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American football is one of the most popular American sports. For millions of enthusiastic viewers, the main event of the season, the "Super Bowl", is a private holiday every year and players become heroes. The popularity of American football reminds us of the German enthusiasm for football - and indeed the roots of the game lie in the ball sport, which is much better known in Germany.
Background of American Football
American football developed as a sport from football and rugby. Therefore, American football is not quite as old as some might think - its origins date back to the last half of the 19th century. Two teams, whose players played rugby according to different rules - one of them like soccer - met and agreed to play each half of the game according to their respective rules. However, it was not until 1880 that the final rules of the American football that developed from it were written down - but from then on, the favorite game of the Americans was born.
American Football: Rules
The goal of the game sounds simple, but the path to it is relatively complicated: It's about getting the ball into the other team's end zone. In American football, four quarters of 15 minutes each are played. The field is 120 yards long and 53 yards wide, which is about 110 and 48 meters respectively. For comparison, a football field is similar in length, but a little wider (up to 75 meters).
American football starts with one of the teams opening the game with a kick. Each team now has four attempts to cross ten yards of the field. During these attempts, either the playmaker (the quarterback) passes the ball to another player or a player runs with the ball. If a team manages to get close to the opposing goal after three attempts, a so-called "kicker" can try to shoot the ball into the goal (and over the goal bar). There are also other ways to kick the ball to the goal, whereby each team scores a different number of points. Each team consists of eleven players, each of whom is specialized in his position. For example, there are the players of the "open line" (defense) who protect the backfield from the opponents - a very important task in the game. The task of the "defense line" (attack) players is to disrupt and prevent the opponent's moves.
The rules of American football are so complex that up to seven referees can be on the field - no wonder, with about 700 possible applications of the rules and their exceptions.
American football and its popularity in the USA
Sport is generally a very popular topic in the USA, and American football is probably so popular because it is played very widely: it is played by young people in schools, colleges and universities and in professional sport. College football is extremely popular, with a large audience and well over 600 teams. That's not surprising, since the sport itself became very popular because of these college and university teams and their players.
Because of the growing interest for the players of the professional teams, the NFL, the National Football League, which was the only league for professional American football for a long time, got competition from other leagues like the AFL (American Football League). These leagues compete for a billion-dollar business - the TV rights to the matches alone are among the most expensive in the world and culminate in the Super Bowl every year.
The players of American football in the USA have partly the status of national heroes. Even at school, the players are highly regarded - the quarterback, the most important player in the team, is usually very popular. In a professional team, a player can earn millions a year - but he also has a high health risk, after all, American football is a game with high physical effort for the players.
The Super Bowl: THE American Football Event
It is the sports event of the year in the USA and the final of the NFL games: The Super Bowl. Millions of fans celebrate the first Sunday in February like a holiday, meeting up with friends for a party and cheering for their favorite teams and their players. The event always achieves the highest television ratings. The half time is of particular interest: there is always a big show, often with well-known and popular musicians.
American Football in Germany
Here in Germany, American football is a niche sport that has been practiced since 1945 - not surprisingly created by the American armed forces. Until the 1970s, American football was played here mainly by US soldiers stationed in Germany, then also by German American football clubs. There is an umbrella organization, the American Football Association Germany, and various leagues that host championships. The popularity of the sport and its players does not come close to that of football, which is perhaps also due to the complex rules and the comparatively young history of this sport in Germany. According to the association, American football in Germany primarily attracts young people, among whom it has become increasingly popular in recent years.