Why Do Some Countries Call It ‘Soccer’ Instead of ‘Football’?


For most of the world, including the vast majority of Europe and South America, it’s football, fútbol, or some other language variation. In the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few other stragglers, it’s firmly known as soccer, much to the annoyance of those who can’t understand how a sport played with feet and a ball can be called anything else. So why the conflict? According to a paper by University of Michigan professor Stefan Szymanski, it all began in England in the early 1800s, when football found its way into the recreational scene of some of the country’s most privileged schools. To give uniformity to the competitions between these schools and clubs, a set of standard rules was drafted by students in Cambridge in 1848. It wasn’t long before variations of the sport began to splinter off. In 1871, the Rugby Football Union was founded, using Rugby School rules from the 1830s that allowed a player to run with the ball in their hands. This new take on the sport would be known as rugby football, or rugger, to separate itself from association football, the traditional feet only version of the sport. From there, association football would get the nickname as-socc or assoccer, leading eventually to just soccer; a name that remains in some countries.