For many years now, I’ve had a beef with the term ‘football’. As I’ve travelled across nations, continents and hemispheres, I realised that while we all enjoy some sort of ‘football’, we clearly don’t agree on what it is.
I am of course deeply biased as I start this conversation. However, please be reminded my point is not which sport is the better one, this is a subjective and free choice, dearest reader, and you must enjoy whatever makes you happy.
My point is a linguistic one. I argue that ‘football’ sounds like a game played with a ball in which you use your foot, and your foot only.
I’m from Europe, and in Europe, football means, well football. It’s what we play during the FIFA World Cup, where we all get together to kick a ball with our feet and/or shout suggestions at the people who are.
Across the pond and down under, I encountered both American football and Australian football, both of which I found hardly involve any feet, nor a proper ball in the traditional sense.
Firstly, I understand that the ball, rather than being round, is more like an ellipse, which doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the kickage of a foot. Needless to say, it is not meant to be kicked around the field, but rather, it is meant to be kicked into the air, into some sort of general direction of what I understand to be the goal and/or finish line.
What follows this kick can only be described as some sort of puzzling homo-erotic adventure of several grown men piling up on top of each other, grabbing and pulling, and at this point I am quite lost.
Finally, because of some rule I don’t understand, the ball is released and then carried by hand and somehow the game ends in either someone throwing a ball, or kicking it through some fork-like goal, or simply placing it on the other side of a line.
Now, I don’t wish to rekindle old colonisation sentiments but if mother England calls it football, why rename it to ‘soccer’ and use the word ‘football’ to describe a brand new sport that hardly involves any feet?
This is a serious issue; I have had countless frustrating conversations about Rugby vs Australian football, Australian football vs American football, and football vs football, and it is tearing us all apart!
If anyone has any useful information on how these two sports and words got all mixed up with each other, leading to global confusion and misunderstandings, I’d love to solve this mystery.