Football or Soccer? Exploring the Name Debate

December 2, 2022

Is it called football or soccer? Depending on who you ask, the answer can be different. Some countries like America, Canada, & Australia call it soccer, while a large majority of the world calls it football or a similar variation of football.

Both terms refer to the same game, but why aren’t they called the same names? To some people, football makes sense. It’s called football because you kick the ball with your foot. To people who grew up in North America, calling it football is confusing because it’s synonymous with American football, which is a completely different sport entirely. Even that has its own complications because it’s confusing as to why you would call it football when you play with your hands.

So how did North Americans and other countries adopt the name soccer when the rest of the world was calling it football?

Well, the word “soccer” originated in England during the 1880s, just 17 years after the sport we know today was formed through the Football Association. But during this time, there was another sport known as football, called Rugby football, which involved carrying and running with the ball towards the goal, similar to the American football we see today. Because of this, the game played under the Football Association was known as association football.

Association football was then shortened to “assoccer” and then to simply “soccer” by the students of the University of Oxford. However, “soccer” was more like a nickname rather than an official way to call the sport. Rugby football was more commonly referred to as just rugby, which meant that association football became known as just football. From there on the sport was commonly referred to as football.

However, in the late 19th century, the United States created a variation of rugby football called Gridiron football, which we now know as American football. This sport was often referred to as just football, so when Britain’s football was introduced, things became a bit complicated.

While originally introduced as football through the United States Football Federation, the word “soccer” was added to the organization’s name in the 1945s as football was already taking off as its own separate sport. In 1974, the organization dropped the word “football” entirely from its name and became known as the United States Soccer Federation.

Funnily enough, the word “soccer” was still being used in Britain during this time and could be used interchangeably with football, but that slowly changed as soccer became known as the “American” term for saying football. This cultural shift made Britains use the word “soccer” less and the word “football” more in order to differentiate itself from America.

So is it called football or soccer?

Both are correct names for association football and it really just depends on what you like calling it the best!

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