I like basic English and I don’t like complications. I like football but I don’t like soccer. I am referring to only one sport, ‘football’, so what I mean is, I don’t like the word ‘soccer’.
As a European living in South America I believe that the game has only one name in basic English and that is ‘football’. truc tiep bong da hom nay It seems strange to hear South American people saying ‘soccer’ when they’re speaking English, and I suggest that this supposed translation isn’t correct or necessary.
Of course it is essential for North Americans to call our football by another name because they already have American football and obviously don’t want to have any confusion. The problem for me is that, even in basic English, ‘soccer’ is more or less an offensive word. It has always been controversial because it is a name imposed on the sport by its opponents and detractors.
You have to understand that when modern football was organized (not invented – the game is ancient) in England in the late 19th century the British upper classes already had ‘football’ – they had rugby football, in which the players are able to catch and throw the ball by hand.
Rugby was a sport of the public schools (the English name for expensive fee-paying schools) and of the universities. The administrators of that sport, which is still very popular today, didn’t want to ‘lose’ their game to the new working-class sport, so they called it ‘soccer’.
An association had been formed to run the new sport and ‘soccer’ is thought to be a contraction of ‘association’ (Charles Wreford-Brown, a grand toff of the old school, usually gets the credit for this). Nobody asked the new football people if they wanted the name.
If you study English for more than a year or so you will notice that social status plays a large part – especially in British English. ‘Soccer’ is an example of the snobs at work, because the word is, and always was, patronizing and unwelcome.
My point is that the people who stuck this name on our football had no liking or respect for the game. They were the same kind of people who, if you told them you were studying American history at school, would say, ‘Ho, ho, ho, I didn’t know they had any.’
The modern game was established in Britain, developed in Europe and perfected in South America, so why should it now be called by a name given to it by a country where it is not even a national sport? Personally, I hope the game will take root and prosper in the United States although it faces an uphill struggle. However, as an English teacher and translator I don’t want to be irritated by the word ‘soccer’ when I and the people I’m speaking to have nothing to do with North America.
I don’t have any sensible answer to all this but I think we should, as a courtesy, use the word ‘soccer’ when we are actually in the United States and Canada or communicating with real North Americans. This will avoid confusion without forcing us to use an alien word. After all, the North Americans don’t care what we call it in the rest of the world. They just don’t want us to create any confusion about their national sport, and in this they are absolutely right.