Sunday, June 20, 2010

Origins: The word Soccer

In medieval days when the aristocracy and upper classes in England took part in indoor games and rode horses for sport, the poor old peasants had to make do with ball games and the like. However even that joy was taken from them when, in 1424, the king forbade men partaking in “fut ball” on pain of a 4 penny fine. This is the first recorded use of the term “foot ball” but the word referred not to a foot kicking a ball but to any games played on foot. In some cases the word "football" was used to refer to games where a ball was used but kicking was banned, as in one description in 1825 of a game called Football:
The game was this: he who at any time got the ball into his hands, run [sic] with it till overtaken by one of the opposite part; and then, if he could shake himself loose from those on the opposite side who seized him, he run on; if not, he threw the ball from him, unless it was wrested from him by the other party, but no person was allowed to kick it.
In 1863 the Football Association was formed in England. This Association of 11 clubs standardised the rules, one such rule being that the carrying of the ball was not permitted. This established the biggest practical difference between Association Football and Rugby Football.

Enter Charles Wreford Brown, an Oxford student, who is credited with responsibility for the word “soccer”. Brown always preferred shortened versions of words, such as brekkers for breakfast, or rugger for rugby. Brown took the last syllable from Football Assoc. (and may have taken the "a" at the beginning and transferred it to the end), and began referring to the game as soccer, as distinct from rugger. Originally the word was spelt differently: in 1889 the word was "socca", it was "socker" in 1891 and finally seemed to settle on "soccer" by 1895.

Soccer became more popular in the US later than in most other countries. Having already a form of football with which that word was associated, the Americans formed the "United States Soccer Football Association" in 1945. In 1974 it changed the name the "United States Soccer Federation". This usage in America, whereby the term soccer distinguished that code from other football games, encouraged a similar usage in other countries, unlike England where the term “football: means only soccer.

"Soccer is hooligans acting like gentlemen, Rugby Union is gentlemen acting like hooligans and Rugby League is hooligans acting like hooligans."

- Sergeant Pascoe in English cop show Dalziel and Pascoe

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