Kicking off the debate

The debate over whether the sport should be called “soccer” or “fútbol” is pointless and unnecessary.

Having grown up near Paris Saint Germain FOOTBALL club’s stadium, I was perplexed when upon moving to the United States, I heard the beautiful game be referred to as “soccer.” Though I was initially confused as to why “football” was used by Americans to refer to a game where the ball is thrown instead of the game where players use their feet (frankly, football is a more sensible name), I’ve come to realize that what matters isn’t the name one calls the sport, but one’s enjoyment of the game. The outrage evoked from Europeans and Latin Americans at the mention of the word “soccer” is unwarranted and feels more like a cause of unnecessary tension and gatekeeping. 

Football/soccer originated in England in the late 1700s and has since taken over the world where it is referred to as football or some variation of it by 200+ countries. Ironically, the term “soccer” came from the world’s biggest haters, the English who created the nickname as an abbreviation for “association football,” the official name for the sport. In fact, according to the University of Michigan, the English utilized “soccer” just 40 years ago with the hate for it being a recent development. 

I often hear Latin Americans and Europeans make fun of the United States’ lack of “football heritage” but really, based on the history of “association football,” Americans, along with Australians and the Japanese, (all eight finalists in the World Cup) are respecting the sport’s history in the form of their word choice.

Honestly, I am under the impression that part of the reason Americans get hate over their word choice is due to Europeans’ unwarranted superiority complexes over Americans. I view it this way as of all the alternate ways the sport is called (European Champion Italy calls it “calcio” and World Cup semi finalist Croatia calls it “nogomet”), I’ve only seen Europeans get mad when “soccer,” the famously American way of calling the sport, is used. If Europeans are so upset over the sport not being called “football” why don’t we hear them complain about the Italians’ and Croatians’ word choice? It’s because the gripe isn’t against not calling the sport “football,” but against Americans themselves. 

From the years I have spent in Europe, I have heard countless demeaning comments from Europeans about how their cultures are superior to Americans’ and how their manner in dealing with social benefits, politics and racial division is better. The validity of this attitude is questionable, but either way, I don’t feel that it should permeate into sports. What makes soccer/football so special is that it brings people of all backgrounds and nationalities together. By insulting others for the way they call a sport they love, fans pretentiously prevent this inclusiveness and all-around joy from happening, diminishing the positive effect of the sport.

So, to settle President Biden and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte’s debate, what matters isn’t the way one calls the sport but the joy and pride it brings worldwide. But, if you really insist on arguing over it, as symbolically demonstrated by the United States’ draws with two British countries at the World Cup, soccer and football should be equally acceptable.