The Difference Between Football and Futbol

The Difference Between Football and Futbol

Admittedly, before moving to Colombia I never watched futbol (soccer). I found it boring, and I was happy enough just to view the scores of the Seattle Sounders and  know we had a good team. And way back before I ever dreamed that I would be moving to Colombia, I recall the Sounders recruited a star player from Colombia in 2009, Freddy Montero, who was Seattle's all time leader in goals and an MLS all star.

Well since moving to Medellin I have watched a lot of futbol. In Colombia, as in most countries in the world not called the United States, it is by far the most popular sport. Medellin has two professional teams, Atletico Nacional and Deportes Medellin. I happen to be a Nacional fan by marriage and it’s a good choice because most of my Colombian friends are also Nacional fans. I have been to the stadium three times to watch games live and have enjoyed many games on TV at local bars where much comradery is had. . Colombia also has, of course, its national team which looks a lot better this year than they did last year when they missed qualifying for the world cup. In addition to these teams, the first English speaking friends I made in Medellin happened to be Premier League Liverpool fans, and they inducted me into their “club” to watch Liverpool games at the bar Barrio Sur, which happens to be Premier League central in Medellin.

Watching Liverpool at Barrio Sur

So, I have become indoctrinated in futbol. So why are  Futbol, and American Football so often compared? In reality the games have little in common except that they are both played on a large rectangular field and the object is to get the ball past your opponents and make a goal. The reason they are often compared is because they share the same name, and one is the most popular sport in the US and the other the most popular sport in the rest of the world, so this begs comparison.

I discovered the key difference when I invited a Colombian friend to come over and watch an NFL game. I noticed that my friend was rather mystified by what he was watching, and one of the key reasons was because of how frequently the action stopped. This is very different than futbol where the clock never stops and the action on the field only stops if there is an injury. But it was not just the way the action stops in between plays; it was the TV commercials. As I watched the game progress, I was increasingly aware of how many commercials there were, how they interrupted the flow of the game, and how totally unlike futbol it is. In futbol they don’t stop for commercials. Period. The only commercials come at half time, or depending on the game, there may be banners or ads pop up during the game, but no full commercials, they do not take you away from the game. As I watched the game, I was becoming increasingly irritated and embarrassed for my country that was so steeped in consumerism as to delay the game. The most my friend came away with was that it was a bit like rugby.

According to Cross Screen Media, there are 100 commercials packed into an NFL broadcast, accounting for 63 minutes of viewing time. At every possible break ads are crammed in, not to mention the official tv commercial breaks. This is in addition to the fact the average NFL play is four seconds, so there is a lot of time spent simply viewing the players standing around, which is of course the nature of the game. But for the uninitiated, like my Colombian friend, watching an NFL game is pretty bizarre. And if there were less commercials, it would be easier to get into the flow of the game and start to understand it.

So, in a nutshell, this is the difference between Football and Futbol, commercials. In all honesty though, futbol could use a few commercials to break up the monotony of watching the players run up and down the field for 90 minutes, and to take bathroom and drink order breaks without missing the only goal of the game.