I'd like to thank Pro for starting this debate and wish him all the best of luck.
Let's start by definitions, shall we?
one of the most ***** [phrase]
Now, the general phrase "X Is one of the most Y in the world" is a bit vague. What defines the "one" part of the term? how many can fit in this top tier? Is there a set percentage? For simplicity we'll assume that when it comes to sports the top 10 will define the tier being discussed unless objected by my opponent.
For my opponent to be able to win this debate he has to prove that there are NOT 10 or more sports that are more physically exerting. Which brings us to the next definition:
apply or bring to bear (a force, influence, or quality).
make a physical or mental effort.1
So for this debate physically exerting will be used to define something that is challenging or takes a lot of mental and physical strength to efficiently endure for prolonged periods of time.
Now, since pro is making the claim technically the BoP is on him, but for this round at least I will be taking on the burden of proof and proving that at least 10 sports exist that require more physical strength and endurance than soccer and thus nullify the resolution.
For years and years on human kind has enjoyed challenging the mind and body and push it to it's extremes.Nowhere does this hold truer than in sports where humans risk their health, lives and limits as they push further and further into greatness. Some sports are more demanding and others, and some leave you on the brink of death if you're not careful. For this debate I'll demonstrate some of the sports that leave sprained ankles and skinned knees in the dust and require only the most enduring of competitors to survive.
1. marathon swimming (L.D swimming)
Although swimming isn't a ground based sport and as such doesn't really exert any stress on the skeleton and muscular system swimming over long distances requires a lot of muscular strength as every muscle participates at some level, as well as endurance and stamina. If competing in open waters tides, water temperature and wind can make the challenge almost unbearable. Combined with the strength required to force your body forward for 10km, something that can take several hours in bad conditions, without getting a single moment to be able to rest the muscles and nobody to replace you if you tire out or get injured shows why this sport is no lamb in the meadows. As a result, it isn't practised by the general public as a past time as frequently as other sports and the minimum age is a lot higher than with soccer for example.
2. (team) Rowing.
The team sports that require intense energy bursts over a short time period are often harder than those that require little energy over a short time. Team rowing requires an immense raw upper body strength along with precision controls over how one uses the muscles and limbs as even the slightest miscalculation when moving the paddle in and out of the waters will slow you down by a shocking amount. Not only do you need to use up extreme amounts of energy and control it precisely, you'll also need to co-ordinate and synchronize with those also present on your team as anything less than perfect rhythm and co-ordination will result in time being lost.
3. Ironman Triathalon
You think running for 90 minutes chasing a ball takes strength? Try swimming for 3.8km, cycling 180km and topping off everything with a full blasted 42km marathon. This marvellous feat takes several hours, ranging 8 to 17, results in numerous injuries and often leaves the contenders gasping for air near fainted at the finish line. This might not take up incredible strength or precition but when it comes to stamina and endurance this sport has no rival. Training for the ironman takes weeks and weeks on, a strict diet is required and you're never going to really get a rest while moving. If you get injured you're out of the game wasting weeks of training with nobody to replace you as you're not playing a team sport. Children all ages can play soccer, but it takes top level athletes to properly participate in the Ironman.4
Contrary to what you might expect, making it to the top in gymnastics is next to impossible. Watch any gymnast and say confidently: “Sure, I can do that.” They require agility, precision and surprisingly immense strength. You need to be able to toss, turn, balance and accurately control every muscle of your body. In certain sub-genres of gymnastics not being able to do that will result in injury, and often serious injury. Not being able to recover from a flip on a bar might just as well lead to you landing neck first on the bar and facing permanent injury such as paralysing the body, major back strains and bone breaks. All in all being a gymnast equals extreme dedication, strength, endurance, control, agility and practise.
5. Rugby/football/Similar sports
The extreme contact element that is present in these sports can cause immense injuries, requires strength equivalent of an ox and the prolonged contact with the enemy takes it's toll on endurance. There is a reason why the teams look like someone took several meat slabs and jammed them into uniforms. The padding, muscles and uniform are not light in any means and the result is that ever running the field with the ball becomes a daunting task on it's own.
6. Ice hockey.
Even if we consider the fighting to be unimportant the rest of the sport still takes a lot of effort. If you think soccer is hard try doing it at high speeds on skates with a stick and a ball that is only several inches wide. The immense speed at which the skaters are moving across the ice is abnormally high, even for normal skating sports. The physical aspect of the sport also scores well as you need precision, the ability to withstand several hits and the ability to process everything around you which can be hard when you only have a few seconds to decide how and when to stop, where to hit and if it is worth hitting that wall for an opening.
don't think we'll be needing many words here. With the main objective of the game being “Get into the ring and hit your opponent with fierce strength until either of you gets knocked out” it's obvious that this sport is extremely demanding. You'll need strength, agility to stay on your toes, endurance to be able to withstand every hit your opponent throws at you and with you getting injured every other match you'll be hard pressed to find a more challenging sport that isn't based on endurance.
8. Water Polo
Handball is a pretty tough sport; Add in a field full of water and more contact to keep you on your toes with the risk of drowning and you got a pretty demanding sport. The force required to move in the water for prolonged periods of time along with the fighting underneath the surface is more than enough to qualify this sport.
9. (Mountain) Rock climbing
Make a mistake, and you risk death (sort of). Have fun!
10. Pole vaulting
Sprint, and while sprinting hold a ten foot pole (Which isn't ten feet) and somehow fit it in a small hole. Throw yourself into the air and using incredible agility and strength control your body perfectly. It's harder than it looks.
Dear readers of the debate, you can hopefully see that soccer isn't the only demanding sport there is; and when it comes to being physically exerting there are many that are much harder and much riskier than it. I think that it isn't “one of he hardest” albeit hard nonetheless. It's just not as hard as many of the other magnificent sports that are out there ready to crush and be crushed by the best of the best.