American football is a team sport between two teams of eleven players who alternate between defense and attack. The goal of the game is to score points by carrying or throwing the ball to the opponent’s in-goal zone. To maintain possession, the attacking team must travel at least 10 yards in 4 attempts (called “down”). At the same time, the defense team must prevent the attack from reaching this goal, in order to regain possession of the ball. If the attacking team validates 10 yards or more in possession, it has four more attempts to continue gaining ground. Otherwise, the possession of the ball changes sides, and the roles (defense / attack) are reversed.
The points can be scored in different ways: by crossing the goal line with the ball, throwing the ball to another player on the other side of the goal line, throwing the opponent’s ball carrier in his own end zone (safety) or by shooting the ball between the posts of the opposing goal. The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the match.
In the United States and Canada (including Quebec), this sport (and its Canadian counterpart) is known simply as football.
American football comes from association football (soccer) and rugby. These two codified disciplines in England were introduced in North America as early as 1861 for football association (soccer) and in 1864 or 1865 for rugby. The first rugby matches played on the North American continent are probably played in 1864 in Toronto or in 1865 in Montreal. This Canadian branch will give birth to Canadian football.
In the United States, university teams also practice rugby and football association (soccer). This is also the occasion of confusion. Thus, for a long time, it was considered that the first game of American football was held on November 6, 1869: Rutgers won 6-4 against the College of New Jersey (future Princeton). According to historian Stephen Fox’s research, this New York Ball match could be an association (soccer) football match. Princeton and the NFL now admit this version.
The Canadians are proposing to the Americans a rugby match between Montrealers from McGill University and Harvard students who did not play football at all. We play a half time according to the rules of each university. Indeed, each school has its own regulations, as was also the case in Europe a few years earlier. Harvard adopted in 1875 as a regulation that enacted by Yale, but it is still a mix between rugby and football association, called combination in Europe. It was not until November 23, 1876, and the famous Massasoit Convention, to see the establishment of rules common to several American universities. In fact, they adopt all the regulations of the English Rugby Federation with the exception of one detail, the counting of points. American football clearly different from its ancestors has yet to be created.
Between 1880 and 1883, Yale coach Walter Camp profoundly changed the rules and the spirit of the game: reducing players from 15 to 11, reducing the area of the field and introducing scrimmage. These modifications of Walter Camp are completed by others at the same time: a team must return the ball to the opponent if it has not managed to progress five yards in three attempts. American football is born.
The first professional players were enumerated in 1892-1893 but it was not until 1896 to see the first team composed exclusively of professional players: “Alleghany Athletic Association”. One year later, “Latrobe Athletic Association” is the first team to finish a full season with a professional-only squad (1897).
The first completed pass dates from October 27, 1906. Prior to this date, forward passes were not allowed.
The National Football League (NFL) was set up in 1920 to put an end to the mismanagement then prevailing in the world of American football.
American football remains for a long time confined to the United States where it becomes the number one sport, in front of baseball, from the 1970s. A notable exception, Japan, American influence obliges, where has been a university championship since 1947. The game is introduced in Europe with the arrival of American troops in the First World War in 1917, and particularly in France with the creation of a first championship of France between the various US regiments present, won in 1918 by the team of the naval base from Pauillac to Gironde.