The Fascinating History of Football: Why is it Called Football?

Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, and its history is as fascinating as the game itself. Linguistically creative students at Oxford University in the 1880s distinguished between the sports of “rugby” (rugby football) and “assoccer” (association football). The latter term was further shortened to “football” (sometimes spelled “socker”), and the name quickly spread beyond campus. At the beginning of the 19th century in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game.

But in 1863, the Football Association was formed to codify the rules of football so that aristocratic children from different schools could play against each other. In 1871, the Rugby Football Union followed suit. The two sports were officially known as Rugby Football and Association Football. Those new rules were slow to spread to the United States, where another version of the game was evolving, one that the rest of the world now knows as “football”, and is played in the NFL.

On Twitter, this pride is manifested, in part, in the old tradition (at least since the 1980s) of criticizing the word football. Americans adopted the term football to distinguish it from football. To understand why American football is so called, examine the game of rugby. Rugby spread as quickly as the British Empire in recent centuries, but the rules of the game were interpreted differently in various parts of the world.

It was a reconstruction era game between Harvard and Yale that gave rise to football. The original founders decided to adopt the name “football” from “rugby football”, since “football” was not quite widespread in the US. Moreover, at this time, the British still called the game “football” as well. Essentially, a modern form of rugby was adopted by Americans in the 19th century, and instead of conforming to English tradition, Americans grew this new flavor of rugby into a Sunday favorite in American autumns.

Both football-style football and rugby-style football have finally found their way to the United States. What resulted was an American combination of the two games. It was until much later (190) that the forward pass was allowed. Because the American game was really just another form of European football games, it was also known as football.

Since the 1960s, with the waning influence of the British upper class, football has dominantly supplanted football. Of the 45 national affiliates of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) in which English is an official or main language, 43 use football in the official names of their organizations (Canada and the United States use football). In Canada, football refers to Canadian football or American football, often differentiated as CFL (from Canadian Football League) or NFL (from US National Football League). However, in countries where another variety of football was already popular, such as United States and Australia, the name football remained.

Over time, British had abandoned word “football” for football because word was too American in 1980s. Handball, football or hockey; racing and cockfighting, or other similar idle games suggest that football differed from games involving other parts of body. This includes first football club Sheffield FC and oldest governing body Football Association. There is different situation in New South Wales, Queensland and ACT where rugby union or rugby league are more popular and football can refer to those codes.

Football leagues such as Premier League and La Liga are some of biggest sports leagues in world. Within Australia term football is ambiguous and can mean up to four different football codes in Australian English depending on context, geographical location and cultural factors; this includes association football, Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union. Another variant became known as association football after Football Association was formed to promote game in 1863; 15 years after rules were made at Cambridge. Because similarity between games many people in both countries do not consider two styles field football to be separate sports per se but rather different codes same sport which has shared origin game Harvard vs McGill played 1874 credited with creation this sport.

This coincidence is reflected auxiliary languages Esperanto and Interlingua which use football and football, respectively.

Wanda Lobdell
Wanda Lobdell

Professional food expert. Total sushi scholar. Lifelong social media practitioner. Certified food buff. General pop culture fanatic.

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