Pete Dunham: Fuck it, I will take you with me. You might learn something…
Matt Buckner: About soccer?
Pete Dunham: No mate. Not about soccer, AND FOR FUCK SAKE STOP SAYING SOCCER!
I hate the word soccer.
I’m not a football snob or anything, I just don’t like how it rolls off the tongue. In the above scene from Green Street Hooligans, Charlie Hunnam (Pete) berates a very timid Elijah Wood (Matt) for saying “soccer” instead of “football”. I also share these sentiments, but for a different set of reasons. Let me explain.
A history of the beautiful game
With world cup qualifiers heating up and WC2014 Brazil right around the corner, it’s finally time to settle this once and for all. So who actually invented this word that the U.N., World Bank and international community have all come to despise? Well it was Britain of course.
Yes, the same nation that codified the current laws of the beautiful game. The same nation with the most revered and cherished league of the beautiful game. The same nation where kids from around the world dream of playing the beautiful game….. also happens to be the same nation that invented the term “soccer”.
England did not invent the sport, but they were the first to popularize and organize it under a strict set of rules. The modern day version of football was developed in the backyards of English boarding schools.
Each school had its own version of football which caused confusion when different schools met to play each other. At last, in the fall of 1863 representatives from 11 old boy’s clubs assembled at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London to come to an agreement about the future of the game.
On October 26th 1863, football’s “Constitution” was signed to form “The Football Association”. The Football Association created the “Laws of Football” which was a set of rules that governs how the game is played. This included the field of play, offside rule, number of players, equipment, match duration, boundaries and many other laws that still exist to this day.
Around the same time, the term “soccer” was introduced as an abbreviation for “Football Association” (from assoc.).
Legend has it the nickname was invented by a young man named Charles Wredford Brown, who was a student at Oxford when The Football Association was formed.
British school boys had a knack for nicknames at the time and one common trick was to add “er” to the end of their nicknames. Rugby became known as “Rugger” and Association Football became “Assoccer”. After school one of Charles’ friends asked if he would like to play a game of “rugger” to which he replied “No mate, I prefer soccer”. And so it goes.
Football remained the game’s formal name but soccer came to be known as a nickname. “Soccer” helped to distinguish the game from other sports such as rugby football, which was also popular at the time. Today several countries use “soccer” to distinguish it from different sports. My research revealed that these countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some parts of Ireland. [Edit: I’ve met people from all of these countries and they all still refer to it as football. Well maybe besides Canada. But then again….ahh nevermind.]
Why does it matter?
Football is the worlds biggest sport and with that the name has become the world standard. The game is played in almost every corner of the world. It’s the common man’s sport as well as the aristocrat’s. People play in $400 boots and some play barefoot on the streets. Wars have been fought, tears have been shed yet football still captures the imagination of billions of fans across the world.
Across the world it is Americans who have become known as the users and abusers of the term “soccer”. Some people think it shows their ignorance and lack of respect for the rich history of the game. While others just don’t like America that much, so it’s a convenient way to dismiss and make fun of people for using a word they deem as silly.
Personally, I’m not in favor of either of those positions. I want America to be embraced by the wider football community, mainly because there is a depth of talent here which could be cultivated to compete on the world stage. I believe there is a growing segment of Americans that have come to love, respect and value the beauty of the game. This is why I am urging my sporting comrades to abandon the use of the term “soccer” in favor for the universal “football”.
Although gridiron American Football was first popular across the country, “soccer” got it’s American start in 1913 with the founding of the “United States of America Football Association”. Due to confusion with the already popular NFL style football, in 1945 the association was renamed to “The United States Soccer Football Association”. Finally in 1974 this was changed to the more simple “United States Soccer Federation” and the term “soccer” has remained ever since.
It is clear that America is feverishly embracing football and it’s growing popularity can be seen in many facets of the sport. Over the last 10 years, the MLS has attracted high profile signings (albeit on the downswings of their careers) such as David Beckham, Freddie Ljungberg and Henry.
This had as much to do with jersey sales as it did with improving the quality of game play but the progression cannot be overlooked. Manchester City just teamed up with the NY Yankees to form New York City F.C.. Game attendance is on the rise and the sport is attracting major advertising dollars.
Now is the perfect time to stake America’s claim as a legitimate football town. The best way to start is to stop saying “soccer”. Football is not just a sport, it is a culture. We live and breathe football. When you say “soccer” to someone that is deep into the culture, you are being judged no matter your knowledge or expertise about the game. The word itself conjures a perspective that you only view football through a foreign lens. In some respects you are taken as an outsider to the game, just an observer to the culture.
Football culture is just as strong as Punk rock or Hip-hop culture. And with any type of culture , authenticity is key. Football is no different. In the same way that having a Kanye West album does not make you a hip-hop head, buying a red devils jersey doesn't mean you know shit about football. There is a huge difference between being a part of the culture and an observer.
If you have ever experienced the dread of watching a game on FSC with their commentators you will know what I mean. It doesn't feel authentic. That’s not to say that there aren't any great American football commentators but it usually feels like they grabbed someone who normally covers basketball. And yes, the dynamics surrounding the use of the word “football” will be difficult. “World Football” might never top NFL-style “American Football” in this country. That doesn't matter though, the people in the culture will always know which one you’re referring to.
“Soccer” is still just a word and those who say it can still be part of the culture. But wouldn't you rather make it easier? “Football” just sounds better, it’s a sexier word. If you're reading this and are a fan of the game like I am, I know that deep down inside you've been yearning to say it. Forgot what your parents told you, forgot what society thinks about you, be free. Go ahead and say it. When you’re in a foreign land, people will gravitate towards you. The football gods will accept you as their own.
Nice article! How about we take it one step further and start saying fútbol? I wrote a somewhat similar post on how I think football sounds better in Spanish - Soccer in English vs. Futbol en Espanol
Think Piece: FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup, normally referred to as the World Cup, is an international football competition contested by the men’s national teams of Fédération Internationale de Football Association(FIFA), the sport’s global governing body. The tournament has taken place every four years since the first championship in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946, because of World War II. Presently the tournament involves 32 teams who compete for the title at venues within host nation(s) lasting about a month. This last phase is often called the World Cup Finals, and is preceded by the three year qualification phase which determines who qualifies for the tournament alongside the host nations. The World Cup exceeds the Olympic Games as the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, attracting an estimated 715.1 million people for the 2006 final.
Up until the 1950s radio existed as the foremost medium for entertaining sports fans. Radio reports were considered the premier destination for football coverage. However developing technology led to the first televised World Cup broadcasted live at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. Europe’s media companies learned from the technological advances in the USA, where the first NFL Championship game was televised in 1940 and baseball’s World Series in 1948. On both continents, the events were only seen by a few viewers since the penetration of television sets was relatively low at the time. The television had not yet replaced the press and radio as a main source of information for the general public. Towards the end of the 1950s audiences became more enthusiastic about television programming and television sets became cheaper, which resulted in a significant rise in the number of sets.
Ok I'm not as diehard of an Ultimate Frisbee fan as my title suggests, but I love the sport.
Ultimate Frisbee is a fusion of soccer and football, and it's played with a frisbee. It is definitely one of the easiest team sports to learn, probably second behind soccer (maybe further down, but I can't think of any right now). The best part? It's a hell of a fun sport to play. It has a reputation of being a laidback sport (although I wish it didn't) but is still athletically demanding.
Running back and forth on a soccer/football field is hard work. In my first game, I got the "skitch" (that painful feeling in your stomach while running). After that, I picked up running and it no longer bothered me. If I didn't rack up 25+ miles per week, Ultimate games would easily tire me out.
Another thing I love it is that you can play with only one other person if you want. You can simply throw it around, and it's not as boring as merely kicking a soccer ball with another person. You get to still run around and try new tricks, and both people can be relatively far away from each other. And, you only need a Frisbee. You don't need a basket, tennis rackets and a net, a goal, whatever.
I definitely want to continue Ultimate, and I slowly want to start being more competitive. It's currently the only team sport I play, and it's definitely amazing.