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If the technical and tactical aspects of football appeal to you, but not the contact, the maybe flag football is the sport for you. This cousin of the punishing game is played without helmets and shoulder pads, instead of knocking your opponent to the ground; you tackle by pulling one of two 'flags' attached to opponents' hips.
But make no mistake flag football a very high paced game. It is extremely passing oriented, and therefore exiting for admirers of beautifully thrown spirals and softhanded catches.
Flag football is played with five players on each side, and everyone is eligible to pass or catch the ball. The field is smaller than a regular football field usually 70x30 yards. Instead of the 10 yard-system, a flag team has to move the ball across midfield to gain new downs. Once over midfield the team must score a touchdown or turn the ball over.
Defenders may only rush the quarterback if they start the play seven yards from the line. If the defence chooses not to pressure the passer, he has seven seconds to pass the ball before the referee blows the play dead.
A game lasts 2x20 minutes with a 'running' clock, only in the final two minutes of each half is does the time stop on incomplete passes and runs out of bounds.
There are no kicks under the flag rules, after scores play is started on the opposing teams’ 5 yard line. Extra points are regular plays; 1 point is gained from an attempt from 5 yards, and 2 pints if you can convert from 12 yards out.
Good sportsmanship is heavily emphasised in the flag football community, and as such no thrash talking is allowed. Also since the sport is no contact any blocking, elbowing and shoving is completely forbidden, and penalised.
Flag football was devised as a way to get youth familiar with the concepts and skills of American football, but it has evolved into a sport in its own right. Top athletes now play the game and compete in international championships. And whereas contact football in Europe has yet to catch up with the skill level in the USA, the flag football teams from Europe have claimed the gold medal in the Flag World Championship several times.
The NFL has also held international flag football competitions for kids in the 12-14 age groups.
A cash prize of $ 25.000 was handed out to the winners of a flag tournament in Miami in 2006. This is the biggest prize ever for the sport.
More on flag football: