As the Criterium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse wind down, and we all wait anxiously for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, there’s a “little” sporting event going on down in the land of the cariocas which is keeping me, as well as untold millions across the world glued to there TV’s rabidly cheering on their home countries, waiting to yell Gooooooooaaaaaaaal!
Of course I’m talking about the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where the best players gather in heated competition…as well as a lot of dramatic acting, for the right to hoist the coveted golden cup and claim the worlds championship of soccer, I mean football, or is it fútbol, or futebol…what the hell do you call this sport anyways???
Technically the proper name for the sport is actually “Association Football” but there seems to be a divide on whether to call it football or soccer, especially here in the good old US of A. You’d think that the “worlds most popular sport” with over 250 million players in over 200 countries, would have one name, but it’s origin might surprise you…it was actually the British that invented the word soccer, yet Brits universally chastise us for call it soccer.
In the early days of the sport among the upper echelons of British society, the proper term for the sport was “Soccer”. Not only that, but the sport being referred to as “Soccer” preceded the first recorded instance of it being called by the singular word “Football” by about 18 years, with the latter happening when it became more popular with the middle and lower class. When that happened, the term “Football” gradually began dominating over “Soccer” and the then official name “Association Football”.
In the 1860s, as in most of history- with records as far back as 1004 B.C.- there were quite a lot of “football” sports in existence being played popularly throughout the world and of course, England. Many of these sports had similar rules and eventually, on October 26th, 1863, a group of teams in England decided to get together and create a standard set of rules which would be used at all their matches. They formed the rules for “Association Football”, with the “Association” distinguishing it from the many other types of football sports in existence in England, such as “Rugby Football”.
Now British school boys of the day liked to nickname everything, which is still somewhat common. They also liked to add the ending “er” to these nicknames. Thus Rugby was, at that time, popularly called “Rugger”. Association Football was then much better known as “Assoccer”, which quickly just became “Soccer” and sometimes “Soccer Football”.
The inventor of the nickname is said to be Charles Wredford Brown, who was an Oxford student around the time of Association Football’s inception. Legend has it, in 1863 shortly after the creation of Association Football, Wredford-Brown had some friends who asked him if he’d come play a game of “Rugger”, to which he replied he preferred “Soccer”. Whether that story’s true or not, the name caught on from around that point on.
In the beginning, the newly standardized Rugby and Soccer were football sports for “gentlemen”, primarily being played by the upper echelons of society. However, these two forms of football gradually spread to the masses, particularly Soccer as Rugby didn’t really catch on too well with the lower classes. This resulted in the name switching from “Soccer” and “Association Football”, to just “Football”; with the first documented case of the sport being called by the singular term “Football” coming in 1881, 18 years after it was first called “Soccer” or, officially, “Association Football”.
The game gradually spread throughout the world under the lower class name of “Football”, rather than “Soccer” as the “gentlemen” called it. The problem was, though, that a lot of other countries of the world already had popular sports of their own they called “Football”, such as the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, to name a few. In these countries, the name “Soccer” was and, in some, still is preferred for this reason.
Regardless what you call it though, The FIFA World Cup is quite the spectacle. Wear your countries colors proud, paint your face, and cheer them on at the top of your lungs! Go USA!!!