Soccer is not a new word for football

The word soccer is not new

Some people can get very sniffy if you use the word soccer. Very sniffy indeed. And there’s no point trying to tell them that the game you played as a kid was called soccer and not football.

It’s American, they’ll tell you. American soccer moms and hot-dogs on the bleachers. Before you know it they’ll want four quarters in our game of, that’s right, Football.

There’s no point in suggesting that the word soccer has the same linguistic origins as the word rugger, originating in English public schools as contractions of rugby football and association football.

No. It’s American. Nobody ever called Football soccer before the Americans started doing it.

Oh, really?

Nobody at all?

How about Jimmy “The Chin” Hill, presenter of Match of the Day and champion of professional footballers’ rights?

soccer jimmy hill

How about Kevin Keegan, captain of England, star of Liverpool and Scunthorpe?

soccer kevin keegan

How about Raich Carter, who played his first game for Sunderland in 1931?

raich carter soccer star

All American soccer moms, no doubt.

But if you don’t believe Jimmy Hill, Kevin Keegan and Raich Carter, do you think a company like Subbuteo would have marketed a board game based on the name of a sport nobody recognised?

soccer subbuteo

All right. It’s still a conspiracy dreamed up by people who wouldn’t know a soccer ball from a burst ball-bag.  Maybe we should turn to historical documentaries.

Here’s one from British Pathé newsreel of the Irish Soccer Derby of 1927.

Pathe Irish soccer derby 1927

British Pathé, you say? British? But … but …


Let me leave you with this clip from a newspaper I found recently when a friend was renovating an old building.

This 1935 article is in the Sunday Pictorial, as the Sunday Mirror used to be known.

Sunday Pictorial 1935 soccer

American, you say?



soccer jimmy hill


soccer by searchlight 1920

6 thoughts on “Soccer is not a new word for football

  1. Never occurred to me to think it was an Americanism. I knew it was soccer (as well as football) from my early days (1950s). What did come as news to me in my teens was that American football was not real football. There again our football is really “foot and head ball”, whereas Americaln football is really “foot and hands and anything else ball”. These things are all too confusing if you think about then too deeply (as are most things).

  2. Feicin’ foreign games. Peil, iománaíocht agus liathród láimhe are yer only man.

  3. The memories of the Brazil team of the 1970 WC that featured Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto, absolutely magnificent, enough said.

  4. Brazil 1970 were not a soccer team.

    I recall Jairzinho in a park in Limerick a few years back. He was promoting a futsal thingy with the FAI.

    I mentioned it to some kids playing in the park, but they shrugged their sullen shoulders. The acne-ridden pups didn’t know who Jairzinho was.

    How can you not know who Jairzinho was or still is? What are they teaching kids in schools these days?

    Meanwhile, some Jews won’t write G-d in the secular sense, so they throw in the hyphen to square things up with the man upstairs, just to be sure.

    F——l, another sacred word from the Book of Genesis, can’t be mentioned in the secular sense either.

    Elsewhere, most proper Englishmen go: “Listen here Paddy. What’s this s****r game you speak of? Surely you mean f——l, mate?”

    After G-d invented f——l, Paddy, noticing the game was colonising the street urchins of urban Ireland, repaired to a hotel in Thurles, and, on November 1, 1884, a day of infamy for sport on this island, somehow managed to leave the billiard room of that fine establishment with a set of rules which allowed ALL the players on the field handle the ball.

    “Oi Paddy. You can’t have thirty goalkeepers on the pitch, mate.”

    But the GAA would not listen, they’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will.

    (With apologies to Don McClean)

  5. Bernard, thoroughly agree with you. Whether you call it soccer, football, footie or whatever, it will always be know as “The Beautiful Game”.

  6. Fair play, I’ll go with the beautiful game. The notion that Messi and Co up front at the Nou Camp, or is that the Camo Nuo, are playing soccer…… well, you know yourself.

    Although Mick McCarthy could, in that context, be described as a soccer player.

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