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For other usages of the word "football" see: football (word).

The names of association football refer to the terms used to describe the sport most commonly referred to in the English-speaking world as football, or in some countries where it is not the most prominent sport, soccer.



The rules of association football were codified in England by the Football Association in 1863, and the name association football was coined to distinguish the game from the other versions of football played at the time. The word soccer is a colloquial abbreviation of association (from assoc.) and first appeared in the 1880s. The word is sometimes credited to Charles Wreford Brown, an Oxford student said to have been fond of shortened forms such as brekkers for breakfast and rugger for rugby football. (See Oxford -er)

The term association football has never been widely used, although in England some clubs in rugby league strongholds adopted the suffix Association Football Club (AFC) to avoid confusion with the dominant sport in their area.

The longer version of the name, "soccer football", is used less often than it once was. The United States Soccer Federation was known as the United States Soccer Football Association from 1945 until 1974, when it adopted its current name. Some soccer clubs, in Australia for example, still contain the words "soccer football" in their titles. "Football" is used in more countries by more speakers, including more non-native speakers of English, as well as countries where the game is most prominent. The game is also known colloquially as footy/footie and footer in various places. In some countries "soccer" is the most dominant form, the United States being the largest.

English-speaking countries


Use of the words soccer/football in the English-speaking world

Below is a list of countries or territories who hold the English language as an official or de facto official language and the name given to this sport. Included in the list also are places which have some level of autonomy in the sport and their own separate federation but are not actually independent countries: for example with the United Kingdom, the constituent countries and some overseas territories each have their own federation and national team. Not included are places such as Cyprus, where English is widely spoken on the ground but is not amongst the country's specifically stated official languages.


Association football is known as "football" in the majority of countries where English is an official language, such as England, Scotland, Wales, the Commonwealth Caribbean (including Trinidad and Tobago,[1]Jamaica and others), Malta, India, Nigeria, Cameroon, Puerto Rico[2], Pakistan, Liberia, Singapore, Indonesia and others, stretching over many regions including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.

North America

In the United States, American football is the most dominant code of football in the country and the word football in the U.S. is used to refer to that sport. Association football is referred to as soccer.

The sport's governing body is the United States Soccer Federation; however it was originally called the U.S. Football Association, and was formed in 1913 by the merger of the American Football Association and the American Amateur Football Association. The word "soccer" was added to the name in 1945, making it the U.S. Soccer Football Association, and it did not drop the word "football" until 1974, when it assumed its current name. In 2005 the Major League Soccer team Dallas Burn changed its name to Football Club Dallas. In 2009 Seattle Sounders FC also adopted the affix FC, although the words Football Club do not appear in its name.

A similar situation exists in Canada, where the term "football" (or le football in French) refers only to Canadian football or the closely related American game. Even in French-speaking Quebec, the game is known as le soccer and the provincial governing body is the Fédération de Soccer du Québec. This is different from other Francophone countries; for example, in FIFA, a French acronym, the "FA" stands for football association, French for "Association football".

In Central America, the only English-speaking nation is Belize, and like the other six Central American nations, the dominant code is football, used in the Football Federation of Belize and in the Belize Premier Football League.

In the Caribbean, most of the English-speaking members use the code football in their federations and leagues, the exception is the U.S. Virgin Islands, where both federation and league use the code soccer.

The curious case is the bilingual Puerto Rico, where the word football is used in Puerto Rican Football Federation, while the word soccer is used in Puerto Rico Soccer League, the Puerto Rican 1st division, however, its 2nd division is named as Liga Nacional de Futbol de Puerto Rico. Other case is the Dutch island of Sint Marteen, where soccer is used in Sint Maarten Soccer Association, but none football nor soccer appears in its league name.


In Australian English, the word football usually means either Australian rules football or rugby league, depending on the regional background of the speaker. Rugby union, which is not as popular as rugby league in Australia, is also sometimes referred to as "football". Soccer is the name used for Association football by most Australians. The usage of football to mean Australian rules or rugby football was already well-established when the first reports of Association football in Australia occurred, in 1880. However, the popular usages are not fixed in any legal form, such as a trademark on the word "football", and by the late 20th century, a few Australian authorities began to use the word football in relation to soccer. In parts of Australia, the term used for association football is going through a period of transition. In 2005, the Sydney based Australian Soccer Association changed its name to Football Federation Australia (FFA), and announced that the official name of the sport in Australia had been changed to "football" to align with the general international usage of the term.[3] and to reduce the connection of the game's name with ethnic rivalries, a major issue in the past. As part of a large reform of the game, the FFA mounted a campaign for the new name to be adopted by its subsidiary state organizations and clubs, many of whom have changed their names and terminology. This was met with antipathy and bemusement by some. Some of the media outlets in the country that have adopted the new usage of the word football include; the Special Broadcasting Service, Fox Sports, the Sydney Morning Herald and other organisation based in Sydney where Rugby League is the stronger sport.[4][5] Some other media sources adopted the new usage or used qualifiers such as "the World Game", to avoid confusion with the more popular codes of football. The national team is still commonly and officially known by its longstanding nickname, The Socceroos. There is no evidence that popular and media usage has changed from soccer in those areas where Australian Football is the longer established and more popular code.

Les Murray, sports broadcaster and until recently, SBS's Sporting Director, coined the term The World Game when referring to association football. The term is also used as the name of the SBS football series The World Game, currently broadcast on Sunday afternoons.

In New Zealand English, association football is usually called soccer. "Football" usually refers to rugby union, but can also refer to rugby league. However, in 2006, New Zealand's association football governing body decided to scrap the usage of soccer in favour of football, citing; "the international game is called football".[6] In May 2007, the name of the governing body was changed from New Zealand Soccer to New Zealand Football. It is however, considered inappropriate to refer to "football" without supporting context as to which code the speaker means, so as to avoid confusion. Therefore, while it is common for "football" (or the slang term "footy") to be used to refer to rugby union, it is usually not used otherwise.

Other English-speaking countries

In the Republic of Ireland, "football" or "footballer" can refer to association football[7] or Gaelic football.[8][9][10][11][12] They may also refer to rugby union.[13][14]

Similarly to Australia and New Zealand, the association football federation is called the Football Association of Ireland and the top clubs are called "Football Club". Furthermore, those whose primary interest lies in this game often call their sport "football" and refer to Gaelic football as "Gaelic football" or "Gaelic" (although they may also use "soccer"). [15][16][17] "Soccer" is the name used by the overwhelming majority of the country's media.[18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

In South Africa, "soccer" is the more common name, used by all cultural groups when speaking English. The domestic first division is the Premier Soccer League and both in conversation and the media (see e.g. The Sowetan or Independent Online), the term "soccer" is used almost exclusively. Despite this, the country's national association is called the South African Football Association and "football" might occasionally be used in official contexts.

In the Republic of the Philippines, both "soccer" and "football" are used. When used while speaking a Philippine language, the English spellings as well as the more native spellings "saker" and "putbol" are used. "Soccer" is somewhat more commonly used among fans, while "football" is used by bodies such as the Philippine Football Federation.

Non-English speaking countries

Association football, in its modern form, was exported by the British to much of the rest of the world and many of these nations adopted this common English term for the sport into their own language. This was usually done in one of two ways: either by directly importing the word itself, or by translating its constituent parts, foot and ball. Most Romance languages use the word football, albeit with a different pronunciation and sometimes a different spelling: Spanish fútbol or balompié, Portuguese futebol, Romanian fotbal, Galician fútbol, Catalan futbol, and French le football (often shortened to le foot). Similarly, the Russian word is futbol (футбол), the Turkish word is futbol and the Albanian word is futboll. The modern Bulgarian name is futbol (футбол), though the sport was initially called ritnitop (ритнитоп, "kickball") as it was introduced in the 1890s; footballers are still sometimes mockingly called ritnitopkovtsi (ритнитопковци, "ball kickers") today.

In some languages in which a local word is used for the game, the English word "football" is used for American football. This is the case in German, where association football is known as Fußball and the Bundesliga for American football is known as the German Football League.

As in German, the word is usually also calqued in other members of the Germanic family of languages: for example, Dutch: voetbal, Norwegian: fotball, Swedish: fotboll, and Danish: fodbold. In Icelandic, the most common word is the invention knattspyrna (knatt- = ball- and spyrna = kicking), although the calque fótbolti is also used. The standard Afrikaans word for the sport, however, is sokker, echoing the predominant use of "soccer" in South African English.

The Celtic languages frequently use calques, for example Welsh pêl-droed, Breton mell-droad, and Scottish Gaelic ball-coise. Irish, however, uses sacar; as in the case of Afrikaans, this echoes the widespread usage of "soccer" by English speakers in Ireland.

Calques are also used in Finnish (jalkapallo), Estonian (jalgpall), Karelian (jalgamiäččy), Greek (podosfero/ποδόσφαιρο - literally "footsphere"), Arabic (kurat al-qadam/كرة القدم) and Hebrew (kaduregel/כדורגל). In Polish both ways (futbol and piłka nożna) are used, as well as in Czech (fotbal or kopaná (meaning kicking)). Similarly to the Czech language the Lviv-based Ukrainian language before the World War II used have word kopanyi myach (копаний м'яч) for football. The official name in Slovak is futbal (fucík in common language) and in Hungarian there are futball or labdarúgás (meaning ball-kicking), but foci is used in the common language.

In Italy, football is called calcio (translates as kick), from calciare meaning to kick. This is due to the game's resemblance to Calcio Fiorentino, a 16th century ceremonial Florentine court ritual, that has now been revived under the name il calcio storico or calcio in costume (historical kick or kick in costume).

In Serbian, the sport is called fudbal (фудбал).

In Croatian and Slovene, the sport is called nogomet. In Croatian, the word is derived from "noga" (meaning "leg") and "met", which is a suffix derived from the word "metati" (meaning "to sweep"), hence "sweeping the ball using legs". In Slovene, "noga" has the same meaning as in Serbian and Croatian, while "met" means "throw", hence "throwing (the ball) with legs".

The Georgian name, pekhburti (ფეხბურთი), is a direct calque of "football", being derived from the words for foot, pekhi (ფეხი) and ball, burti (ბურთი).

In Japan, because of American influence following World War II, use of the term sakkā (サッカー) is more common than that of the term futtobōru (フットボール). While the Japan Football Association uses the word "football" in its official English name, the Association's Japanese name uses sakkā. Before the war, the Sino-Japanese derived term shūkyū (蹴球, literally "kick-ball") was in common use, but as with many kanji-derived terms, it quickly fell by the wayside following the war.

In Korea, the Sino-Korean derived term chukgu (蹴球 축구 [tɕʰuk͈ːu]) is used.

In Chinese, the term 足球 (Hanyu Pinyin: zúqiú, Cantonese: juk kau) is used. The term, a calque, literally means football (=foot, =ball), and is always associated with association football. Rugby is known as ganlanqiu (橄榄球, olive ball). American football can be referred to as a type of zuqiu, but it is more commonly seen as a type of ganlanqiu.

In Thai, the word football (ฟุตบอล) is used.

In Turkish, the word football (futbol) is used.

In Vietnamese, the term "bóng đá" is used to denote "football". Its literal meaning is "kicking ball".

In Malay, the sport is called "bola sepak" which is a combination of the words ball (bola) and kick (sepak), while in Indonesia, the term, "sepak bola" is use. Both literally means kick ball but it is translated to "football" in English. The word "soccer" is rarely used in these two countries.[citation needed]

Aside from the name of the game itself, other foreign words based on English football terms include versions in many languages of the word goal (often gol in Romance languages) and schútte (Basel) or tschuutte (Zürich), derived from the English shoot, meaning 'to play football' in German-speaking Switzerland. Also, words derived from kick has found their way into German (noun Kicker) and Swedish (verb kicka). In France le penalty means a penalty kick, however the phrase tir au but is often used in the context of a penalty shootout. In Brazilian Portuguese, due to the pervading presence of football in Brazilian culture, many words related to the sport have found their way into everyday language, including the verb chutar (from shoot) - which originally meant "to kick a football", but is now the most widespread equivalent of the English verb "to kick". In Bulgaria penalty kick is called duzpa (дузпа, from french words douze pas - twelve steps).

In the first half of the 20th century, in Spanish and Portuguese, new words were created to substitute "football", balompié (balón and pie meaning "ball" and "foot") and ludopédio (from words meaning "game" and "foot") respectively. However, these words never replaced "football" and are now only used in club names such as Real Betis Balompié and Albacete Balompié.

See also

  • Association football - an overview of the history and development of the sport
  • Football - the history and development of all seven main codes of football.

References and notes

  1. ^ The nickname of the Trinidad & Tobago national team, "The Soca Warriors", refers to a style of music.
  2. ^ For example Puerto Rico Islanders Football Club
  3. ^ Soccer to become football in Australia ( December 17, 2004) "ASA chairman Frank Lowy said the symbolic move would bring Australia into line with the vast majority of other countries which call the sport football".
  4. ^ "The World Game - Craig Foster". SBS Sport. 8 January 2008. 
  5. ^ "Football raises voice over competing din". Sydney Morning Herald. 8 January 2008. 
  6. ^ NZ Football - The Local Name Of The Global Game ( April 27, 2006) "The international game is called football and were part of the international game so the game in New Zealand should be called football".
  7. ^ "U2: Put 'em Under Pressure. Republic of Ireland Football Squad. FIFA World Cup song.". Retrieved 20 February 2010. "Cause Ireland are the greatest football team." 
  8. ^ "DCU footballers". Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  9. ^ "French invasion of Croker mirrors our historical past". Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  10. ^ Irish News UK - News from the Irish Community in Britain
  11. ^ Pepsi Summer Soccer Schools launched - Summer Camps 2008 -
  12. ^ - Much done... lots more to do, says FAI Chief Executive John Delaney
  13. ^ "O'Sullivan wary of Paterson ploy". Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  14. ^ "History of Skerries RFC". Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  15. ^ Irish News UK - News from the Irish Community in Britain
  16. ^ Pepsi Summer Soccer Schools launched - Summer Camps 2008 -
  17. ^ - Much done... lots more to do, says FAI Chief Executive John Delaney
  18. ^ Sports News Ireland | Irish Sport News | Daily Sport News | Herald Sport -
  19. ^ Ireland Sports News & Latest Soccer, Rugby, GAA & Racing News Headlines -
  20. ^
  21. ^ Sport News |
  22. ^ RTÉ Sport: Irish and International Sport News, Fixtures and Results
  23. ^ The Munster Express Online » Sports
  24. ^ Evening Echo | Cork News | Cork Sport News

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