In America, we call football soccer, and in most other countries we call soccer football. It’s an old discussion as to why this happens, so let’s give a brief overview of why it’s called soccer in some places in the first place.
The funny thing about the whole discussion is that the term actually originated in England, where the world’s most popular sport was invented.
Back in the 1880’s something, the two most popular sports were Rugby Football, which was shortened to “Rugger” by Oxford students, and Association Football, which was shortened to “Assoccer.” It’s from this shortening that the word soccer was derived.
When a new sport emerged In America originally called “Gridiron Football“, many Americans didn’t bother with the first word and simply called it football.
In order to distinguish American Association Football and Gridiron Football, the sports were called football and soccer respectively.
So what countries call football soccer as well because of the distinction being made between two competing forms of football?
Countries That Use The Word Soccer:
- United States – The most famous variation of Association football is played in America and is simply referred to as American football. It’s a variation of the rugby game that grew in popularity in the States much faster, hence Association Football has simply been called soccer and American Football was hence simply called football.
- Canada – Being just north of the United States, It’s logical that American football grew in popularity at the same pace as with their neighbors. So the conclusion is simply that the major sport played started being called football, and the less popular sport soccer.
- Australia – “Australian Rules Football” or simple “Australian Football” is being played by nearly 1.5 Million Australians in over 25,000 clubs. It’s the biggest spectator sport in Australia, meaning it’s simply referred to as football. Association football is called soccer in Australia and their national team is even called the Socceroos, a combination of soccer and the kangaroo.
- New Zealand – Rugby is the most popular sport in New Zealand, and for a long time, football was associated with Rugby. With increasing news coverage of soccer from all over the world and the increase in interest in the sport, this distinction isn’t made anymore by most people in New Zealand. Association football is still called soccer though.
- Ireland – Similar to Australian Football, Ireland have their own football game called Gaelic football. It’s played in over 2,500 clubs in the country and is mostly referred to as simply football. This is the reason why many Irish people call association football soccer.
- Japan – In Japan, the word soccer (sakkā) is more commonly used than the word football (futtobōru). This is rather strange as the national association of soccer is called the “Japan Football Association” and several clubs have FC in their club name, such as FC Tokyo for example. The distinction between soccer and football came after World War II and most Japanese people refer to the word soccer when it comes to association football.
- South Africa – Football was introduced to South Africa through colonialism in the late 19th century and was an all-white sport up until 1991, when the first non-racial association football body was formed, the South African Soccer Association. Up until now, South Africans call association football soccer.
- South Part Of Philippines – Another country in which colonialism determines how the game is being called, is the Philippines. Interestingly enough, different parts of the country call association football either football or soccer, depending on Spanish or American colonial influence.
- Papua New Guinea – The reason association football is being called soccer in Papua New Guinea is because the two most popular sports being Rugby and Australian Football. To make the distinction, the people in this country call association football soccer.
As you can see, it’s not just Americans that use the term soccer. About 9 countries use the term as well to define the game originally called association football.
What Is Football Called Around The World?
But there’s more.
Did you know that football is even called something else in many other countries all around the world?
We found a map over in the soccer subreddit which clearly shows what football is called in every country:
As you can see, in Italy the beautiful game is called “Calcio”, in some Balkan countries it’s called “Nogomet” and in Indonesia, it’s called “Sepak Bola.”
I do have a feeling John Cleese (even though he is arguably a comedic genius) didn’t know exactly why the sport is called this way when he made this video:
So whenever this discussion comes up again, perhaps you can simply ask if they prefer “Rugger” or “Assoccer”?