Friday, 19 Jul 2024

The Origins of the Term “Soccer”: A Tale of Football Rivalries

where does the term soccer come from

In the world of football, rivalries are not limited to what happens on the pitch. For over a century, there has been an ongoing debate about what to call the beautiful game. While the rest of the world, including its birthplace, England, refers to it as football, Americans prefer the term “soccer.” Surprisingly, “soccer” is not an American invention; it originated in England and was widely used there until recently.

The Evolution of Football and Rugby

In the early 1800s, football and rugby were different variations of the same sport in England. It wasn’t until 1863 that the Football Association was formed to standardize the rules of football, allowing boys from different schools to play against each other. In 1871, the Rugby Football Union followed suit. These sports officially became known as Rugby Football and Association Football.

The Birth of “Rugger” and “Soccer”

Aristocratic boys at Oxford and Cambridge came up with the terms “rugger” and “soccer” to differentiate between Rugby Football and Association Football. The use of the suffix “er” was a fad at the time, as seen in words like “foot-er” and “sport-er.” However, “Association” didn’t lend itself easily to this convention, so it was occasionally referred to as “soccer.” This usage was documented in a letter to The New York Times in 1905.

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The Rise and Fall of “Soccer”

“Soccer” gained widespread recognition in England during the first half of the 20th century, as evidenced by data from books and newspapers. Its popularity further increased after World War II, possibly due to the presence of American soldiers in the country and the influence of American culture. However, by the 1980s, the term started to face backlash in Britain. The game’s penetration into American culture led to a reevaluation of the word in England, where it was once considered a harmless alternative to “football.”

The Continuing Debate

In March, Stefan Szymanski, a sports economics professor at the University of Michigan, co-authored a book titled “It’s Football, not Soccer (and Vice Versa).” This book explores various aspects of the football-soccer debate, including internet culture, the history of sports and words, linguistic ostracism, and the relationship between sports and nationalism.

As the World Cup unfolds, fans are celebrating England’s success in the sport they birthed but foreigners have mastered. On Twitter, some proudly proclaim, “It’s football, not soccer. The English created the game = football.”


Q: Who coined the term “soccer”?
A: The term “soccer” was coined by aristocratic boys in England in the late 19th century to differentiate between Rugby Football and Association Football.

Q: Is “soccer” an American invention?
A: No, “soccer” originated in England and was commonly used there until the 1980s.

Q: Why do Americans call it soccer instead of football?
A: The use of the term “soccer” in America is a result of cultural differences and the evolution of the game in the United States.

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The debate over what to call the world’s most popular sport continues. While Americans stand firm on calling it soccer, the rest of the world sticks to football. Regardless of terminology, the passion for the game unites football enthusiasts worldwide. So, whether you say soccer or football, the love for the sport remains the same.

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