More on that word “Soccer”

In pursuit of something quite different, I came across the following.

In New Zealand and Australia, “soccer” has been the most common usage since the early part of the twentieth century. In 2005, the game was relaunched in Australia as “football” and the nickname for the national side, the “Socceroos” was expected (by the relevant bureaucrats, of course) to fade away. Naturally, that hasn’t happened, and the nickname is once more appearing on official websites, merchandize and so on. In May 2007, the governing body of New Zealand football, “New Zealand Soccer”, was renamed “New Zealand Football.”

In the United States, however.. the “US Football Association” didn’t include the word “Soccer” in its title until 1945, and didn’t drop the “Football” until 1974. Early US associations overwhelmingly used “Football” e.g. the American League of Professional Football, which was founded in 1894. Some regional leagues did use “Soccer” before World War II.

(This came about as a result of musing over how Commonwealth countries picked up some of our sporting inventions – cricket, rugby, tennis – but it was south and central Europe and America that picked up football. There’s no single answer to why this should be, although it evidently is. Football was actually quite a late developer – recognisable rugby had a 10-20 year head start, and cricket much more: the sports picked up by Commonwealth countries seem to relate to what was popular in Britain at the time of first colonization. And, football seems to have favoured areas experiencing the growth of heavy industry and mining specifically).


3 Replies to “More on that word “Soccer””

  1. On the question of why football started where it did, there is an interesting theory postulated by David Goldblatt in “The Ball is Round”. The argument is essentially a class one; football spread to the third world simply because it was spread by our working classes (via, as you point out, industry and trading routes) to theirs. Cricket and rugby, by contrast, were played by the English middle and upper classes, and were therefore spread to the countries where they dominated; the Indian subcontinent and Australasia in particular.

  2. Yes, although Goldblatt has his own, specifically political, agenda when writing about football. He WANTS to make a class distinction, and, IMHO, excludes evidence to the contrary.

    Rugby has never been a predominantly middle class sport in the north of England or in Wales, both industrial areas. And it took the damage done in the ’80s to state school sport to begin the ghettoization of cricket; again, the northern professional leagues tell another story. My state school, at the end of the seventies, taught me football, rugby (both union and league!), cricket, tennis, hockey, basketball and athletics. And gymnastics, and swimming. No big surprise when we won the Beeb’s “We Are The Champions!” competition…

    The names and backgrounds of the men we know took the game to Europe and South America are middle and lower middle class: teachers, mining engineers, self-made businessmen. Which is as you’d expect: getting out to e.g. Brazil takes money and risk, the two things the industrial working class couldn’t hazard.

  3. When my father was skipper of our local rugby club he had a bright idea. He persuaded a couple of fishermen to swap from football. Those chaps hauled nets by hand and their upper body strength, and eye for a ball, made them fine front row forwards.

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