What is this all about? Soccer vs. Football

If you've grown up watching the NFL and major college sports in the United States, you may have noticed that we seem to be a bit "out of step" with many other countries in calling the game played by Orlando City and the other clubs in the MLS by the name "soccer." Most of the English speaking world, and most other countries in the major soccer-playing world call this game "football," which is of course the name we give to the sport played in the NFL and in major New Year's Day college bowl games.

So in my first "What is this all about" column for The Lion's Teeth blog, I'm looking into the origins of this discrepancy. It turns out that if you go back to the origins of the modern rules of the sport, both terms are technically accurate and inaccurate. The game loved the world over as "football" and the game that our beloved Orlando City Lions play on the pitch (or field) is referred to in the codified rules (or laws) from 1863 as "Association Football." The reason it received this name is that there were several other sports that were also called football at the time, including "Rugby Football."

By the 1880s, universities in the United Kingdom were using the term "soccer" to refer to "association football." According to Wikipedia, one commonly-cited coiner of this term was a man named Charles Wreford-Brown while he was a student at Oxford University. He was apparently fond of abbreviating the names of things by taking part of the name and adding "-er" or "-ers" at the end. The story may be true or it may be a load of rubbish.

In any case, the term "soccer" became widely used throughout the world for referring to the game, and it seems that it's only in the last few decades that fans in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world have started making a push to expunge the term "soccer" from their vocabulary. It's speculated that some British fans resisted the term as an Americanization and thus to be rejected with the same fervor that 18th Century Bostonians rejected the Tea Tax. Unfortunately for those so-called purists, it seems like they are just rejecting something invented by some drunk college kid at Oxford, which would be about the same as Americans rejecting McDonald's fries because they think they are French imports. 

So there you go--that's at least one explanation for why there are two different names for the sport: "football" and "soccer." I'm sure there are other explanations for the origins of the name. Do you have a good origin story you'd like to share, or is there some term in the game you can't figure out that you'd like me to add to my "What is this all about" series? Leave a comment and let me know!

Photo by Adrian Roebuck.