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?””
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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. Top5.com 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.
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.)