Do you like football? Or do you like soccer?


I’ve been travelling the world for many years and there seems to be a consistent pattern everywhere. When I meet many people for the first time one of the first things they ask me is “Do you like soccer?” At times I respond with “Do you mean “Do you like football?””

Do you like Football?

Do you like Football?

Photo credit: Two football players by Val Thoermer on Shutterstock

I’ll explain why.

Why I say do you like football

It is with great annoyance that I hear people of other nations refer to our beloved game as “soccer”! Let me set the record straight, it is not soccer, it is “football” and don’t you forget it. To add insult to injury, it is not an annoyance just delivered by the Americans; Australians use the term soccer since they refer to football as being either Australian Rules Football or Rugby Football League, depending upon which State you are in. The Irish also use the term “soccer” since for them football is Gaelic Football.

Such wild and careless uses of the word are certainly confusing and no good for anyone. What use would it be if I had a bowl of fruit and referred to all its contents as being lemons. Surely you would dispute this and tell me that there are indeed apples, oranges, bananas, clementine, strawberries and grapes in there? Yet I would frustrate you by calling them all by a generic name of “lemon”. And so it is with football, the term soccer is derogatory and an insult to followers of the one true game, indeed the world game. I put it to you that Association Football (“football”) is the original and the best. What are we going to have next, hockey, water polo all claiming to be “football” since they are played with a ball of some sort? Please.

As a way to prove the point just look at the governing bodies, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) translates as International Federation of Association of Football, not International Federation of Soccer (IFS or FIS).

Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) also makes no reference to “soccer” in its official title.

Whilst I have grown to appreciate and become a fan of American Football it is not football per se. I now find American Football/NFL an exciting sport and am now a fan of one of the professional teams, but please do not insult my intelligence by claiming that a sport where the ball rarely touches a foot is actually “football”. Likewise with either code of rugby, there is not a significant level of contact between foot and ball although potentially more so than the NFL game.

American Football or NFL - What an American thinks when you ask do you like football?

American Football or NFL

Photo credit: Beto Chagas on Shutterstock

Gaelic and Australian rules of football maybe have more valid claim to such a title, but it is not true football is it?

Ask an Australian in Victoria “Do you like football?” and you’ll likely get a very different response to asking someone in Queensland.

Let’s look at the facts shall we? By simply using the source of Wikipedia (as written in 2009) it was easy to ascertain the following:

Football (also known as Association Football) has scientific evidence dating back to the 2nd and 3rd century BC in China with a game also known as “cuju”. The modern game was developed following a codifying of the rules in 1863. This occurred in England hence the affection held by the English who call their country the home of football. Note the popular Euro 1996 anthem “Three Lions on the shirt” which featured the line “it’s coming home, football’s coming home”. “Soccer” is a colloquial abbreviation from the full name of as-soc-iation football.

I also like the text in Wikipedia (as was in 2009) which sums it up perfectly so much that I will quote it word for word here:-

In the United Kingdom, the usage of the term “soccer” is sometimes viewed as being derogatory, or an example of American culture being forced onto the rest of the world. Therefore, although the word “soccer” would be an unambiguous title for this article, there would be discontent from Britons who object to their word for the sport being ignored.”

American Football also known as NFL (National Football League) is believed to be a spin off from early versions of modern day rugby. The modern game is believed to have developed from early versions of the game played in schools around Europe long before the Americas were discovered. Records indicate games being played in Virginia in the 17th century.

The modern game can be traced to 1873 when the first set of intercollegiate rules was drawn up. In spite of this, the physical nature of the game came to the fore by 1905 when there were 19 deaths within the game. The consequences of this were rule changes, most notably the forward pass which is an essential part of the modern game.

Collingwood v Freemantle in Australian Rules Football

Collingwood v Freemantle in Australian Rules Football

Photo credit: Neale Cousland on

AFL, also known as Aussie Rules Football has confirmed existence from 1858 with football laws being written in 1859. There are claims that the game has links with a sport played by Aborigines known as Marn Grook.

Gaelic Football, famously played in Ireland is believed to be one of the oldest sports in the world, even though I’ve been told that it was developed as part of a protest against British rule. Early records refer back to 1308 although modern day versions of the game can be traced back to 1887 when a formal set of rules were drawn up.

Gaelic Football and other symbols of Ireland

Gaelic Football and other symbols of Ireland

Photo credit: Basheera Designs on Shutterstock

Rugby Union is famously attributed to William Webb Ellis who is alleged to have shown rebellion against football (Association Football) and picked up the ball during a game and started running with it in 1823. The sport also lays claim to the oldest football club of any code in Dublin University Football Club founded in 1854.

Rugby League (aka Rugby Football League) which is my preferred version of rugby famously developed following a row over professionalism with rugby union. The first set of rules was drawn up in Huddersfield, England on 29th August 1895. A similar thing happened in Australia in 1908. (This is all a little ironic since rugby union has now moved to a professional sport in recent times.) The two codes exist independently with Union more of a global game than League. Supporters of both codes can argue vehemently as to which is the better code; one thing is for sure though, those who follow their code feel passionately about it.

Hull FC v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats rugby league match 04052014

Hull FC v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats rugby football league match 4th May 2014

I have tried to search for some viewing figures to establish the highest TV viewing figures for these sports. The Guardian Media claims that in 2004 the Euro 2004 Final between Greece and Portugal attracted a global audience of 153 million, whilst the Super Bowl that year had an audience of 95 million. (The 2004 Olympic Games opening ceremony attracted 127 million.)

It is claimed that the 2006 World Cup final attracted an audience of 260 million on average, with more than 600 million watching the match at some point. The 260 million is more than double that of the Super Bowl. claims that the 2012 Super Bowl between NY Giants and the New England Patriots had a TV audience of around 111.5 million people.

My research has found that the most watched AFL match was the 1996 Grand Final between Sydney and the Kangaroos which averaged 3.6 million. Viewing figures for rugby league are more difficult to come by, it is claimed that rugby league coverage in England (mainly on Sky Sports – a subscription service) reach the top 10 rankings of viewing events on Sky Sports with audiences in excess of 250,000. As a sport it is mainly regionalised as a professional sport in the north of England and the states of New South Wales and Queensland in Australia (although it does have participants in other areas of the world). As a regionalised sport it is never able to compete on a global stage for viewing figures.

The Rugby Union World Cup Final of 2007 attracted an audience of 14.883 million in the UK. Global viewing figures are difficult to find, yet again as a regionalised sport it is not likely to challenge for top spot in viewing figures.

I have been unable to locate top viewing figures for Gaelic Football, however since it is mainly a sport attracting attention on the Emerald Isle it would be massive shock to all concerned if the viewing figures even came close to the Rugby Union World Cup Final never find the football version.

My football clubs - do you like football?

My favourite “football” clubs:- Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Liverpool FC (Football), Wakefield Trinity Wildcats (Rugby League)

So I put it to you that there is no such thing as “soccer” and stop insulting me, my nation and the followers of the game. It is football, the original and the best. The facts speak for themselves. So please, don’t ask “Do you like soccer?” Instead, I want to ask you “Do you like football?”

(This is a revised version of an article I wrote in 2009.)



  1. says

    I actually think that you put a very strong case forward for ‘soccer’ being called ‘soccer’ and football, the successful Australian and Irish popular ones, being called football. Regardless I like ‘soccer’ and I hope we Australians kick …..

    • says

      Hi Paula, I think the universal use of the term “football” across various codes is misleading and regionalised. This leads to confusion as the world becomes smaller and smaller. I think that if we stuck to the origins of the games and applied a logical and literal interpretation then the sport which uses a foot as the majority point of contact should be called “football”.

      I love rugby league but cringe when I hear people refer to it as “football” or “footie”.

  2. says

    Glad to see the Falcons is one of your favorite teams! Being American, you just simply can’t say “football” in the US or everyone will think you’re talking about American football. Therefore, the word soccer comes to use. I understand football is older than American football, but you have to realize that the name of American football will never change. In Brazil, they differentiate the two by saying “futebol” and “futebol americano” and we seem to have no problems communicating, and they don’t seem to mind calling it soccer when speaking English. If I’m talking to someone whose from a country that calls it football, I say that word, because it’s correct. However, if speaking to an American or Australian, you’ll just have to explain and laugh it off if they don’t say it like you want them to!

    • says

      Hi Hannah, many thanks for sharing your experiences and commenting. It is true that I’ll never be able to change the way things are.

      I have conviction in my views on this but as you say have to accept that the term “football” has taken on various meanings depending on where you are in the world.

  3. says

    Well, Guy, I think you’re a bit harsh! We “international men” ought to be flexible enough to change our term to accommodate our audience! No? For most audiences I use your preferred definition; for Americans I use “football” to mean American Football (which is not limited to the NFL, of course). For Australians in general I don’t use “football” at all, because it’s too confusing. Instead I say “Aussie Rules” (which I regard as boring), “footie” to mean Rugby League, and “Union” to mean the other, less skillful, code; and, yes, “soccer” to mean *your* football.

    For several years as a boy and young man I lived in Toowoomba in Queensland, the heart of that state’s Rugby League. What a joy that was to watch in those days! An interesting sidelight on the game was that our local ground was named after a 1920s footie legend who went by the name “Nigger” Brown. Not exactly politically correct, was it? I wrote half a blog about it in May of 2013, which is available in my Archives under the provocative title “The story of ‘Nigger Brown'”.

    • says

      Hi Gordon, great to see you again :-) Maybe a few people feel I’m being harsh. I just see it as a situation which has grown through various factors. In modern times the factors are maybe more lazy slang and confusion created by regional terminology.

      I share your views and sentiment on 3 sport codes you mention for Australia. :-) Do you follow a professional NRL team?

      As for your interesting article on a former local hero it is interesting how names/phrases go in and out of fashion and political correctness. The name you refer to was also used in the original Dambusters film. For the remake it had to be changed to keep up with modern political correctness.

  4. says

    I’m a girl and I don’t know much about football and soccer, but I’m gonna enjoy the World Cup on TV here in China! 😀 Soccer or football who cares :P…

    • says

      Hi Agness, I hope you enjoy watching the games. As the biggest televised sporting event in the world the people it connects with is overwhelming.

      I know of guys who hate football and girls who love it. Definitely not a gender stereotype thing at all :-)

  5. says

    I’m an NFL football fan and rarely watch soccer. Sorry, but I just find it an incredibly boring sport. I know I’m not going to win any fans here with my opinion. I’m not even watching the world cup. Funny thing is that I played goalie on my high school team, and played rugby in college.

    Now hockey on the other hand is non-stop action and the Stanley Cup playoffs were great.

    • says

      Hey Phil, the question is are you a fan of the Jets or the Giants? :-)

      No problem at all about not being a fan of the round ball game, each to their own. If we all liked the same thing then life could be quite dull.

      It sounds like you are a real lover of sport and the ones you mention are well served within the US.

  6. says

    I’m an Australian and I call the game ‘football’. In recent years, particularly since the start of the A-League about 9 years ago, there has been a huge shift in what people call the game. Everyone used to call it soccer, even those who played it like me. But in recent times a lot of people now call it football. Sure there’s still the majority who call either AFL or NRL ‘football’, but the tide is turning. But the point isn’t whether people call it soccer or football, I think the point is you need to take a chill pill. Don’t get angry and upset, you’re a traveller, you’re supposed to go with the flow and adapt. Watch the World Cup, enjoy the spectacle, and accept that different nationalities will have different names for all sorts of things, not just the world game. GO SOCCEROOS!!!

    • says

      Hi Chris, many thanks for the feedback. I must admit that to date I haven’t yet picked up the reference to “football” for the round ball game in Australia just yet. I do visit frequently so I’m sure I’ll see it soon.

      I’ve actually attended a couple of A-League finals, firstly Melbourne Victory 6 Adelaide United 0 (wow what a match that was!). Plus more recently I saw the final which Sydney won on penalties over the victory.

      As for your chill pill comment, this article is filed in the “Rants” section of this website and the site is also labelled as “The rants, ramblings and ruminations of a frequent traveller”. The point I’m making is that if people use this term so loosely and to encapsulate so many different things it causes confusion. I think with less confusion the world will be a better place. Whether that be football or more important things in life.

      Many thanks for reading.

  7. says

    I’m American, and I live in England now. In this country, I usually refer to the world’s most popular sport as “football.” But sometimes, I use terms soccer and football interchangeably. I know the world “soccer” was invented by the British but the word doesn’t sound natural when spoken by a British person. By the way, American should be referred to as “passball” in my opinion.

    • says

      Many thanks Rashaad. It is true that it sounds weird to hear a Brit say “soccer”. Sadly some of the UK media is now falling into this trap and it could be a slippery slope! 😉

      “Passball” I love it! I might try it out whilst I’m in the US and see what reaction I get 😉

  8. says

    Hi Guy, I know what you mean. It makes me cringe when I hear football being referred to as soccer however, I work in a British-American company so I’ll accept either, depending whom I’m talking to. If it’s a European – football is the word we use, if it’s a North-American, we use the word soccer so that they know what we mean. As for as my clients are concerned: the customer is always right LOL!
    P:S. I used to play both hockey at school and football at university. Now I do neither, and just enjoy the game hoping that Germany and England don’t meet as my house will be a divided one, with my husband on the German side and myself on the English side. Gulp!

    • says

      Hi Victoria, yes I think it is a shame that one word cannot have a universal meaning when it refers to something everyone can relate to. I fear it is a situation us Brits will never succeed in changing.

      As for Germany v England, well they often seem to meet in tournaments and the Germans certainly have a good record against us. It also puts a silver lining on a cloud since after today I don’t think they’ll be meeting each other in this World Cup!

  9. says

    ill never understand why brits get their panties in a wad about this one since you guys coined the term and introduced it to us lol :) it is like me getting annoyed that brits say ‘niyk’ instead of ‘nik-e’ when it comes to a sports brand. i dont care lol :) i wouldnt worry too much about it :):)

    • says

      Hey Megan,

      The Brits (and indeed many nations) are very passionate about football. When we see other nations (Australia, the US) use the term for another sport where there is minimal contact between foot and ball it just seems perverse. Insulting almost.

      It’s like a Brit calling baseball as “rounders” or American Football as “throw ball”. I’m sure it wouldn’t go down well with the passionate fans of those games.

      Association Football, from which the term “soccer” is derived does use the term football. Also if the world governing body of the sport, FIFA, uses the term Football in their name as opposed to soccer I think there is some credence in people being a little upset.

      As for “Nike”, I guess that is a pronunciation thing. A bit like we Brits pronounce “shed-u-al” for schedule and the US says “sked-u-al”. However to use the term “soccer” as opposed to “football” is a conscious choice of an alternative word as opposed to pronunciation.

      • says

        But truthfully, I wouldn’t care what anyone else called american football :) In Norway and other countries, they call basketball ‘basket’. Doesn’t offend me in the slightest :):) Perhaps just a cultural difference here!

        • says

          Hi Megan, some people I guess are more sensitive to these things than others. I think if you find very passionate people about a sport you might find them less willing to accept an alternative name. After all it is something they are passionate about.


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