of soccer are the reason why it is a contact sport. These Laws clearly state the rules and guidelines that must be obeyed while making contact with an opponent.
Soccer creates space for intense competition but a limited level of contact and force during a match.
Irresponsible tackles and actions during gameplay may attract punishments although purposeful contacts are allowed when players play by the rules.
Referees are always on the lookout for intentional use of force and foul play during gameplay.
In soccer, players often make harsh contact with their opponents and get away with it if the referee is not watching. That doesn’t make such contacts legal. Some skilled players would always use their dexterity to get away with punishable offenses.
It is mandatory for every player in the game of soccer to understand the legal and illegal ways of making contacts.
Why is soccer considered a contact sport?
Soccer is considered a contact sport because of some reasons listed below.
Soccer involves the use of the body to shield the ball from opponents: While playing soccer, shielding is an essential skill to apply while trying to keep the ball away from an opponent.
Shielding is very important in soccer especially when dribbling. Shielding is the act of becoming a physical barrier between the ball and an opponent.
In the process of trying to win back the ball, an opponent must come in contact with the player acting as the shield.
Inevitable contact through slide tackle: In soccer, players use slide tackle as an effective skill in trying to win back the ball from the foot of an opponent.
A slide tackle is done by sliding on the ground to regain possession of the ball. It is effective but could result in injuries.
In the process of performing a slide tackle, a player must make contact with the opponent in possession of the ball.
If soccer wasn’t a contact sport, skills like slide tackle wouldn’t be permitted.
Contact among players is mandatory: Removing a contact from soccer will make it comical and somewhat meaningless.
Even though serious contact isn’t mandatory in soccer, a level of contact must be maintained during gameplay.
The rules as stipulated by FIFA—the association in charge of soccer—clearly state ways of making safe contact in the game of soccer.
These rules wouldn’t be put in place if soccer isn’t a contact sport.
Is soccer a low-contact sport?
Technically, soccer is a low-contact sport. Heavy contact is often judged as a foul by the referee, but there are times when players get away with them.
Fair contact is allowed in the game of soccer. A fair contact is described as a contact made while standing beside an opponent in possession of the ball.
However, some analysts say soccer is not completely a low contact sport because it involves a physical tussle for possession of a ball during gameplay. In fact, it is often impossible to dispossess an opponent without any form of physical tussle.
Elbows, knees, and arms are not allowed during a tussle and excess use of force is strongly discouraged.
Shoulder-to-shoulder challenge is also allowed in soccer as long as it doesn’t escalate into grabbing and pulling.
While shielding the ball, opponents are not allowed to aggressively push or jump on a player in an attempt to dispossess them of the ball.
Generally, it is considered an offense in soccer to charge at an opponent carelessly or recklessly while trying to advance in the field or repossessing a lost ball.
It is also imperative to note that accidental contacts also occur in soccer. By accidental contacts, we mean contacts that can’t be classified under low or full contact.
They are fully accidental and do not lead to penalties of any kind. Accidental contacts can be injurious or fatal sometimes.
Is contact allowed in soccer?
In soccer, players are allowed to have limited contact with opponents. In fact, the contacts in soccer makes it meaningful and interesting.
Referees can call fouls against players when aggression and recklessness are noticed in a player’s action. In other words, a referee’s decision is often subjective and based on perceived intent.
Players aren’t completely restricted from making tackles but they must always play by the rules to avoid harm to an opponent. A player must clearly show that their intent is to play the ball and not harm the opponent during a contact to avoid being penalized.
Some players pride themselves on their ability to easily dispossess opponents off the ball with their physical strength.
A soccer player’s ability to guard the ball against opponents is a necessary skill in soccer because more ball possession often means more chances at goal.
In the English Premier League, a team like Stoke City under manager Tony Pulis was physically unstoppable because they used their physical strength while sticking to the rules of the game.
Soccer is a physically demanding sport with a lot of struggles which can sometimes result in injuries. It is almost impossible to play entertaining soccer without any form of physical contact.
FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, has made great improvements regarding how the game is played. Obviously, the safety of the players is at the forefront of these rules, hence, the strict regulation on how contacts must be made and what counts as an offense.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!