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It’s Football, Not Soccer

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I wince every time I hear the word “soccer.” It makes my beloved sport football sound so alien, so uncouth, almost like someone just swore at me. Socca!.Socker!.Soccer!

I understand the Americans need something to differentiate their own brand of football from the more beautiful game of football that the rest of the world loves and plays, but I do not understand why I hear this word being used by non-Americans and often in articles on the Internet. Or maybe I do understand it but just don’t like it. Not one bit.

A major reason could be because of the large amount of coverage that American football gets on the Internet and US media; some might tag their articles as soccer to avoid any unnecessary confusion. And this is what scares me – the power that the Americans have on global culture and language.

American football is an odd name for a sport. It is, of course, American: very American. But I have a problem with them appropriating the term football, while giving the game of real football the slang “soccer.” Balls, by definition, are “objects with a spherical shape,” but I can let go of that for the moment. My biggest gripe is with the use of the word “foot.”

The game of “American Football” is hardly ever played with the foot. I haven’t watched a lot of American football, but I mostly see people carrying the ball around and smashing into each other for a few minutes between the commercial breaks. The few moments of punting cannot be enough to call a game “football.” This is in complete contrast to the game of “soccer” in which they exclusively play with the foot with the occasional use of head and chest.

The origin of words might give us a hint as to this unusual development of names, and I understand that often words evolve to uses which have nothing to do with their original meanings.

But in 2007, Australia officially converted their associations from soccer to football. So did New Zealand and Samoa. Only the North American countries of USA and Canada remain. So there is hope, and I sincerely hope that someday they convert too.

But I can’t help but fear for the sport of football, or might I say, for the name “football.” I do not wish to be in a world which calls it soccer. And knowing the influence that American cultural exports seem to have on the rest of the world, my fears are definitely justified.


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About P Chandra

  • Let’s change the word ‘soccer’ for ‘Real Football’. In the way the ‘American Football’ will look inferior to the Real Football

    • Better yet, let’s just change American Football to American Rugby!

  • 49ers superbowl 49

    its called football because the ball is a foot long

  • Dr Dreadful

    I possess a t-shirt with the word “football” and a picture of a soccer ball printed on it, which I wear out of the house every so often as a wind-up.

    Here in the US it makes a satirical statement. Were I to wear it in my native UK, the only message it would convey is “I like football”.

  • It’s true that soccer is also a British English word but only complete bell ends and David Beckham (same thing) would ever call football soccer!

  • I will call it what I fucking want it

    Its originally a British word that the Americans, quite reasonably, adopted. Now being Canadian I have “issues” with the Americans but I’m with them here. Those immature Brits who get off on calling us out for soccer are retarded because it was a BRITISH word to start with you fucking idiots! As for American football, I always say gridiron to differentiate it, and just “football” in North America b/c seriously everyone there says it that way. Its not like a fucking brit is gonna put a gun to my head about this, so FUCK OFF you fucking better-than-thou tosser! (there, I said it, soccer is a BRITISH word, DONE)

  • The Truth

    @Always Soccer
    It’s people like you giving americans a bad name… The name that americans are f**king racist biggots…
    1- Your statements on mexicans and brazillians has absolutely NOTHING to do with the debate here.
    2- Don’t kid yourself… Football is and shall always be the most popular sport in the world if it keeps going this way.
    3- The original and international version was called football first!.
    4- It’s FOOTBALL because 90% of those 90 minutes or more uses the ‘foot’… Unlike the american version where you carry the ball most of the time and only one player even has the ability to kick the ball during play!.
    And to be completely honest the american version is really just rugby when you strip it down but with less kicking.

  • Always Soccer

    I cringe every time someone from Mexico or anyone from Latin America speaks English. I mean, they can’t even get their damn language right much less English. Original Spanish= Castillian or Castellano not fucking Español. Only retards call it that.
    And look at those dumb idiots in Brazil, struggling to write correct and speak Portuguese. I mean, how fucking hard is it to conjugate tu correctly? How hard is it to say, Eu amo-te?.

    We call it soccer because it’s our fucking language and not yours dammit. Get that through your idiotic heads. And if it’s really football, why do you guys use your chest and head area? I thought football meant foot only. And as it being the world’s most popular sport, it isn’t. That’s cricket.

    • PollyP40

      Listen to you, “Mister know it all” criticising others for not being able to “write correct”. I think that you will find that is WRITE CORRECTLY.

    • Fabio Marinho

      Up yours son of a bitch who are you to talk about the way us ‘Brasileiros’ speak portuguese u Know nothing of ‘Brasil’ at all u fucking Americans are a fucking abstracted narrow-minded bigotted people. And u must be the greatest Portuguese teacher ever. Conjugate tu? TU IS A SUBJECT PRONOUN NOT A VERB. Ok DUMB? You ONLY can Conjugate verbs

    • Fabio Marinho

      Not your language bender it’s british

    • Fabio Marinho


    • Fabio Marinho


  • Ryan Cicero

    One other point, second language / foreign language English speakers who insist the game must be called “football” in English, I would like to ask you which spelling rules do you follow, English or American spelling? Most second language English users employ American spelling and otherwise use standard American English rather than British English. American English is what is taught in most non-English speaking countries. So, why would these same people insist on using the BRITISH word for a particular sport? If they are consistent and use standard British English across the board, I have no problem with them insisting on calling the kickball game “football” but if they aren’t spelling things like”neighbourhood” or “centre” or using words like “whilst” then they shouldn’t suddenly switch and start using a British term like “football” for the kickball game.

    • Damnitssam

      Bullshit British english is tought in non english speaking countrys and its because British english is what was choosen by the world leaders for everyone to speak but language doesnt have shit to do with this
      the truth is all you americans living in america i get it for you its always been called that and if someone calls it diffrently well that guys an asshole dont you hate that asshole well america you are that asshole to the rest of the world

  • Ryan Cicero

    Soccer extremists want to eliminate all other forms of football and make everyone play their kickball game. The historical fact is all football “codes” have an equal right to call their game football. American and Canadian football, Gaelic football, rugby football, rugby league football, and Association football ALL derive from early games called football and all involve using the foot to score points.

    If a game has historical roots in early football, even if its evolution obscures this today, and said game still allows points to be scored by kicking a ball through or over a goal (even if its no longer the primary means of scoring points) is it EQUALLY entitled to the name football.

    Furthermore, the argument the “whole world calls it [soccer] football” is obviously a lie. Besides the US and Canada, as has been pointed out above,in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland the most common name for the sport is soccer. In Italy, its called “calcio.” In many other indigenous languages in other countries, it is indeed refered to by a calque of “football” in the local tounge but a calque does not equate to meaning they are calling it “football.” They aren’t even speaking English.

    Association Football and its supporters are arrogant when they demand that only their game can or should be called “football.” Its only one code of football, and the name is far from universially used for it.

  • Hamman

    Leonardo Q.
    Seeing that you chose to move to country in North America you should demonstrate more respect for your new culture. Your south Rio Bravo rules are irrelevant here. It’s soccer, not football.

  • Leonardo Q.

    I am from South America, but I live in Canada. Every time somebody says “soccer”, I simply ignore it and start talking about football. And if the person argues football is the one played by NFL teams, I repply “you mean AMERICAN FOOTBALL”. That´s all, NFL could be very powerful in North America, but once you set a foot southern Rio Bravo, the real football rules.

  • celtic

    No we don’t like it because it’s basically the game of rugby except all the players wear armour. I agree they are not fat, theres a skinny guy somewhere in that armour. Totally agree with last line of Fifa’s comment

  • Fifa

    FIFA=Federacion International de Football asociados.and not
    FISA= Federacion International de Soccer Asociados
    So Football and not Soccer
    USA and Canada play Handball

  • Realist

    No one cares what Mr. Macho says! hahahahaha!

  • Mr Macho

    Sorry, Football is not soccer. Soccer beelllooowwws

  • ilikeboth

    i love soccer, but when you people from other countries hate it because you dont undertand it. And you think there all fat guys to, WRONG. I get mad. Like i said i love soccer. but you guys need to accept our sport.

  • Bob

    Americans did call the sport football once, from United States of America Foot Ball Federation then to United States Soccer Football Federation then now, United States Soccer Federation.
    Should have kept football.

  • Priyank Chandra

    @zingzing : Or could it just be a beautiful piece of satire, poking fun at the absurdity of the debate.

  • zingzing

    leo sounds like a well-read individual.

  • Leo

    live with it! is only called soccer in america!!!!!!! football is the most watched sport in the world so dont try an make everyone like the fact that americans like to call their rugby game football because it is hardly ever played with the foot and a ball is a spherical object for all you losers who forgot that!!! lol so next time you idioits are debating about this subject just remenber that you have most of the world agaist ya!!! goo football!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • It’s also the stepping-off point for a lot of usually tongue-in-cheek banter between fans of the various codes. You have especially fertile ground for this sort of fun when you consider the two versions of the game which sit at opposite extremes: American football, in which the foot is scarcely used at all, and association football, in which the hands are used just as seldom.

    ‘Football’ historically is any game in which the foot (at some point, however rarely) propels the ball. (As opposed to, say, tennis, hockey or golf, in which this is a big no-no.) Any version which becomes dominant in a particular culture gets called ‘football’ in that culture – gridiron in America, Gaelic football in parts of Ireland, rugby union in South Africa, Aussie rules in southern and western Australia, soccer in most of the rest of the world.

    It doesn’t help to take this ‘debate’ too seriously. American football fans like, say, RJ (who hasn’t commented on this thread but writes regularly about the sport for Blogcritics) are never going to persuade me that soccer is not ‘the beautiful game’, and I’m never going to turn STM away from rugby and convert him to the ‘true faith’. And we all know it.

    So you have to bear in mind that comments pointing up the whimsy of Americans calling a game in which only one player ever kicks the ball ‘football’, or of soccer afficionados insisting that only their game is entitled to the name ‘football’ even though there are dozens of other versions worldwide, are usually made in good humour.

  • TWills

    All the forms of football have had continuous rules changes so that games played today bear only passing semblemce to the games played in the mid nineteenth century. As far as I can determine, back then, any of codes would have looked like almost any other of the codes.
    We need to remember that the idea of playing according to written rules was novel too. Association football didn’t become the dominant form of football in England once the rules were written. Sheffeild Rules games were played alongside Association Rules. The 1872 rules adopted a lot of the Sheffield rules (one could say the two merged at that point).
    The ‘foot’ and ‘ball’ argument is a just a simpletons view.

  • True, but hardly a crucial moment in the history of the game since the FA continued to adjust the rules over the next several decades until it became recognisably the sport of soccer that we know today.

    The actual turning point came in 1872, when the FA specifically outlawed the use of hands (except by the goalkeeper) – thereby making soccer unique among all the different codes of football.

  • TWills

    This is such an old debate. Please exert yourself learn a little history (and turn that into tolerance and respect) before writing an article on the subject.

    The original Association Football rules of 1863 allowed for all players to catch the ball from a clean kick – so much for the “foot” argument!

  • ruckrover

    The Association Football fans who profess that only their favoured code (albeit the world’s most popular by a long shot) can be called “football” are like empire builders who want uniformity of culture and language and try and crush diversity.

    That’s why “football nazis” can be used, although a bit harsh.

    There are many millions of Canadians, USA Americans, Australians and Irish for whom “football” means Canadian Football, American Football, Australian Football or Gaelic Football.

    Then there are the Welsh, New Zelanders, South Africans, and even English and Scots for whom “soccer” is still useful to distinguish it from “Rugby” where both can be called “football”.

    As(soccer)iation Football – from the English Football Association rules that split with Rugby Football rules clubs in England in the 1860s. “Soccer” is a word with a long and useful history.

    Just because “Soccer” kicks the ball a lot and only goal-keepers or throw-ins from the touch line involve hands – doesn’t mean it is pure feet only football. The amount of heading and chesting of the ball is considerable – and was an inadvertent addition to the game after the Football Association banned handling of the ball in play by 10 of the players in the late 1870s.

  • Priyank

    ‘Football Nazis’. Wow. Emotions always do run high in the world of sports.

  • the Brazilians call it soccer

    Um, no, they don’t. They call it futebol.

  • STM

    I must admit, I do get sick of this argument.

    In Australia, before soccer became (almost) popular, there were three kinds of football:

    Rugby football;

    Rugby League football (a different game to rugby); and

    Australian football.

    They are the main games played in winter in this country, and have always been known as football. In the southern and western states, Australian football is the main game; in the two big eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales, the two different codes of rugby are the main games (with some cross over of players between the codes and supporters of either generally also being fans of the other code).

    Soccer was known as soccer, and no one cared because it stopped any confusion.

    We are now, however, beset by “football nazis” who insist that despite nearly 200 years of tradition, we have to drop all that and call soccer football because they say so.

    I say to them: for god’s sake, get over it. Soccer will never be football in this country, and it lacks any genuine grassroots support to the point where it has to be played as a nighttime summer sport because it can’t compete with the other football codes. It also attracts low crowds. Not unusual to have 2000 people or less at a league game. Yes, that’s 2000, not 20,000.

    Compare that to 100,000 at an Australian Rules football game in Melbourne, or 80,000 for, say, an international rugby Test during the Tri Nations tournament between Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

    Even club Rugby League games will get crowds of 50,000 for a much-anticipated game.

    Occasionally, a soccer international will draw a decent crowd, but they’re one-offs.

    I don’t see how low-budget soccer in this country think they can lord it over the rest of the big-money football codes and virtually order everyone to start calling soccer football.

    I assume the same applies in the US.

    Besides, the Brazilians call it soccer … and it’s never done them any harm, now, has it?

    If soccer wants credibility in the non-soccer playing countries like Australia and the US, it should stop whingeing about the name and put all its resources into building up decent competitions.

    Problem is, those of us who’ve grown up with other sports like rugby know they’re better and more entertaining.

    That’s the problem soccer has right from the get go.

    And yes, I like to watch soccer at a decent level … say, English Premier League.

    However, I’d much prefer a game of rugby … because it’s a better game.

  • zingzing

    “only one player on a team ever uses his foot to propel the ball.”

    well, often, the person who punts, the person who kicks off, and the person who kicks field goals/extra points are different people. (although the fg/ep and kick off person are usually one and the same.)

    that said, i think someone just got schooled a bit.

  • To be fair, the word “soccer” was at one time common usage even in the sport’s birthplace, England. The two main versions of football were distinguished from each other by nicknames: “rugger” for rugby and “soccer” for the association code. Over time, as soccer professionalized, was exported overseas and became dominant, and also because the rules largely forbade the use of hands, it became the convention to call it simply “football”. Followers of the rugby code nowadays generally think of their sport as “rugby” or “rugger” rather than “football”.

    The exception is in Australia and New Zealand, where “football” can mean any of four different games, depending on where you live and which of the four you’re a fan of.

    In North America, where the association code struggled to get a foothold, two different versions became dominant and are now thought of in the public consciousness as “football” – even though only one player on a team ever uses his foot to propel the ball. Just one of those curiosities of language.

  • I understand your feelings about this. Our (American) football seems more related to rugby than anything else, but can you imagine that the corporate honchos would ever change it from the NFL to the NRL?