Depending on where you live, football and soccer can refer to completely different games. For example, in America football refers to American football whereas in the UK it refers to association football, which in America would be called soccer.
And while American football is the most popular sport in America, football (aka soccer) is the world’s most popular sport. The FIFA World Cup, held every 4 years, is the world’s most popular sporting event with viewership numbers that exceed those of the Olympics.
There are two popular theories about the origins of the the term ‘football.’ Either it was a game that involved kicking a ball around with your feet or it was simply a game played on foot. If the latter origin is true, then football in the American, sense should also be considered correct.
In any case the map at the top of the page looks at the use of ‘football’ and ‘soccer’ to refer to association football. The data used to create it came from Wikipedia. There are some interesting and perhaps counter intuitive findings:
- While England uses the term football, many of its former colonies (e.g. Ireland, Canada, Australia and South Africa, etc.) use the term soccer. This may be because the term soccer in England was widely used until the 1970s, when it switched, in part, because it was viewed as an Americanism. Moreover, Australia, Canada and Ireland all have other games called football that differ from soccer and American football.
- American influence in Japan can be seen in the fact that they use the loan word Sakka instead of football, despite the fact that American football is not popular there and they don’t play other games that could be called football.
- The Philippines is divided between the north that uses futbol and the south that uses saker. This may be due to its history of being both a Spanish and American colony.
- Also interesting to note is that not all countries fit into the soccer vs football divide. Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and both Koreans are among of the few exceptions to use their own terms.
You can learn more about the game from the following books:
- The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer
- Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Spain, Germany, and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia—and Even Iraq—Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport
- Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game (Sporting)
What do you think of the football vs soccer debate. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below: