American Football is a very fast and slightly complicated sport. There are two teams of eleven on the pitch, the offense (attackers) and defense, one side (offense) has to try and get the oval ball to the opposite side of the pitch by running and/or passing the ball to score a touchdown. The defense's job is to tackle these players and stop the ball reaching their touchdown zone. If the ball touches the floor when it is dropped or a player is tackled then the play stops and this is called a down. The offense then begin their attack from where the ball was dropped and they have four chances to move the ball to the touchdown zone (or four downs) before it is the other team's turn to attack. Scoring a touchdown is worth six points and if the player drop kicks the ball through the goal post that is worth three points and is called a field goal.
The offense and defense on each team can be 22 different players so squads are much larger than in a team sport like English Football or Rugby. Players wear lots of pads because it is a full contact sport which means that players can use their arms and bodies to tackle people like in Rugby and the pads allow for higher speed tackles whilst staying safe. The picture on the left shows the famous linebacker (defender) Ray Lewis playing for the Baltimore Ravens. You can see the padding he is wearing on his chest and legs as well as the most important helmet to protect your head and neck.
The game stops every time the ball is dropped so the offense must try to line up in different ways to confuse the defenders as to who will get the ball; sometimes a player will run pretending to have the ball to draw defenders away from the actual ball carrier. The helmet is for protection as we saw earlier but it can be difficult to see out of well because of the grills (bars) in front of the eyes. Offense players can therefore often line up very close to each other as the picture shows and then run in different directions so the defense might not see where the ball went. It is the most popular sport in the USA and has a championship every year called the Super Bowl. The captain of the team is usually the quarterback, he is the player on offense that can choose who to give the ball to each play, he will be very good at throwing the oval football and must tell his team what move they will make in a huddle (team talk) before each play.