Why Football is called Soccer, and American Football is called Football

20Sep10

This may be a sports article, but to those with an interest in history may find the article pretty neat as well. Personally I am huge sports fan as well as a big fan of history, so its an uber explosion when both come together in my brain 😀

Today we will look at one of the most frustrating questions in the world of sports. Why do Americans call their gridiron game football, and call what many of those in the world know as football, soccer?

To begin, American football originated sometime in mid to late 1800s. Around the same time the British created official rules for their football. At the time there was a split of two kinds of football in England, the two separate types was Football and Rugby Football. Rugby football was for those who favored the use of their hands more rather than their feet for athletic purposes. Even though football was a type of sport in which you use your feet. In Rugby at the time you scored by drop kicking the ball into the goal. Any sport at the time in which you kicked something into the goal was considered a football sport.

Now this is when American football is born. Both Football and Rugby football make their ways across the pond and become increasingly popular. But Rugby football became more popular. As the years went by in England, the word football in the name Rugby football became used less as people just used the term Rugby to refer to the sport since it was one less word to say and to prevent confusion from the original football which was growing more popular.

As for in the states, the results were almost opposite. The original football was losing ground in popularity against the Rugby football. This is where it gets tricky though because its not quite certain why Americans choose to call Rugby Football, Football rather than following the British by calling it rugby. But the Football developed by the Americans had a different direction than what Rugby was going through in England. So due to the games interesting development in the states, the name Football was more likely to be kept rather than the name Rugby including to the fact that the original Football wasn’t gaining as much attention in America as it was in England.

So Rugby football in America became to be known as “American football” or to the Americans, Football. This was acceptable though. Because American football involved alot of footwork. It was popular in the game to move the ball by drop kicking it also known as the running punt kick. There was the option to lateral it, but the lateral had to be from side to side and can in no way go forward, which made the lateral much less popular.

But then at the turn of the 20th century, American football attempted to become more professional such as Baseball had become. It was consider a rough sport though, including slugging, gang tackling, and unsportsmanlike conducts. College kids only played it at the time. There were a few attempts to make a professional league, but it failed many times due to the fact that many deaths occurred. In 1905 alone, 20 died from football injuries.

This is when an unlikely hero came to save football. Theodore Roosevelt played the game in his college days and became a huge fan of the sport. He said the sport built strong bodies and good character; in fact ten of the Rough Rider soldiers who fought with him in Cuba in 1898 gave their occupations as football players. Roosevelt supported the idea of having a professional league. So he invited Representatives of the Princeton, Yale, and Harvard, the first three colleges to play the sport, and with those representatives, they changed the rules of the game to make it less brutal. The rules contained the introduction of the forward pass, the first down system, and the banning of gang tackles. This eventually saved American football, but with the forward pass, It became obsolete to kick the ball. The game progressed into what it is today as the use kicking became almost non-existent, all while the name never changed because there wasn’t really any need at the time to. The only remains of what American football once was are kicking field goals.

So now we know why American football, the game that ironically isn’t dominated by kicking of any kind, is still called Football. The rules of the sport adapted to appeal more to the public, but that adaptation was long after the sport was well known as Football in America.

But what about the original Football? Why is it called soccer today?

Well the answer goes back to when Rugby football was becoming known as Football in America. The original Football in America became known as Association football to create less confusion from what Americans called Football. But those who referred to Association Football did not want to call their sport “association Football” or Association. The name was shortened to “Assoc. football”, but that meant a mix up in pronunciation as it could easily be referred to as “Ass sock football”. So the sound in the word “assoc” was reversed to make it easier to pronounce. It’s a popular way of pronunciation called metathesis. But then this meant the name would sound like “sock ass”. So to prevent embarrassment they went even further in the assessment in the name and the name was changed by losing the “ass” and putting in an “er”. Hence it became known as “soccer”.

So the name Soccer really came from a confusing process of shortening the word “association” by using metathesis and adding in filler to create a shorter, yet efficient name for the public to use.

So now you know why we call American Football, Football. And where the heck we got the name Soccer.

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2 Responses to “Why Football is called Soccer, and American Football is called Football”

  1. The most controversial is that American football is not played by using feet, and it is called “football”.
    It is really confusing, because ONLY Americans use the world “soccer”, and on one else actually knows soccer.

    • This naming situation is just one of those treasures you find in history where it make very little logical sense. But as far as the name “soccer”, I believes it’s used in Australia and Canada as well since both countries have their own game called football as well.


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