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Soccer or Football

June 16th, 2006

Over at Crooked Timber, Kieran Healy raises the vexed question of “Soccer or Football”. I’m firmly in the camp of soccer, or, if you want to get prissy about it, “Association Football”. The various football codes are roughly contemporaneous, and the term football has always been used generically (also to refer to particular codes when there is no great danger of confusion).

If the argument is based on majority usage, the relevant majority for me is among English-speakers in some community of which I am a member. Whether I define this as narrowly as possible (say, people I personally speak to) or as broadly as possible (all English speakers in the world) I don’t get a majority of people using the term “football” to mean “soccer”. I think a claim of this kind is about as justifiable as if the martial arts renamed themselves as just plain “arts” and demanded that the term “art” be used consistently with this.

Quibbles about how much different codes use the feet don’t seem to me to valid, and in any case would not particularly privilege soccer (where the head and hands are used a lot), compared to say, Australian Rules. And the fact that people in non-English speaking countries mainly play soccer and therefore use terms meaning or sounding like football to refer to it cut no ice at all.

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  1. Katz
    July 9th, 2006 at 12:56 | #1

    Perhaps the game could be called synchonised diving.

    Hang on, that name’s already been taken.

    But so what? Soccer is the biggest game in the world, so FIFA can claim any name it wants.

  2. rocky
    July 9th, 2006 at 22:10 | #2

    its soccer baby yup its sounds kool man

  3. Goku
    July 10th, 2006 at 05:40 | #3

    In latin:
    PED=foot, PEDES=Feet. What’s your point bringing latin over to the discussion anyway?

    Football is football simple. The name of the beautifull game. The most followed, practiced, watched sport in the world.

    People from the United States as usual follow their own rules, convinient to them. Call it whatever you want within your country if that pleases you, but when referring to an international audience, the name of the sport is football baby!! Using a forced nickname, simply does not cut it…
    I noticed some people is starting to call ‘american football’ – Armball. I think there is future here… That’s a kool name! Keep it up.

  4. July 18th, 2006 at 13:45 | #4

    Football Fans of Australia!

    Sick and tired of the prejudiced coverage the world game gets in Australia? Sick of ignorant people like John Quiggin?

    Then come and sign this petition!

    http://www.petitiononline.com/fb2006/petition.html

    Thanks

  5. jquiggin
    July 18th, 2006 at 19:29 | #5

    As a response to the petition linked above, I’ve got no problem if people want it called Association Football; any more than I object to Australian, American, Gaelic Football and so on.

  6. aaron
    July 19th, 2006 at 23:56 | #6

    its football, calling it soccer is an embaressment to australia and puts alot of supporters around the wrld of the world game agains taustralia and anti australian. Leave it at football!

  7. Allan New Zealand
    March 14th, 2007 at 14:20 | #7

    Why not call it Soccer and avoid confusion Football to a kiwi is Rugby to an Aussie its Union /League or Aussie Rules to an American its Gridiron (and they rightly call it Soccer to avoid confusion)Even in Ireland it could be Gaelic..So why call one code Football when so many codes see it as something else. It would be silly nad we dont want to be silly do we!!!!

  8. Holly NZ
    October 11th, 2007 at 09:05 | #8

    i agree that the actual naming of the sport is not important to the game and skill invovled.

    I call it soccer just because i insit that i play soocer not football. I claim that football is this fancy posh game that the professionals play filled with ‘hollywoods’ and on field brawls. but in the end what does it really matter??!! the game takes skill we all know that and whether that skill is heading, kiking, goal keeping or throw ins the game is still the same and i believe that we should stop arguing and just watch/play the game and admire the talent (or acting skills) that football/soccer requires.

    life is short, live it up drink it down and keep playing……..soccer?? football?? WATEVER!!!

  9. ruggedstud
    November 26th, 2007 at 23:09 | #9

    This is a question purely in the minds of american sports press. Americas own sport gridiron has failed to spread itself around the world and thus has become known as gridiron outside of the usa if it is known at all.

    There is and has always been one football. Edward III referred to “football, hockey and handball” making a clear difference between sports using hands and feet. So there is and always will be one football, and I guess lots of inferior copies.

    The whole world calls football football apart from bitter anti football journalists in the usa and some in australia.

    However in australia they now refer to football as football, their fa has changed it’s name to football.

    The name clearly matters to americans as they make it an obsession to try to change the name of a sport they seem to fail in. They have failed yet again, football remains football.

  10. jordyn
    December 16th, 2007 at 08:00 | #10

    In New Zealand we called it soccer for as long as I can remember, but now they’re trying to “be like the rest of the world so they can understand what we’re talking about by saying football instead of soccer”.
    But “football” is such an uncreative name. Foot-ball. Wow. Any game where you kick a ball around could be referred to as “football”. Soccer is a more original name and it suits the game better.

  11. Ailaya
    March 1st, 2008 at 09:04 | #11

    SBS: “Soccer Broadcasting Service�
    –> Therefore it is “soccer�!

    FIFA:”International Federation of Association Football”
    –> Therefore it is “Football�!

    tomayto tomahto—soccer is so widely used in the U.S simply to avoid confusion with american football which is ever so popular in the country—–football is internationally recognized as the official name of the sport and personally i believe the world unifying word ‘football’ holds a bit more substance than ‘soccer’ whether in the caribbean, south america, europe,africa, asia, or even in australia and north america where the name is argued but still undeniably recognized

  12. Hans
    March 4th, 2008 at 13:29 | #12

    It should be (and it has been for years) called Football – but in countries who can play it – I mean if there is at least one world cup star stamped on the shirt.. the rest can still calling it soccer for merchandising proposes – who cares..

  13. Joe
    April 16th, 2008 at 01:14 | #13

    A lot of the comments here re. being played with feet are very likely nonsense, because a lot of historians think the word comes from being played on foot rather than horseback (and has nothing to do with kicking). While we have no conclusive evidence for this explanation, the word football has always implied a variety of games played on foot, not just those that involved kicking a ball. In some cases, the word football has even been applied to games which have specifically outlawed kicking the ball.

  14. Dashingprince
    April 28th, 2008 at 00:37 | #14

    This question seems to be an american obsession.

    The first sport with rules called football is of course football. Invented at cambridge university.

    There are other versions of football. Hence why they have different names infront of them. Rugby football, aussie rules football, american football, gaelic football.

    The fact that these sports have another name infront of them shows they are not football but a variant of football.

    The word soccer was simply a nickname for association football as rugger is for rugby union.

    Some have said that hating football is an ameircan obsession and seeing many articles in newspapers and online I have seen this to be true.

    I am guessing yanks thought the world would be playing baseball or gridiron by now, but no one seems that interested in these steroid sports from what I can see.

    Gridiron has two names …gridiron or american football. Both differentiate it from football so there should be no confusions.

    However with NFL europe going bust I doubt gridiron will ever grow outside of the usa, so there will be no real confusion globally.

    But I guess this hating football obsession will continue to be americas national pastime.

  15. Dashingprince
    April 28th, 2008 at 00:46 | #15

    Football refers to a sport played with the feet.

    Edward II banned handball… hockey and football. All of which are played on foot.

    Handball became rugger, hockey remains hockey and football was codified.

    It seems everyone who like gridiron or rugger hates football almost more than they like these “lesser” versions of football.

    Odd. Maybe I will write a book about football hating, the odd obsession of modern sports.

  16. Dashingprince
    November 2nd, 2008 at 12:28 | #16

    FIFA and the Olympics only accept one football.

    The world knows football as football. In China they call football football and they do in India as well.

    The word football is English and the English call it football. Americans also called football football until they were so bad at it they invented gridiron.

    Football is foot and ball, and thats the end of it.

  17. kiwifella
    March 6th, 2009 at 09:17 | #17

    In NZ if we say we have been to a football match
    its not soccer its rugby..the same would probably
    be true in Australia where football in general coonversation would be league/aussie rules or union …Even in Ireland it could be Gaelic football..In the USA and poss Canada too it would be American Football..i dont think anyone has a divine rite to the word football and without doubt association football is the biggest in the world..but wats wrong with calling it soccer then we all know whats being talked about

  18. March 14th, 2009 at 04:22 | #18

    I am from Brazil and may assure that the correct name is football. England created the sport, and they call football. It is played with the foot, that kicks the ball. The USA people don’t know how to play it. So, why do call it “soccer”???

  19. Alice
    March 14th, 2009 at 10:02 | #19

    For those like me who don know anything about any footy at all… here is a bit of interesting history on where the words ‘soccer’ and ‘ruggers’ came from

    http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~pstone/why.html

  20. March 17th, 2009 at 00:09 | #20

    I forgot to say one thing: the “american football” doesn’t use a “ball”, because it isn’t round. It looks like a bomb, not a ball.
    Then, if they don’t use a round ball, and they rarely use the foot, it can’t be named football.

  21. TS
    March 17th, 2009 at 05:24 | #21

    James Farrell said “Unlike Kieran, I’ve never heard any Irish or British person complain about us and the Americans using the word soccer.”
    I imagine the Irish bit is because soccer is a common word in Ireland due to the popularity of Gaelic football.

  22. asdas
    May 25th, 2009 at 09:49 | #22

    let’s cut if short peole, do you agree that democracy is th eleast worse political system? do you agree that you prefer to live under it than in soem sort of tyrannic dictatorship of some kind? yes? then get my advice people, if 193 (-1 or 2…) countries in this world call it Football, just play along! call it Football too and bugger the other codes, you still can go and watch A Rugby game of some sort and still not be confused…After all you would not call your beloved classic car, my SMVPTer or “self motorised vehicle for people transportation” very often now would you? You certainly would prefer to call it by its name A Ford, A GM or whatever it is, and you would be right.(as you know soccer was simply an abbreviation back in 1895 for Football Association – Assoc. or socca compared to Football Rules or Rugger then Rugby). So it is Football because since 1863 it has been invented as such and that since the whole real world calls it so. It is Football because its played with the feet only, that is was its name from the beginning and that 99% of the world calls it that… Simple really even yanks can understand.

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