Is Soccer a Contact Sport?

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Soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports. It has fans in every country, every age, race, gender, you name it! It is a sport that millions around the globe will go out of their way to watch or play. 

While soccer’s fame as the world’s dominant sport is undeniable, there is considerable controversy about whether it should be defined as either a contact or a non-contact activity.  

Is Soccer a Contact or Collision Sport?

To answer the controversial question, we will say that it is a contact sport. With twenty outfielders rushing and battling for the ball, collisions will occur, it may be deliberate or accidental. But, you won’t see it happen in every play, and it is not a part of the rules.

As per the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of a contact sport says that a contact sport is one where participants are permitted to make physical contact with one another, as in American football or rugby, for example, when trying to get possession of the ball. There are several other definitions that are more precise. 

So, a contact sport is one in which players are allowed to have physical contact with one another, whether they are on the same team or not. According to this definition, soccer can, therefore, be regarded as a contact game as well.

As you might have noticed, it’s not always a foul when any tough-tackling center-back, like Sergio Ramos or Harry Maguire, makes a powerful challenge on an opponent, and neatly wins the ball despite simultaneously clashing with them. 

For example, if two players go for a header and a little clash occurs, the referee does not blow his whistle straight away to stop the game.

They are permitted to touch one another during a football match. Otherwise, the match would frequently stop and restart. This would ultimately give us a boring and frustrating match! 

But contact might not always be a good thing. A “professional foul” in football associations occurs when a player intentionally makes contact with an opposing player in an attempt to bring them down or prevent them from progressing forward. 

Sometimes, accidental fouls can be even more dangerous. It may cause minor injuries. Therefore, it is crucial that a referee keeps an eye on the smallest things and keeps control of the match at all times.

So, what kind of contact is permitted? Well, when contact is regarded as a part of the match that almost every soccer player would be well-accustomed to, violent contact is forbidden within the game.

Why is Soccer a Contact Sport?

Soccer is considered as a contact sport because:

You might use your body to shield the soccer ball

Shielding is a vital dribbling technique in soccer, that you may use to hold onto the ball in a tight space. It can happen if you are a player who is in possession of the ball and trying to position yourself between the ball and an opponent to establish a physical barrier using your body.

The opposing player might try to win back the ball and, when doing so, will come into contact with you, shielding it.

Slide-tackling almost always results in contact

Slide tackle generally refers to reclaiming the possession of the ball in soccer by sliding on the surface toward the opponent who has the ball.

Though it is legal as long as it is done safely, the bodily contact that follows might result in serious injuries and this is yet another reason why it is regarded as a contact sport. 

You may have witnessed or read about some soccer players breaking their legs on the pitch. These occurrences would not happen if it were not a contact game.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder is Allowed

Shoulder barges are allowed in soccer. You already know that pushing is illegal in a soccer match. However, if it’s fair to charge through the shoulder, pushing is legal.

A barge is considered as a much greater force. You may execute it to remove your opposition player from his position while trying to win the ball. This is a frequent practice in soccer and inevitably leads to players colliding, hence the contact.

What Do the Rules Say About Contact In Soccer?

A fair contact challenge in soccer is defined as two players competing for the ball side by side. Usually, fair charging refers to a battle for physical space between players within an ample playing distance of the football.

There’s no use of elbows or arms in this. Shoulder-to-shoulder challenges may occur if you and the opponent player push each other physically to win the ball.

Another acceptable shoulder-to-shoulder challenge tactic is “making oneself big” or simply concealing the ball from the opponent.

However, if you are the player to shield the ball, you are not allowed to use your arms or other parts of your body except for balancing purposes. 

Also, you should not either hold or push the opponent while seeking the ball. If you are simply using your arms or some other part of the body to keep balance when shielding the football, then the opposition who initiates contact with you is guilty of disobeying the fair charging rules. 

In the same way, if you are the player in possession of the ball, you should not initiate any sort of contact, and if you do, the referee can punish you accordingly for starting a forbidden charge.

Players who charge opponents in a reckless, thoughtless manner or with a force that the referee considers excessive are generally breaking the rules. 

Can You Tackle in Soccer?

Yes, you can tackle in soccer. It is another feature of the game that typically leads to contact between players. It is most probably the easiest way to reclaim the ball, and so the players, particularly defenders, love tackling. 

But a slide tackle challenge might be fair or unfair. As per the FIFA rules, a tackle can become careless, reckless, or dangerous.

A tackle can be only legal if you are making the initial contact with the ball instead of your opponent. This implies that to make a fair tackle, you will have to make sure that the ball is within touching distance. 

Can You Body-Check Someone in Soccer?

Body check refers to slamming into someone from any given direction with great force and causing harm or impeding them.

You can not body-check someone in soccer. If you do, it will deserve a foul call or a yellow card, depending on its strength.

Besides body checks, there are some other offenses that are punishable. Any player who charges, pushes, jumps, kicks, tries to kick, strikes, or tries to strike an opponent is committing an offense.

They will be punished accordingly. It also includes a player that confronts, tackles, trips or strives to trip an opponent unlawfully. 

The referee may give a free-kick to your opposing team if you commit any of these offenses in a reckless, thoughtless, or excessively forceful manner.

The referee uses his power according to his judgment and determines the severity of the penalties to be given. The penalties might include a yellow card, a direct-free kick, or both.

In serious cases, a red card might be shown, which means the player’s dismissal beside the free-kick. 

Sometimes, you will see a player contact in soccer that will not fall neatly into a  legal or illegal category. This kind of contact is generally characterized as just misfortune or plain bad luck. This might occur in every sport that has multiple players moving fast in the same space. It is inevitable.

In soccer, it is no different; unfortunate collisions may happen. You will need to recognize and comprehend all forms of contact, mitigate them if possible, and accept those risks if you are willing to play or coach soccer.


Soccer is a tough sport that involves several physical tussles, which may lead to severe injuries sometimes. Over the last decade, FIFA has made major improvements in the game’s rules.

Although a few years ago the hard-tackling, shoving, and excessive use of force were frequently part of the game, today’s football rules are mostly non-contact focused and designed to improve the overall safety of the game.

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