Looks like we can blame the British!
Why does America call Football Soccer?
Football or Fußball got its name in the mid 1860s. A version of the game, kicking the ball into a goal, had been around since the Middle Ages. But by the mid-1800s, rules were being established, and the game was played by upper-class English kids at posh schools. They couldn’t keep saying “let’s go play that game where you kick a ball into a goal” (it’s much too lunky a name), and besides, teams were being formed to play against opposing schools. They needed a name, and there needed to be some rules regulations… (like “no intentionally kicking the other guy in the shins”).
So one night a bunch of team leaders got together and came up with a list of rules… and they called their sport Association Football. They didn’t just call it Football, because there was this other similar sport called Rugby Football, and they needed to keep the two clearly separated.
Now, it is apparently very British to call something by a shortened form of the name. Over time, Rugby Football came to be called Rugger… and (for reasons known only to the guy who did it first) Association Football was shortened to Soccer. (I wonder if it was pronounced Sosser at any point?)
Time moves forward a bit….
So, Why Do Americans Call Football Soccer?
In England, the term “Soccer Football” was fairly common. Still, when the game traveled across the Ocean to the United States, the word Football got dropped. America already HAD a game called Football (interestingly enough, the game was called Gridiron in England). And since the English understood what was meant by Soccer, it stuck.
Funny part, over time, the word Soccer started to slowly disappear from the British vocabulary. This coincided with the rise of Soccer popularity in the United States. (Could they POSSIBLY have been a little jealous of the US success at the sport? Hard to believe). By the 1980s, just over 100 years since the sport was officially recognized, the word Soccer stopped being used, and now it is Football exclusively.
Why do Germans Call if Fußball?
Legend has it that in 1874 August Hermann and Konrad Koch organized the first Fußball Game in Braunschweig, after August brought home a ball that he picked up in England. (I know they were adults, but I have this mental image of a kid racing out to meet his friend with a new ball). Shortly thereafter, the first club, the Dresden English Football Club was founded by expat English workers in Germany. Since they apparently didn’t play Rugby or Gridiron in Germany… all they used for the name was Football or Fußball. And the game spread in popularity until in 1900, 86 German Clubs came together to form the DFB -Deutscher Fußball Bund (German Football Association).
Looking for More Fußball/Football/Soccer History?
Here are some of the books I have on my shelves….
The Ball is Round: A Global History of SoccerTor!: The Story of German FootballThe Illustrated History of FootballMen in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America’s Sport of the Future Since 1972
You can also find great Books and Movies about Soccer and the World Cup at Target
Including some fun books for Kids!
Click HERE–> World Cup Soccer