What is the origin of the word soccer? I know that this is a touchy term to use, especially for the purists of the game, but you may be surprised to discover that it was actually the original term for the world game. That’s right. The origin of the word soccer predated the singular word of football, and by quite a few years too.
How many football fans around the world become infuriated when Americans and others call football soccer? It’s almost as if they are speaking another language, and degrading the game by incorrectly pronouncing football. If you are one of those, and you are peeved at the title we have used, prepare for a huge shock. The first recorded use of the word soccer actually predated the first recorded use of the word football by 18 years.
Football, in one way or another, has been played all around the world for about 1000 years. Essentially the same game, each region had a slightly different set of rules. Even in England, where some regions would play a noncontact sport using only feet, and others would play a full contact game where you could handle the ball. While all forms were popular in their own right, the lack of consistent rules made it difficult for players from different regions to fully understand what was actually happening. Something had to be done.
On October 26th, 1863, a group of teams in England got together and decided to standardize a set of rules for the game played with feet. These teams formed the rules for “Association Football,” setting it apart from other popular football games such as Rugby Football, now a different code. So where does soccer fit into all of this?
The name actually began to form almost immediately, and thanks to school children. Boys in 1863, just as they do now, “liked to use nicknames, as if the true name is too difficult to pronounce. One trait that they liked in particular to use was to add an “er” sound to the end of words. They would call Rugby Rugged, and Association Football Assoccer. Before long the A and S were dropped from the beginning of the word on favour of the much more simpler Soccer.
Initially the game was not popular with the lower echelons of society, being played by only by the gentlemen class. But that wasn’t to last. The popularity of the game quickly spread throughout the working classes of the world, and they adopted the word Football. The first recorded use of the game being called only Football in its singular name, not Association Football was in 1881, some 18 years after the first use of Soccer as its name.
The reason the game is called soccer in some countries and not football is all due to name similarities with already popular sporting games played in those countries. Countries such as America, Australia, Canada, and South Africa already had codes called football, so to avoid confusion soccer is the commonly used name.
There is a legend that the word soccer was started by Charles Wredford Brown, who was a student at Oxford around the same time that the Association regulated its rules. Legend has it that one day some friends asked him if he wanted to play some rugger, to which he responded that he preferred soccer. Although it’s only speculation that he coined the word, it does fit in with the timeline of events.