Football or Soccer?

The perennial question, should we say football or soccer?

It’s a big yawn for most Americans: football refers to the American gridiron sport, and soccer refers to the English goalscoring sport. So for North Americans the answer is simple.

However the rest of the world, where American Football is not so popular, refers to the English goalscoring sport as football (or the equivalent in its own language). Indeed the supervising authority, FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, has the word football enshrined in its title. The word soccer is often avoided.

So that’s that. Outside of North America the English goalscoring sport is known as football, and in North America the gridiron game is known as football. And we just get on with it.

There are a number of related issues worth exploring, but in all honesty I cannot find anything to change my initial conclusion above.

What about other versions of football?

There are a huge number of football variants outside of American Football and soccer, for example rugby football, Australian Rules, Gaelic Football, but this issue tends to be centered on the American and English versions. The other variants have alternative names which they kindly use when referring to their sport outside their local community.

Is American Football really football?

American Football

In some ways it seems very strange to refer to American Football as football when the ball is elliptical (a prolate spheroid) not a sphere as are all other balls. A search through web clipart illustrates another point: the number of times the ball is touched by the foot, ie kicked, which totals about 20 or 30 per game. This would take about one minute in soccer. A typical American Football clipart above shows only one example where the ball is kicked. By comparison a typical clipart for soccer below is almost exclusively focused on kicking.

Basic RGBThe ball in American Football is usually thrown and caught and carried, and the fourth, and possibly most important element, is the tackling, not of the ball, but of the player. The title football for such a sport appears to be a misnomer, but so many things in this world have the wrong names which in time become so inextricably linked that it is practically impossible to change. This is probably one such example, no need to fuss.

How did the word soccer come about?

The original rules were drawn in London in 1863, where the full name for the English goalscoring game was designated as  Association Football. It is not clear whether the term association referred to the fact that football was a team sport, or whether it was an amalgamation of all the various sports of the time which purported to be football. But nevertheless the term association stuck.

And this is perhaps where the name soccer derived. The soc of association is possibly the origin of the word soccer. In some parts of the UK football is sometimes colloquially referred to as soccy (pronounced socky), and from here it is a short step to soccer. So soccer may well be a British term.

Personally I have no problem in using soccer as an alternative term to football. There is no stigma attached to the term soccer, and it bewilders me  when people apologize for using the term. Incidentally Australians refer to their national football team as the Socceroos, which provokes nothing but positive reaction. However I would always refer to a football player as a footballer, never a soccerer, and I would also use the adjective footballing, (as in ‘he was dropped for a footballing reason’) never soccering.

In conclusion it is the will of the people that always prevails. What I, or anyone else, may say or think has no bearing on which term is used. We just live with the fact that the term football covers both American gridiron and English soccer, and a great many other sports, which leaves us more time to appreciate the great sport of football.

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