Some call it the ‘soccer’ world cup while some others refer to it as the ‘football’ world cup. I play safe by calling it the ‘FIFA World Cup’! So, what exactly is the actual name of the game, where 20 players kick around and fight for an eight-inch diameter ball, while two at the extreme ends of the ground in a different form of clothing are the only ones allowed to handle and kick as well? Well, the fact is that in India, you will be correct if you label the game with any of these names. But in US (Oh, these Americans!), if you want to see ‘football’, chances are you will be taken to a see 30 ‘huge’ men fighting (quite literally), kicking, running around and doing all sorts of things with an eye shaped ball. The score line will read similar to that of a 5-over cricket game. Dubya’s men call this game (which is very similar to rugby) ‘American Football’.

But the origin of the word ‘soccer’ has a little interesting story behind. The game of rugby football was very famous in the UK towards the end of the nineteenth century and so was the trend, started by the Oxford University students, of adding ‘er’ as a suffix to every shortened word! Rugby football was referred to as ‘rugger’ (‘rug’ of rugby+ er). Charles Brown, a student of the University, was asked if he played ‘rugger’. A witty reply flowed from Brown’s mouth, “No, Soccer!” Witty, because ‘soccer’ as a term never existed at that time and the Oxfordian had shortened Football Association as ‘soc’ and added ‘er’ to the word. A new term, ‘soccer’, was born and possibly, and in a way, a new sport was born too! Brown went on to represent England in soccer. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history as soccer became one of the widely used terms in the sporting world and needless to say, the game itself is undoubtedly, the most popular sport!

After Thought: For me, ‘Football’ seems to be an apt term to describe the “the beautiful game”. Unlike its American counterpart, the game minus for the goal-keepers, only involves the legs unless the ball is out of play. ‘American Football’ should actually be called something like ‘American do-anything-with-the-ball’ or ‘Americans fighting-over-a-ball’!

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