Why do people call Football Soccer?

Football – depending on where you grew up in the world this name can mean very different things. Growing up in the UK Football was a sport played by almost everyone which involved using your feet to kick a ball into a net. Across the Atlantic Ocean and in other parts of the world, Football meant something very different.

The people who call the above “Football” would probably refer to the game I love as “Soccer”.

So how did we get here?

A (very) Brief History of Football aka Soccer

Football is the most popular sport in this world. This sport is loved and viewed by billions from all around the globe and the love for this game is so strong that it can make the world stand still and even stop wars!

A common belief that the sport was invented somewhere in the 19th century is not 100% accurate. Although modern football did come into existence at that time, the earliest form of this game is centuries older. According to FIFA, Cuju, a Chinese sport in the 3rd Century is considered as the earliest form of football. The Japanese, along with the ancient Greeks and Romans also had a different variant of the sport, which was known as Kemari.

Numerous English explorers claim that a similar sport was played by the people of Greenland in the 1500s, the People of Virginia in the 1600s, and the Australians in the 1880s. In the exact same time, Britain and Ireland played this game in their own unique way. They came up with “mob football”, which was mostly played among local villagers, it’s origins could be described as  lawless and aggressive. Think Roy Keane vs Pat Viera circa 1996.

Modern football, as we know it today, came a few steps closer to its latest form when the upper-class public schools in England started playing and organizing the sport. By the mid-1800s, the Sheffield rules were the most prominent governing code, however, they were replaced with the formation of the Football Association in 1863. (stay with us, we’re going somewhere here).

Ebenezer Cobb Morley led the world’s first Football Association and formulated the unified laws of the sport. The Mid 1800s also witnessed the birth of the first association football clubs including Barnes FC, Sheffield FC, and Cambridge University, along with the formation of the first Non-British team in Switzerland.

The very first Football tournament, The Youdan Cup came into existence in 1867 and was played in Sheffield, Hallam FC became the champion, And after five years, the Football Association Cup came into existence. It is the oldest national football competition and is still in existence. You’ll probably be more familiar with it’s popular name, The FA Cup.

1904 was the year that saw FIFA formed as the organization to govern world football as it rapidly expanded across the globe.

Why do people call football soccer?

Much like the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup is an extraordinary event where only the best and the most promising football players compete, each one proudly representing their country and their people.

Considered to be the most prestigious association football tournament in the world, it is watched by billions of people, with live viewings held in city centers, restaurants, and every other public place imaginable.

The World Cup may be perceived to be a unifying force, however, the game itself has been a source of divisive arguments and debate. Well, not the game itself, but rather its name.

Most of the people from the USA call football “Soccer,” a name frequently met with derision and ridicule in Europe, often perceived to be a symbol of American ignorance. But how exactly did Americans come to refer to football as “Soccer?”

Modern football, which we know today, began in 1863 when England’s Football Association established a set of rules. However, this game had another variation, one considerably more aggressive and forceful, Rugby Football.

Because of this, the one played using the newly-formed organization’s rules became known as “Association Football.” Perhaps inevitably, students from the University of Oxford during the late 19th century shortened these names and turned them into slang terms.

“Rugger” meant Rugby Football while “as soccer” referred to Association Football. Naturally, the latter was further shortened to “Soccer” or “Socker,”. A colloquialism that quickly spread to the local communities beyond the university campus.

However, “Soccer” never really caught on, becoming no more than a nickname in Great Britain. Eventually, Rugby Football became “Rugby” while Association Football earned the right to be called just “Football” given it’s dominance and the clear focus on using your feet to kick a ball.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, another sport emerged in the late 19th century that combined elements of both Rugby and Association Football, ultimately proving to be more popular than the two and taking hold of the fledgling nation.

Thanks to the vertical yard lines that marked the field, this sport was called “Gridiron Football,” a game where players were permitted to touch, throw, and carry the ball with their hands.

The sport’s popularity skyrocketed; however, its name was deemed too much of a mouthful to say, leading to more and more people referring to it by its nickname; Football.

Meanwhile, those who played Association Football started to use the once popular English slang term “Soccer” to differentiate themselves from the other more popular sport. The name stuck, becoming more widespread and more mainstream through the years.

In 1945, the United States Football Association, which had been formed in the 1910s as the official organizing body of Association Football in America, changed its name to the United States Soccer Football Association, later removing “Football” altogether. Because of this, “Soccer” was no longer just a moniker, but rather, the sport’s official name.

It’s important to note that the United States isn’t the only country where the word “Soccer” is used. Nations, where football-like sports are popular, have also adopted the name to refer to Association Football. For instance, Ireland has Gaelic Football, which was derived from the medieval mêlées of Great Britain.

What’s the correct name of the sport?

Since the game came into existence centuries ago and was played in different parts of the world with slightly different rules and styles, it’s almost impossible to give this sport one permanent name. Even these days, the game is often mentioned with different names in different languages by their local fans. Although Football is the most famous and internationally recognizable name, Soccer can be considered as the second most popular name of this sport.


Whatever way you refer to it, though, football or soccer is a sport with a long and colorful history. For centuries, it has brought people of all races, all ages, and all walks of life together. Without a doubt, it will continue to do so for years to come.


Life long Portsmouth Fan and have followed football since 1993. Is there a better sport on earth?

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