Soccer or Football — Which is it?

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Whenever an event like the FIFA Women's World Cup or the Summer Olympics comes around, the inevitable debate begins — soccer or football? Both names are used to represent the same sport all over the world, but as soon as you get to North America, you have to call it soccer, or distinguish between American Football and European Football so people don't get confused. 

But it is confusing. First of all, what we in North America know as football actually involves very little kicking. In fact, the foot is almost not used at all. What the Europeans call football, we call soccer. But what does the word "soccer" really mean? Where did that word come from? And is there really a right and wrong name for the sport?

Here's what I've discovered:

Football was a name that was used for games in medieval Europe that (you guessed it) involved kicking a ball. Over the years, as the random games evolved into organized sport, the word became the name for the game that we now know today. 

So that gives you a little history on the word "football", but here's the interesting part: 

A lot of people think that the word "soccer" is an American creation, but it is actually British! It comes from the game's official name: association football. In the 19th century when association football was becoming popular, so to was rugby or rugby football, which was it's official name. Both sports were commonly known as "football" and this was getting confusing. So, in order to distinguish between the two, rugby football became "rugger" and association football became "soccer". 

European's actually referred to "football" as "soccer" for a really long time. But, then came the transport of games to the New World. Americans started to call "football" soccer right away, as it helped distinguish the sport from American Football, which was invented in 1869.

The Brits, wanting to distinguish themselves from the Americans, stopped using the word soccer altogether and started referring to it as football again. 

And there you have it! Soccer by any other name is still football... or something like that...