To the purists, the beautiful game is known as football and football only. But in countries around the world the game is just as well known by the less sanctioned name of “soccer”.
Why is this? And is “soccer” really the poor cousin when it comes to names for the game?
History of the Name
In the mid 1800s in England, two styles of football were emerging and becoming codified. One, based on passing the ball with the hands, originated in the posh public school, Rugby, and took that name for its own. The other, based on dribbling the ball with the feet, came to be called “association” football after its parent body the Football Association.
Once the forms of football had their identities and official names, the English penchant for slang and abbreviation came into play. Rugby was often known colloquially as “rugger” and association football was shortened to “assoc”.
There is a story that Charles Wreford-Brown, an official in the Football Association, was once asked by some university friends to play a game of “rugger” with them. Making a play on that word, he told them that he’d rather play “soccer” instead.
Whether this story describes the real origin of the name “soccer”, or whether the abbreviation “assoc” simply evolved into the more rhythmic and euphonious “soccer” over time, will probably never be known.
One thing that is certain, though, is that the word “soccer” had entered the lexicon by the second half of the 19th Century.
A Better Description
At the same time association football was becoming known by the sobriquet “soccer”, it was also being called “football”. In England at the time this created no confusion and, in fact, served to better differentiate the game from that of rugby. After all, rugby was played with the hands and association football was played with the foot.
As association football gained popularity with the masses in England, the more simplistic name of “football” took precedence and displaced all but the most occasional use of “soccer” – a situation that pertains to this day.
So Why Soccer?
The reason the term “soccer” is used in countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United States results simply from the need to differentiate that form of football from other forms that either were, or are, more popular in those countries.
Before soccer became widely played New Zealand, for instance, rugby had usurped the name “football”. In Australia the situation was similar, with both rugby and Australian rules laying claim to the name. In the United States it was gridiron.
To avoid confusion, a separate term had to be used for association football in these countries. What more obvious name to use, then, than the already known and accepted “soccer”?
Though any Englishman, and many enthusiasts from other parts of the world for that matter, will swear blind that “football” is the only true name for the sport, there is little to say, in a historical sense, that one name is any more correct than the other. And if, in these southern latitudes, it helps define our meaning and avoid confusion, what difference does it really make if we call it football or soccer?Why is it Called Soccer? ,